“A more humble view concerning the government’s ability to control climate.”
Trump Slashes Climate Budget, Programs
By H. Sterling Burnett
President Donald Trump is keeping his commitment to reduce the size of government in part by cutting the staff and power of regulatory agencies, especially those with environmental and energy responsibilities, which he says have harmed businesses and cost jobs for little or no health or environmental gains. In addition, each agency’s remaining funds are being redirected to serve their core missions.
For example, the budget blueprint for the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) proposes cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget from $8.2 billion in 2017 to $6.1 billion in 2018, approximately 26 percent. EPA’s 15,000-person workforce would be cut by 20 percent, to 12,000. The OMB document says the cuts are aimed at “identify[ing] the savings and efficiencies needed to keep the nation on a responsible fiscal path.”
All EPA’s climate programs are on the chopping block. Other programs specifically targeted for elimination include the brownfields projects, Energy Star grants, endocrine disrupter grants under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, environmental justice programs, 14 separate Climate Voluntary Partnership programs, multi-purpose radon grants from the Office of Public Engagement and Environmental Education, Star Research grants for small minority-owned businesses, the U.S. Global Change Research program, and various regional environmental clean-up and restoration programs. EPA’s Office of Research and Development would receive a 42 percent budget cut.
OMB’s blueprint reduces the Department of Commerce’s budget by 18 percent, including a 17 percent cut in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA’s cuts primarily target its climate research initiatives, not its weather monitoring and forecasting functions. In particular, the budget of NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service, which carries out or funds its climate and environmental research, would be reduced by 26 percent.
Trump’s budget proposal would reduce the Department of Energy’s (DOE) budget by about $1.7 billion, a relatively small 5.6 percent cut. Trump’s budget revives the Yucca Mountain nuclear storage facility mothballed by former President Barack Obama over Congress’s objections. DOE’s core function of managing the nation’s nuclear power program and the nuclear fuel stockpile gets an 11 percent funding increase. By contrast, the OMB blueprint cuts the rest of the Energy Department’s programs by 17.9 percent, with the Office of Science, which undertakes most of DOE’s climate research, losing nearly 20 percent of its budget. Trump’s budget eliminates entirely DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Energy program and loan guarantees for new low-carbon energy projects.
These are the programs that funded so many politically connected, now defunct, green energy companies, whose bankruptcies cost taxpayers billions of dollars. OMB says the cuts are justified because “the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies.”
Trump has laid out a bold, significantly smaller, vision for the nation’s environmental and energy agencies: a vision reflecting a more humble view concerning the government’s ability to control climate or predict the energy and environmental technologies that will best satisfy the desires and needs of future generations.
Congress, of course, ultimately sets the budget and will undoubtedly tinker with, modify, and perhaps ignore entirely some of Trumps proposed budget items. But the public will know, if the power and costs of U.S. environment and energy agencies aren’t significantly reduced – that is, if wasteful and unjustified energy and climate programs continue – Congress, not Trump, is to blame.