Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Trump budget targets EPA, Interior for cuts | Trump eyes environmental review changes | Officials want to repeal most of methane rule

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EPA, INTERIOR FUNDING ON TRUMP CHOPPING BLOCK: President Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal 2019, unveiled Monday, called for cuts to both the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior.

The plan seeks a 25 percent cut to the EPA, with the agency’s overall funding dropping to $6.1 billion, down from the $8 billion Congress enacted in 2017.


The proposed reductions are in line with the steep cuts — just over 30 percent — that the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) proposed for the agency for fiscal 2018. In fact, according to the text of the budget proposal, OMB had originally suggested even deeper cuts this year for the agency — a 34 decrease — but the numbers were raised following Congress’s decision last week to raise spending caps.

Lawmakers declined to enact most of Trump’s budget proposals last year, and it appears unlikely that the EPA cuts will ever come to pass, given Democratic opposition.

(Read more here.)

Interior faced far fewer cuts but a similar budget proposal to what was suggested last year by OMB.

The fiscal 2019 budget would use energy sales on public lands to help fund infrastructure projects for the Department of the Interior (DOI).

Overall, the blueprint from the Office of Budget and Management (OMB) proposes cutting Interior’s budget by 14 percent, from $13.2 billion in 2017 to $11.7 billion in 2018. Last year’s request 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.

The latest budget, though, increases funding for DOI programs that “support safe and responsible development of energy on public lands and offshore waters,” according to its text. It includes a proposal for creating a fund that would be financed by sales of energy resources on DOI-managed parkland.

The Public Lands Infrastructure Fund would aim to provide up to $18 billion to address what Interior calls the department’s “deferred maintenance backlog,” according to a press release from the agency. The fund would support necessary infrastructure projects for building roads and visitor centers in national parks.

On a press call Monday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the fund would be filled “exclusively from new energy developments on public lands.”

Read more here.


DOE also faces cuts: The Department of Energy’s topline funding would go up to $30.6 billion in Trump’s budget, from the current $30.1 billion, but many programs on the agency’s non-defense side still face cuts.

Some of the biggest cuts will come to a handful of loan and research programs.

The cuts to programs meant to help develop innovative energy technologies, which President Trump outlined in his budget request for fiscal 2019, come after he proposed eliminating them all last year.

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 some Republicans, and lawmakers worked to restore at least some of the funding 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.

“You’ll see the reason is because all of the goals that [the Office of Management and Budget] has set, the cost reduction goals, these goals have been met or exceeded by most of these programs over the last four to five years,” he said.

ARPA-E and the Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program would be eliminated completely under Trump’s proposal, and the other programs would see big cuts.

Other major cuts include a $2.08 billion reduction to applied energy programs and $56 million in savings from closing the mixed oxide fuel facility in South Carolina.

Read more here.


TRUMP AIMS TO EASE ENVIRONMENTAL PERMITTING: The Trump administration is asking Congress to cut “duplicative” environmental review procedures as part of the president’s massive infrastructure plan.

The 55-page plan released Monday morning seeks to speed reviews and cut “inefficiencies,” including through what officials are calling a “one agency, one decision” paradigm, for the review process.

It answers complaints from President Trump and Republicans that environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) create unnecessary delays and hurdles that are holding back infrastructure projects.

The administration’s plan says the proposed changes would “protect the environment while at the same time delivering projects in a less costly and more time effective manner.”

It includes changes like setting a 21-month deadline for most reviews, designating a lead federal agency to be in charge of each review and requiring other agencies to sign off on the decisions, reducing their ability to object later.

“Requiring the lead Federal agency under NEPA to develop a single Federal environmental review document to be utilized by all agencies, and a single [record of decision] to be signed by the lead Federal agency and all cooperating agencies, would reduce duplication and create a more efficient, timely review process,” the administration wrote.

Read more here.

MOST OF METHANE RULE IN THE CROSSHAIRS: The Trump administration is proposing to repeal most of the requirements of a 2016 rule meant to reduce wasted methane from oil and natural gas drilling on federal land.

Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said most of the main components of the Obama administration’s rules — which require drillers to write leak-minimization plans, update equipment and detect leaks, among other actions — were overly burdensome.

Methane is both the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas.

“In order to achieve energy dominance through responsible energy production, we need smart regulations, not punitive regulations,” Joe Balash, Interior’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management, said Monday of the administration’s proposed revision.

“We believe this proposed rule strikes that balance and will allow job growth in rural America.”

The Monday action is in line with President Trump’s promise to slash what he sees as barriers to fossil fuel production.

Read more here.



Vandals in Salt Lake City painted graffiti on the Utah Capitol in support of the Bears Ears National Monument, the Deseret News reports.

Three British citizens were identified as the victims of a fatal helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon, USA Today reports.

Power returned Monday to most in the San Juan, Puerto Rico, area who lost it over the weekend due to a substation fire, the Associated Press reports.



Check out stories from Monday and the weekend …

-Complaint filed over Interior’s use of acting directors in place of nominees

-Trump officials propose repealing most of Obama methane leak rule

-Trump budget would fund Interior projects by selling energy from public lands

-White House proposes 25 percent cut to EPA funding

-Trump seeks to cut Energy Department loan, research programs

-Trump aims to speed environmental reviews in infrastructure plan

-Week ahead: Lawmakers to weigh border patrol access on federal lands


Tags Donald Trump Environmental Protection Agency Interior Department Joe Balash Ryan Zinke
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