Brief

Trump budget would slash EPA funding 31%, eliminate ARPA-E in DOE cuts

Dive Brief:

  • The Trump administration has released a federal budget propsal that includes deep cuts to federal agencies affecting the power sector. 
  • Under the preliminary proposal, the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency would be reduced by more than 30%, larger than earlier reports. The Department of Energy would receive about a 6% funding cut. 
  • The budget targets a number of Obama-era energy and environmental initiatives, including eliminating the DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and making unspecified cuts to the DOE's office on energy efficiency and renewables. 

Dive Insight:

At a conservative political conference last month, Trump's chief strategist declared his White House is in a constant battle for "the deconstruction of the administrative state."

If that's the case, Trump's budget proposal reflects an opening salvo, especially when it comes to energy and environmental agencies. 

The 62-page "skinny" budget is not a full proposal from the White House and will likely undergo major changes from Congress before being signed into law. Still, it gives an indication of how the administration will seek to influence the appropriations process. 

Under the budget, the Department of Energy would see its 2017 budget reduced to $1.7 billion, a 5.6% cut. The ARPA-E program, which seeks to fund early-stage energy technologies, would be eliminated on the grounds that the private sector "is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research."

The budget also contains unspecified cuts to the Department of Energy offices on efficiency and renewables, fossil energy and electricity delivery and reliability. Those offices would be refocused on "early-stage applied energy research where the federal role is stronger," according to the budget. 

Not all DOE divisions would be cut, however. The budget would allocate $120 million to restart licensing activities for a nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain, Nev., and "initiate a robust interim storage program."

The DOE budget cuts are likely to raise ire in the power sector, where ARPA-E's project investments alone have attracted more than $1.8 billion in private sector funding since 2009, but they pale in comparison to the cuts planned for EPA.

The nation's environmental regulator would see its funding slashed by 31% in a plan that calls for the discontinuation of funding for the "Clean Power Plan, international climate programs, climate research and partner programs and other related activities."

The budget would also reorient EPA enforcement activities by concentrating them on "programs that are not delegated to the States." 

The EPA cuts are steeper than anticipated, with recent reports indicating a cut of about 25% was likely. Even under that more modest reduction, environmental groups expressed concern that the EPA would not be able to carry out its core mission.

A variety of other government agencies are slated for cuts as well, including the Departments of Interior (12% reduction), Transportation (13%), Labor (21%) and State (29%). The funding reductions would be used to pay for a 9% funding increase at the Department of Defense, a 7% jump in funding for Homeland Security, and a 6% bump for Veterans Affairs. 

Already, some lawmakers are speaking out against provisions of the Trump budget, saying it will undergo significant changes. A bipartisan group of legislators last week wrote to Trump asking him to preserve funding for Great Lakes cleanup under the EPA, which would be eliminated in the proposal. Key GOP lawmakers also told E&E news this week they would carefully review the proposed cuts. 

“We do the budget here," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the appropriations committee, told the Washington Post. "The administration makes recommendations, but Congress does budgets.”

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Top image credit: Getty Images/Mark Wilson