Week ahead: Energy, Interior chiefs to defend Trump budget

Week ahead: Energy, Interior chiefs to defend Trump budget
© Greg Nash

Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: House panel approves park funding, offshore drilling bills | Green group putting M into races | Perry applauds Russia boosting oil production Perry welcomes efforts by Russia, OPEC to boost oil production The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Hurricane Florence a new test for Trump team MORE and Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Big-game hunters infuriated by Trump elephant trophy debacle Interior moves ahead with opening wildlife refuge next to contaminated nuclear site MORE are heading to Capitol Hill in the coming week to defend President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE's fiscal 2019 budget request.

Both Cabinet secretaries can expect tough questions from lawmakers on the sharp cuts proposed in the fiscal blueprint when they testify on Tuesday and Thursday.

Perry is appearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee Thursday while Zinke will face lawmakers on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday and at the  House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday.

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The White House budget released in February called for cutting Interior's funding by 14 percent and unveiled a plan to use energy sales on public lands to fund much needed infrastructure projects at the department.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled the National Park Restoration Act, a bill meant in part to implement the administration's proposal for a new National Park Service (NPS) infrastructure fund paid for with money from oil drilling, wind, solar and other federal energy sources.

The bill would take half of the money that the federal government gets from energy production that comes in above 2018 forecasts and is not dedicated for other use.

Overall, the 2019 proposal from the Office of Budget and Management (OMB) calls for cutting Interior's budget from $13.2 billion in 2017 to $11.7 billion in 2019.

The proposed cuts are almost identical to last year's OMB request, which called for cutting the department's funding by 12 percent.

Many of the same cuts were highlighted this year, including zeroing out Abandoned Mine Land Grants, the Centennial Challenge Fund, the Heritage Partnership Program and the National Wildlife Refuge Fund.

While Congress writes its own budget, the president's blueprint highlights the administration's priorities.

Perry's Energy Department was one of the few to see its budget increased overall. But a number of key programs were also zeroed out.

In particular, the administration wants to significantly slash a handful of controversial loan and research programs at the Department of Energy (DOE).

Perry can expect some pushback from lawmakers on that proposal at his hearing.

The Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program, the Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program and the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) are widely popular among Democrats — and with some Republicans.

Lawmakers worked to insure funding for those programs last year after Trump sought to zero them out.

The administration said the cuts shouldn't be interpreted as a sign that officials don't like the programs.

"This biggest reason for that is the accomplishments that these individual programs have made," Mark Menezes, the DOE's undersecretary for science, told reporters when the budget was released.

Overall, Trump is proposing a slight increase in the DOE's budget, to $30.6 billion from the $30.1 billion current funding level.

Outside of the budget, lawmakers have a busy docket of energy and environment related hearings with both the House and Senate in town.

On Monday, a House Interior subcommittee will hold a hearing on the 2017 hurricane season and its impact on the U.S. Virgin Islands. That hearing will be held on the island of St. Thomas.

On Tuesday, the House Natural Resources Committee marks up six bills on national monuments and public lands.

That same day a House Appropriations subcommittee holds a hearing on the fiscal 2019 budget requests for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation.

Also on Tuesday, a House Energy and Commerce subcommitee holds a hearing on modernizing the DOE, with a focus on legislation to improve cybersecurity and emergency response.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Thursday on the administration's budget request.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies before the House Natural Resources panel for an hearing on oversight and the fiscal 2019 budget, also on Thursday.

That same day, a House Natural Resources subcommittee holds a hearing on abandoned hardrock mines.

Also Thursday, a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee holds a hearing on water resource projects

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