The White House Office of Management and Budget released its first budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, outlining the Trump Administration’s proposed discretionary funding and spelling out its intent to reduce federal spending on non-defense programs by $54 million. The President’s “Budget Blueprint” kicks off the federal government’s budget process by communicating to Congress the White House’s recommendations for federal fiscal policy and laying out its priorities for federal programs. While the “Budget Blueprint” proposes to make cuts to many programs within DOE, EPA, and the Department of the Interior (DOI)—focusing spending instead on infrastructure and energy security—it’s ultimately up to Congress to appropriate funds for each department and agency program. The White House plans to release a full budget later this spring.
The Budget Blueprint requests that Congress appropriate $28 billion to DOE, a $1.7 billion or 5.6% decrease from the 2017 continuing resolution (CR) level. The budget proposes to increase spending on the National Nuclear Security Administration (responsible for maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile) by $1.4 billion and to focus DOE’s funds on licensing activities for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and cleanup of contamination resulting from nuclear weapons production. The budget proposal also:
- “Focuses funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Nuclear Energy, the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, and the Fossil Energy Research and Development program on limited, early-stage applied energy research and development activities where the Federal role is stronger … [and] eliminates the Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program to reduce Federal intervention in State-level energy policy and implementation. Collectively, these changes achieve a savings of approximately $2 billion from the 2017 annualized CR level.”
- “Supports the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s capacity to carry out cybersecurity and grid resiliency activities that would help harden and evolve critical grid infrastructure that the American people and the economy rely upon.”
- Eliminates, among other things, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and the Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program “because the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies.”
As part of cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Budget Blueprint proposes to eliminate discretionary programs including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP provides states with federal dollars to help low-income households pay their utility bills. The budget proposal explains, “[c]ompared to other income support programs that serve similar populations, LIHEAP is a lower-impact program and is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes.”
For EPA, the 2018 budget proposes a $5.7 billion appropriation, focusing largely on funding for drinking and wastewater infrastructure. This is a $2.6 billion or 31% decrease from its 2017 budget.
The Budget Blueprint discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, and climate change research and partnership programs, reducing EPA’s spending on these and related efforts by $100 million for the stated purpose of “protect[ing] the air we breathe without unduly burdening the American economy.” The proposal also reduces EPA’s Compliance Assurance budget to $419 million, a $129 million decrease from 2017, and concentrates the agency’s enforcement “on programs that are not delegated to the States.” It also proposes a budget for EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) of $250 million, a decrease of $233 million from 2017. “ORD would prioritize activities that support decision-making related to core environmental statutory requirements, as opposed to extramural activities, such as providing STAR grants,” the proposal explains.*
In addition, the Budget Blueprint:
- Reduces Categorical Grant funding by $482 million from 2017 annualized CR levels in order to “eliminate or substantially reduce Federal investment in State environmental activities that go beyond EPA’s statutory requirements.”
- “Eliminates funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs to “return the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to State and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities.”
The $11.6 billion proposed appropriation for the DOI, a reduction of $1.5 billion or 12% from its 2017 CR level, includes funding for programs supporting energy development on public lands and offshore waters to “allow DOI to streamline permitting processes and provide industry with access to the energy resources America needs.”
* EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program funds research grants, Small Business Innovation Research contracts, and graduate fellowships in environmental science and engineering disciplines.