Overnight Energy: Trump budget slashes EPA funding | International hunting council disbands amid lawsuit | Bill targets single-use plastics

Overnight Energy: Trump budget slashes EPA funding | International hunting council disbands amid lawsuit | Bill targets single-use plastics
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THE HASH-SLINGING SLASHER: President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE's proposed budget for fiscal 2021 calls for significant reductions to environmental programs at federal agencies, including a 26 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Trump's budget would eliminate 50 EPA programs and impose massive cuts to research and development, while also nixing money for the Energy Star rating system. The Energy Star program, which measures the efficiency of electronics and appliances, would instead rely on businesses to pay a fee to participate in the program.

The proposed spending reductions mark the latest effort by the administration to chip away at government agencies focused on science, the environment and public lands. The White House budget request would reduce spending at the Energy Department by 8 percent and cut 16 percent from the Department of the Interior's budget.

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Trump has consistently proposed cutting funding for those agencies, and Congress has routinely ignored the president's budget request by instead increasing funding.

Trump's budget will not become law but is seen as an important blueprint for laying out the administration's priorities.

 

Critics, of course, pounced on the numbers...

"Congress should toss this Trump budget into the dustbin of history like they've done with the other ones," former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Trump budget slashes EPA funding | International hunting council disbands amid lawsuit | Bill targets single-use plastics Trump budget slashes EPA funding, environmental programs Overnight Energy: Trump credits economic progress to environmental rollbacks | Vote to subpoena Interior delayed by prayer breakfast | Dems hit agency for delaying energy efficiency funds MORE, who served during the Obama administration and is now head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

"This president is putting our families and communities at risk by taking direct aim at the environment, public health and energy innovation. It is unconscionable to take such drastic cuts to EPA, the Energy Department and other agencies that keep us safe, protect our kids and grow our clean energy economy," she added. "At a time when we're only seeing greater risks from climate change, these agencies deserve to be fully funded by Congress."

 

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The details: EPA's budget is hit the hardest by Trump's cuts...

At the EPA, the Trump budget would cut the Superfund program, tasked with cleaning up hazardous waste sites, by 10 percent, despite data showing the agency has the largest backlog of toxic waste cleanups in 15 years.

The budget would also cut research and development funding at the EPA nearly in half, lowering funding from $500 million to $281 million.

The administration wrote in a budget summary that "research grants to non-federal entities such as universities, are not required to meet EPA's statutory obligations and therefore would not be funded."

The proposal would cut funding for a number of waterway protection projects in blue states like Maryland, New York and Washington. Projects in swing states like the Great Lakes region and Florida's Everglades would be fully funded.

Among the 50 programs targeted by the administration are ones that help fight pollution, radon, lead, as well as those that give clean water grants to small and disadvantaged communities.

Even with the massive cut to its budget, EPA said the funding "maintains the Administration's focus on EPA's core mission -- providing Americans with clean air, land and water, and ensuring chemical safety, while targeting emerging domestic and global environmental challenges."

The budget would cap the agency at roughly 12,500 employees, the lowest level since 1986 and a large drop from 17,000 just a decade ago. 

 

Energy and Interior face cuts too....

Within the Department of Energy, Trump again proposed eliminating the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which researches energy technology. It would shift some aspects of the program to other parts of the government. 

"The elimination would enable a streamlining of Federal activities and ensures more focus on early-stage R&D, where the Federal role is strongest, and reflects the private sector's role in commercializing technologies," the administration said in its justification. 

It also aims to reduce funding for energy research and development programs by nearly half, from about $5.3 billion to $2.8 billion. The administration said the proposal would "focus federal activities on early-stage R&D" and rely on the private sector for later state research and development. 

The Interior Department's budget would cut funding for major agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, which would lose about $340 million in funding, the Fish and Wildlife Service, which would lose about $86 million in funds and the National Park Service, which would lose about $574 million in funds compared to the 2020 budget passed by Congress, according to the Interior Department's total budget authority. 

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The administration has also proposed slashing funds for federal land acquisition for the Interior and Agriculture departments from $227 million to just $18 million, a 92 percent cut, saying that the government should focus on maintaining its existing lands rather than "acquiring additional lands that the federal government cannot afford to maintain." 

 

Buried in the budget...

The proposed budget would also slash the recently reauthorized Land and Water Conservation Fund by nearly 97 percent. 

Trump, in his budget message, stressed his administration's commitment to "regulation relief."

"After only 3 years, my administration has cut a historic number of regulations, and we have put the brakes on an endless assault of new, costly actions by federal agencies," the message said, adding that, in the past, the government has "abused its authority to go after businesses."

 

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Read more about the proposed budget's effects on energy and the environment here and read more about the overall proposal here

 

HAPPY MONDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

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HUNTING COUNCIL DISBANDED: The controversial International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), which gives the Trump administration advice on international big game hunting, has disbanded, according to a government court filing. 

