Energy & Environment

Week ahead: Agencies brace for Trump budget

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The White House is due to release its budget outline in the coming week, and it’s expected to confirm, for the first time, reports of deep cuts to federal environment and climate programs. 

The budget, the first of Donald Trump’s presidency, will contain $54 billion in domestic non-discretionary spending cuts that will then be used to pay for an equal increase in defense spending, officials said last month. 

That means his budget writers will likely look to slash spending for — among other things — energy and environment programs throughout the government.

Leaks have already previewed some of the cuts. The Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) an $8.1 billion department, is expected to absorb a 24 percent cut under Trump’s budget, and several key programs are due to be zeroed out, including those implementing the Clean Power Plan regulation, the Energy Star energy efficiency program, grants for the Brownfields program, and many others. 

{mosads}The proposed cuts are causing turmoil in the agency and among stakeholders.

Mustafa Ali, the head of the agency’s environmental justice program, resigned on Thursday when it appeared his department would be defunded. 

A group of mayors urged EPA chief Scott Pruitt last month to protect state grant programs, something Pruitt himself said he would push the White House to do. 

But the EPA isn’t the only agency with climate programs expected to see cuts. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration could face a 17 percent cut, which could mean $126 million less in research funding and $513 million less for its satellite division. 

The administration has reportedly considered deep cuts to Department of Energy programs, as well, and NASA’s Earth science budget, which conducts climate change research, could absorb a cut, too

The Interior Department could see proposed cuts, as well, so much so that new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told agency employees this month that he’s “not happy” with the funding proposal. 

Trump’s budget — due out on Thursday — is not the final word in federal government spending. Congress still needs to vet the budget and write its own appropriations bills, and members have already expressed concern about many of the reported cuts, for the EPA and other agencies.

But the budget will lay out how Trump and his White House envision managing the federal ledger, and it will set up a major fight with lawmakers in both parties. 

The coming week could also bring Trump’s long-awaited executive orders on climate change. He is still expected to sign an order asking the EPA to reconsider the Clean Power Plan carbon rules, as well as address an Obama administration coal-leasing moratorium. A potential order on the Paris climate deal is still pending, as well. 

On Capitol Hill, three committees will hold hearings on energy infrastructure issues in the week ahead. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources kicks things off with a hearing on Tuesday, followed by a meeting of a House Energy and Commerce subpanel on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, another Energy and Commerce subcommittee will discuss potential drinking water infrastructure improvements.   

Elsewhere, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee will hold a hearing on invasive species and conservation on Wednesday.

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