Omnibus budget keeps EPA funding, cuts renewable energy program funds - Smart Energy Decisions

Regulation, Regulation, Solar, Wind  -  May 2, 2017

Federal budget stabilizes EPA funds, boosts DOE funding for fossil fuel, nuclear technologies

The $1 trillion federal budget deal reached by Congress on April 30 has stabilized funding for the U.S. EPA, but cuts funding for renewable energy programs while increasing funds for fossil fuel energy technologies. 

The bipartisan spending package, which Congress is expected to vote on this week, broadly differs substantially from the budget President Donald Trump proposed in March for fiscal 2018. The deal secures federal funding through the end of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. 

Regarding the EPA, while Trump's proposed budget for fiscal 2018 calls for slashing its funding by more than 30%, the congressional compromise for the remainder of fiscal 2017 calls for just a 1% cut to the agency, with no staff reductions, The Washinton Post reported May 1.  A House Appropriations summary of the interior and environment portion of the omnibus package explains that it funds the EPA at $8.06 billion, which is a reduction of $81.4 million compared to fiscal year 2016 and $209 million less than President Obama's request for the agency. 

That summary further reads:

The legislation rejects the previous Administration's proposed increase in staffing, holding the EPA to the current capacity of 15,000 positions, the lowest since 1989. It supports recent Executive Orders to encourage economic growth by providing flexibility for the Administration to review and rewrite the “Clean Power Plan” and other environmental regulations.

The package appears to contain no specific mention of the EPA's Energy Star program, which President Trump had proposed to eliminate entirely in his 2018 budget proposal. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, known as ACEEE, said the deal makes it unlikely that Energy Star will see significant cuts this year. 

At the DOE, Congress agreed to funding for energy programs within DOE at $11.28 billion, marking an increase of $257 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level but $1.1 billion below the President Obama's request, according to the House Appropriations summary. The package increases the funding for fossil fuel and nuclear technologies and decreases the amount of funding for renewable energy programs, according to that summary: 

Research and development projects to advance coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy technologies, which will help the country make greater use of our rich natural energy resources and help keep down energy costs, are funded at $668 million – an increase of $36 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. The bill reflects the national importance of these projects, and rejects the previous Administration’s proposal to reduce new funding for these accounts. In addition, nuclear energy research, development, and demonstration activities are increased by $30 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level, for a total funding level of $1.02 billion. Renewable energy programs, which have already received significant investments in recent years, are cut by $808 million compared the previous Administration's budget request.

"Within this total, the bill prioritizes and increases funding for energy programs that encourage U.S. economic competitiveness and that help advance the nation's goal of an 'all-of-the-above' solution to energy independence," the summary reads. 

The ACEEE applauded the budget compromise May 1, calling the deal a promising sign of bipartisan cooperation. 

"The deal maintains funding for essential programs that work with the private sector to create jobs, spur economic growth, and transform energy waste into wealth," ACEEE Senior Director of Policy Maggie Molina said. 

The full 1,665-page bill is available here; the House Appropriations Committee's department-by-department summaries are available here

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