The Friday filing on behalf of the Interior Department said that the IWCC "ceased to exist" in December when its two-year charter expired. 

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"The Council will not meet or conduct any business again, it can no longer be renewed, and there [is] no plan to establish another committee with a similar mission or scope in the future," the document said. 

The IWCC was created in 2017 and that year the Trump administration also moved to reverse a ban on elephant trophy imports from Africa. 

Groups including the Humane Society, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit in 2018, arguing that the IWCC had a disproportionate number of pro-hunting advisers while federal law requires a more balanced mix of individuals.  

The groups hailed the decision as a victory in a Sunday statement.

"I have little doubt our litigation spurred the administration's decision to abandon the IWCC and walk away from its biased and un-transparent practices," said Zak Smith, the NRDC's international wildlife conservation director. "We're glad the Trump administration is closing shop on this ridiculously misguided council and we await a full accounting of its tainted work product."

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told council members last year that he hadn't decided on a path forward for the group. 

Read more here.

 

A PLASTIC PLAN: Two congressional Democrats are planning to roll out legislation that would fight plastic pollution by banning certain types of single-use containers and requiring manufacturers to use more recycled content in their packaging.

The legislation from Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan Now is our chance to turn the tide on ocean plastic pollution Buttigieg expands on climate plan with new proposals MORE (D-N.M.) and Rep. Alan LowenthalAlan Stuart LowenthalNow is our chance to turn the tide on ocean plastic pollution Greenpeace says many plastics are not actually recyclable A disaster for diplomacy and the Zionist dream MORE (D-Calif.), expected Tuesday, would ban plastic takeout bags, utensils and straws that cannot be recycled starting in 2022 and begin a nationwide container deposit system, mirroring programs in the Northeast and other parts of the country that pay consumers 10 cents for every returned beverage container.

But in a fundamental shift to the recycling industry, the onus to collect recycled goods would fall on the manufacturers themselves, a big departure from taxpayer-reliant municipal systems that now collect waste. That effort would be paired with a requirement that producers use more and more recycled content in their own packaging.

"The public has been told if it says it's recyclable, it's recyclable. We now know that is not what is actually happening out there," said Lowenthal, referencing the number of plastic goods that have been incinerated or sent to landfills after China announced in 2018 that it would no longer accept many of the world's shipments of so-called recyclables.

China backing away from its role as the clearinghouse for recycled goods leaves few options for the 335 million tons of plastic produced each year. Just 8 percent of plastic waste in the United States is sorted for recycling.

Under Udall and Lowenthal's vision, manufacturers ranging from those making food to home goods would band together to form nonprofits that would be responsible for collecting their wide variety of packing. Over time, producers would be expected to increase the amount of post-consumer materials they incorporate into their own packaging. 

"Today's producers have zero responsibility for their product waste and no incentives to reduce wasteful production," Udall said, adding that forcing them to contend with their own waste will change that.

Read more about their forthcoming legislation here. 

 

FRIDAY NIGHT DEM DEBATE SOUND BITES:

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE (I-Vt.) on his opposition to the USMCA trade deal: "What the environmental groups are saying [is] we're simply exporting fossil fuel emissions to Mexico. There is not one word in that trade agreement that deals with climate change and I don't know how in 2020 you could do that."

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE (D-Minn.), on her USMCA support: "The best way to take on climate change is by getting back into the international climate change agreement... it is bringing back the clean power rules, it is bringing back the gas mileage standards and it is introducing sweeping legislation to put a price on carbon."

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE (D-Mass.), also on her USMCA support: "When I see a law that makes things somewhat better for hardworking people in this country, I say, I'll sign up for that and then I'll get up tomorrow morning and I'll start working hard for a better trade deal on climate, a better trade deal that has a basic coherence to it. Everyone wants to get to the American market. We should be raising standards on climate around the world to get access to our market."

Read more about the USMCA question at the debate here. 

 

Also, check back at TheHill.com for the latest ahead of Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.

 

ON TAP TOMORROW: 

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the EPA's lead and copper rule. 

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hear from Interior deputy secretary nominee Katharine MacGregor for the second time. 

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the budget for Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Whistleblower complaint accuses BLM Battle Mountain office of disregarding permit regulations, Politico and Type Investigations report.

New York to restrict, disclose toxic chemicals in kids' products, The Associated Press reports.

In Housatonic river deal with GE, towns agree to toxic waste dump in the Berkshires, WBUR reports.

 

ICYMI: Stories from Monday and the weekend...

Bill targets single-use plastics in push to make manufacturers responsible

International hunting council disbands amid litigation

Sanders says NH Democratic senators were wrong to back Trump's USMCA

Trump budget slashes EPA funding, environmental programs|

BBC to produce TV series about Greta Thunberg's life