by Charlie Passut, Natural Gas Intelligence
May 23, 2017
President Trump on Tuesday sent a $4.1 trillion budget proposal to Congress that mirrors earlier plans to cleave nearly one-third of funding to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as his budget director derided the previous administration’s “crazy” spending on climate change.
Democrats quickly blasted the proposed budget as “cruel” because in the overall budget plan, social programs would be slashed or eliminated to offset a $52.8 billion increase in defense spending. Democrats and some Republican lawmakers also signaled that the 12 appropriations bills that Congress eventually must pass to fund the federal government would not resemble Trump’s proposal.
The proposed budget, officially titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” calls for allocating $5.7 billion to the EPA for fiscal year (FY) 2018. That equates to a $2.6 billion (31.4%) decrease in funding from the $8.2 billion the agency received in FY2017, making the EPA the unfortunate recipient of the largest proposed cut to the federal government’s major agencies.
By comparison, the budget calls for allocating $11.7 billion to the Department of Interior (DOI) and $28 billion to the Department of Energy (DOE), amounting to proposed cuts of $1.4 billion (10.9%) and $1.7 billion (5.6%) from FY2017, respectively.
“To unleash the power of American work and creativity, and drive opportunity and faster economic growth, we must reprioritize federal spending so that it advances the safety and security of the American people,” Trump said in written remarks to Congress that accompanied the budget.
On energy development, the president said “we must increase development of America’s energy resources, strengthening our national security, lowering the price of electricity and transportation fuels, and driving down the cost of consumer goods so that every American individual and business has more money to save and invest. A consistent, long-term supply of lower-cost American energy brings with it a much larger economy, more jobs, and greater security for the American people.”
During a press conference Tuesday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney accused the Obama administration of wasting taxpayer money on climate change.
“What I think you saw happen during the previous administration is the pendulum went too far to one side, where we’re spending too much of your money on climate change, and not very efficiently,” Mulvaney said.
“We don’t get rid of [climate change spending] here. Do we target it? Sure. Do a lot of EPA reductions aim at reducing the focus on climate science? Yes. Does it mean that we are anti-science? Absolutely not. We’re simply trying to get things back in order to where we can look at the folks who pay the taxes and say, ‘Look, yeah, we want to do some climate science, but we’re not going to do some of the crazy stuff the previous administration did.'”
The budget plan released Tuesday closely resembles the preliminary, or “skinny,” budget that the Trump administration proposed on March 16. Specifically, the new budget numbers are unchanged from the March proposal, with the exception of the DOI; the Trump administration had originally proposed $11.6 billion in funding, or a reduction of $1.5 billion (12%).
“President Trump promised the American people he would cut wasteful spending and make the government work for the taxpayer again, and that’s exactly what this budget does,” said DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke. “Working carefully with the president, we identified areas where we could reduce spending and also areas for investment, such as…increasing domestic energy production on federal lands.
“The budget also allows the DOI to return to the traditional principles of multiple-use management to include both responsible natural resource development and conservation of special places…the president’s budget saves taxpayers by focusing program spending, shrinking bureaucracy, and empowering the front lines.”
According to a breakdown of the DOI’s proposed budget, the department’s funding includes $791.2 million in current and permanent funding for energy related programs, an increase of $16.3 million from FY2017. Of that figure, $375.9 million will go to supporting an offshore energy development program for activities on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
The budget also calls for a $10.2 million increase in funding to the DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management so it can update its five-year OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The DOI’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement would receive an additional $1.2 million “to focus on workforce training, permitting and information technologies to better permit exploration, development and production operations,” the department said.
In the onshore, the budget includes a $16 million increase to DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the oil and gas management program, which would total $75.9 million. Funding for the BLM’s onshore oil and gas activities, including permanent funding, would total $173.6 million, an increase of $23.9 million.
“Interior’s 2018 budget supports an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy development strategy, increasing funding for onshore and offshore oil and gas, expanding coal activities, and sustaining the current pace of renewable energy development,'” the DOI said.
DOE Secretary Rick Perry called the proposed budget “fiscally responsible and respectful to the American taxpayer,” adding that it “reflects the importance of strengthening our nuclear capabilities, and places an emphasis on early stage energy technology research and development.”
Indeed, the DOE’s proposed budget of $28 billion includes $13.9 billion for its National Nuclear Security Administration, an increase of $1.4 billion (11.4%) from FY2017. Other energy programs at DOE would receive the remaining $14.1 billion, facing a cut of $3.1 billion (18%).
The DOE budget also includes a proposal to reduce the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) by half, and envisions cutting $500 million in spending to support the reserve in FY2018. The Trump administration estimated that cutting the reserve in half would save an estimated $4.4 billion over the next five fiscal years, and $16.6 billion over the next 10 years.
Democrats Attack, GOP Cites Progress
Democrats in Congress quickly upbraided the Trump administration over the proposed budget.
“President Trump’s budget is a stark showcase of [his] broken promises to America’s hard-working families,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “It’s a short-sighted and cruel budget that perfectly reflects what Republicans in Congress have been trying to inflict on America for years.”
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) said she was “utterly aghast by the flagrant contempt for the welfare of working- and middle class Americans exhibited in President Donald Trump’s full FY2018 budget. The outrageous funding cuts outlined in the president’s budget walk the line between ignorance and indifference while disregarding the needs of seniors, families, and children with disabilities.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Trump’s budget “builds on progress” made on defense and border security, and that provisions within the budget would “serve as guideposts” for the Senate Committee on the Budget and its chairman, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY).
“I also appreciate the president’s commitment to slowing the growth of mandatory spending which, if left unaddressed, could eventually limit our ability to invest in nearly anything else as the debt — and the interest we have to pay on it — increases and crowds out spending on other major priorities,” McConnell said.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was more pragmatic. “The president’s budget request is always subject to significant revision by Congress, and this budget will be no exception,” she said. “Throughout my time in the Senate, I have never seen a president’s budget make it through Congress unchanged.”
American Energy Alliance President Thomas Pyle called the SPR “a relic from an era of undue supply concern; we now know, of course, that the United States sits atop billions of barrels of oil waiting to be tapped… Encouragingly, this budget anticipates oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge starting in 2022, which will not only shore up domestic supply, but also fill government coffers with leasing revenue.”
Pyle said cuts to the EPA will cause the agency “to focus its attention on the issues of highest national priority, while releasing power for many regional initiatives back to states and municipalities.”
But Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, called Trump’s proposed cuts “draconian” and urged Congress to reject them.
“For all the talk about increasing U.S. jobs, the president’s budget takes a meat cleaver to the largest job creator in the energy sector: energy efficiency,” Nadel said. “It seeks crippling cuts to federal programs that transform waste into wealth and help support 2.2 million energy efficiency jobs.”