- The U.S. House on Thursday passed a bill to authorize spending for four federal agencies, targeting a 3% overall cut in the Department of Energy and a 17% cut in energy programs at the agency.
- The bill follows recommendations from the Trump administration budget proposal to cut renewable energy programs and scrap the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which provides early stage development funds to early-stage energy technologies. It would preserve spending for fossil energy research, also slated for deep cuts in the White House budget.
- The White House announced its support for the bill Tuesday, but it must be reconciled with a Senate energy and water spending bill, which would fund DOE programs at higher levels. Changes are likely, as the House bill would surpass funding limits set in 2011, triggering deep defense cuts.
The four-agency spending bill approved by the House this week falls between budget proposals from the Senate and White House, targeting deeper cuts than the upper chamber, but less than the White House proposed in May.
The so-called minibus bill — named as a smaller version of annual 12-agency omnibus — cuts overall DOE funding by about half of what Trump proposed. But energy programs would still take a big hit, with over $1.6 billion in reductions compared to current funding levels.
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would fare among the worst, facing a 47% budget cut, down to $1.1 billion from $2.1 billion this year. The Trump budget proposed a 69% cut for the office.
The budget would preserve funding levels for DOE offices on science and fossil fuels, and would increase funding for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and National Nuclear Safety Administration. The Department of Interior, however, would face $79 million cut, a 6% decrease from current funding.
Republican lawmakers in the House on Thursday rejected nine amendments from Democrats seeking to preserve clean energy funding by taking money away from fossil fuels and military spending. But an amendment from a Wisconsin Republican allocating $10 million in DOE funding to energy storage initiatives was approved.
The bill must now be reconciled with the Senate version, which includes a smaller, 8% cut to the DOE renewables office and funds ARPA-E at the record level of $330 million. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed that version 30-1 earlier this month.
It is not yet clear when the full chamber could take up the bill, but changes are likely. The House bill would surpass funding limits set by Congress in 2011, triggering sequester funding reductions that would cut the Department of Defense by more than 13%. Lawmakers are unlikely to allow that to go into effect.
Democrats are also unlikely to let the House version of the bill pass the Senate, as it would provide $1.6 billion to fund new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. In addition to DOE and Interior funding, the $37.5 billion minibus would also authorize spending for the Department of Defense and other independent agencies.