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Trump seeks 11% cut to US DOE budget, with renewables taking a big hit

President Donald Trump proposed an 11% cut to the U.S. Department of Energy's budget for fiscal year 2020, with large declines sought again for the agency's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The administration also repeated its earlier calls to clip funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The requests, however, are likely to meet with resistance from the U.S. Congress, which ultimately decides funding levels for the federal government and has largely rejected Trump's efforts to slash funding for certain DOE and EPA programs in prior years.

On March 11, the White House released its budget request for the 2020 fiscal year, which included $31.7 billion for the DOE. Within that total, the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would receive $696 million, down from the $2.38 billion authorized by Congress for fiscal year 2019. The Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development would get $562 million, up $60 million from the White House's fiscal 2019 request but down from 2019 enacted levels of $740 million.

Despite efforts to underpin the U.S. nuclear fleet, the White House proposed to cut the Office of Nuclear Energy's budget for fiscal year 2020 to $824 million, below the $1.33 billion Congress appropriated for the prior fiscal year although higher than the $757 million the administration requested for fiscal year 2019. The White House also sought $116 million in fiscal year 2020 for both the stalled Yucca Mountain long-term nuclear waste repository in Nevada and an interim nuclear waste storage program — priorities Congress has declined to support in recent appropriations bills.

Citing the need to protect taxpayers from "costly, wasteful or duplicative programs," the DOE again proposed eliminating its Title 17 innovative technology loan guarantee program, advanced technology vehicle manufacturing loan program and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, known as ARPA-E. The administration also repeated its proposal to divest federally owned and operated transmission assets and allow the federal power marketing administrations to charge market-based rather than cost-based rates for electricity. But Congress dismissed similar requests from Trump in its energy spending bill for fiscal year 2019.

The proposed cuts for DOE research come as both Democrats and Republicans in Congress point to federally sponsored energy research as a way to lower greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. Lawmakers therefore are likely to resist at least some of the White House's desired spending reductions this year, particularly given that Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January and made dealing with global warming a key legislative priority.

"The Trump budget has no chance of garnering the necessary bipartisan support to become law," House Committee on Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said. "I am committed to working with my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, to write appropriations bills that responsibly fund the government."

While seeking cuts to some energy research areas, the White House requested an increase in funding for its recently formed Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response office, known as CESER. Trump proposed $157 million for CESER in fiscal year 2020, up from fiscal 2019 enacted levels of $120 million.

The DOE also announced a new intradepartmental initiative between its Office of Electricity and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to advance energy storage research and development. The Advanced Energy Storage Initiative would receive $158 million under the March 11 budget request.

The Energy Department did not provide a full budget summary as of press time, meaning details of its request for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission were not yet available.


The U.S. Department of Interior, which administers leases for energy production from federal lands and waters, also would incur spending cuts under the administration's new proposal. The White House requested $12.59 billion for Interior in fiscal year 2020, down 14% from 2019 appropriations.

According to the March 11 budget summary, the administration is moving ahead on an "aggressive strategy" for offshore oil and gas leasing as part of a draft program for 2019-2024 while "working aggressively" to carry out a congressional mandate to implement oil and gas leasing in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Total appropriations for Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would rise to $136.9 million in fiscal year 2020 under the new budget request from $121.2 million enacted for 2019, according to a "budget in brief" document from Interior.

But the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees energy production on federal lands, would see its budget drop to $1.20 billion from $1.34 billion in fiscal year 2019. Despite the overall decline, the BLM would get $19.8 million for a program to reduce permit processing times for coal leasing and extraction, up sharply from prior-year enacted levels of around $11.9 million.


Turning to other energy-relevant agencies, the White House requested $6.07 billion for the EPA, a 31% proposed cut below 2019 fiscal year funding levels.

While the Trump administration previously asked for $6.15 billion in EPA funding for the 2019 fiscal year — a 23% proposed cut from 2018 funding levels — Congress eventually passed a continuing resolution that kept the agency's funding flat at $8.82 billion for that year.

The White House's 2020 budget request includes $425.3 million to improve air quality, which the EPA has identified as a top priority. For fiscal year 2019, Congress appropriated $789.3 million for air quality initiatives.

The EPA said it will continue to implement its greenhouse gas reporting program, but the budget proposes to eliminate funding for 14 voluntary climate-related partnership programs. The budget proposal also includes an increase of $3 million to help states develop and implement permitting programs for coal ash related to the EPA's 2015 coal combustion residuals rule.

In a press release, the EPA said the budget blueprint includes money for technical assistance to states as the agency works to finalize several significant rulemakings before the start of the 2020 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The agency specifically cited a revised definition for federally protected waters and a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan targeting carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.

"EPA is committed to implementing these rulemakings by providing technical assistance and guidance to states, tribes and regulated entities as they adapt to these changes," the agency said.