Environment & Energy Report

Bipartisan Pushback Against Some Environmental Cuts

March 19, 2019, 9:30 AM

For the third time since taking office, President Donald Trump wants to make deep cuts to clean energy and environmental programs, but some of those programs have broad bipartisan constituencies.

“They [White House officials] make some proposals in there that they know we’re not going to go along with,” said Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, the top Republican on the House Appropriations energy and water spending panel. That’s especially true now that Democrats control the House, he said.

“Elections have consequences, and the bills we write are going to be more in the Democratic mold,” he said.

Simpson’s comments echo a wider practice of many presidents, who proposed cuts to some popular domestic programs knowing Congress would restore their funding. In Trump’s case, his budget attempts to funnel greater spending into the defense budget and his border wall plan.

Here are some of the particular initiatives that lawmakers in both parties predict will avoid Trump’s budget ax:


Trump is proposing $6.1 billion in total Environmental Protection Agency spending in fiscal 2020, which would return the agency to funding levels it hasn’t seen since the early 1990s.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the lone Republican to vote “no” on the Senate’s confirmation of EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler last month, said Trump’s proposed $2 billion cut in EPA funding won’t stand.

“That’s deep,” said Collins, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

She noted the Senate has repeatedly resisted Trump’s efforts to slash EPA funding, instead keeping the agency at or above the $8 billion mark during his presidency.

Fossil Energy Research

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), a Senate Appropriations Committee member, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said they’ll push to restore cuts proposed to the Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development, which oversees carbon capture research.

It would get $562 million in fiscal 2020 under the Trump proposal, a nearly $200 million cut from estimated fiscal 2019 levels.

“This is one of the things that I’ll be working on throughout the appropriations process, to make sure that we have the necessary funding in fossil fuel areas so we can develop the carbon capture and storage we need,” Hoeven said.

Manchin, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s top Democrat, also plans to vote on that funding.

“Carbon capture and utilization is by far the best thing we can do not just in this country but worldwide” on research and development to address climate change, he said. “And you can’t do that unless you have R&D.”

Green Climate Fund

Trump, as expected, also won’t be putting money into the Green Climate Fund, the third straight year he has zeroed out support for the United Nations program to help developing countries cut greenhouse gas emissions and address climate impacts.

President Barack Obama pledged $3 billion toward the fund, but the program received only one-third of that amount before Trump took office due to congressional opposition.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said having Democrats in control of the House could help in his effort to restore that funding.

“There is the possibility of reviving it because we will have at least one chamber that will want to honor the responsibilities” the U.S. pledged, said Merkley, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), an energy committee member, said she’ll push for “healthy” funding of clean energy research and was confident Congress would resist the deep cuts Trump proposed for Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The office would see its $2.3 billion budget slashed by about 70 percent, to $700 million.

Trump’s budget would “gut or cut everything, including renewables,” she said, “and is more focused on oil and gas leasing than supporting clean energy.”


Idaho’s Simpson said the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will likely get strong backing from both parties. The Energy Department agency invests in high-risk, innovative energy technologies.

The White House called for its elimination in earlier budget requests, but the program is currently funded at $366 million.

Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also said he expects ARPA-E and other energy research to continue thriving.

“One of the best things the government can do is invest in basic research through ARPA-E and in our national labs; they are doing amazing work,” Walden said.

Republicans who generally oppose government “picking winners and losers in the marketplace"—particularly among energy choices—still want “us leading on the research and the innovation. I think there’s a lot of space there for agreement,” he said.

Water Infrastructure

Water infrastructure funding, which traditionally has won strong bipartisan support, will be an even bigger priority now that Democrats control the House, said Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s water resources and environment subcommittee.

Trump’s proposed budget would curb EPA’s largest water infrastructure program by more than 12 percent from current funding levels. Both the Obama and Bush administrations also proposed funding cuts to this program that were eventually restored by Congress.

“We have a role to play in clean water, I think you’ll see that,” Napolitano said. “Cities and states can’t do it alone.”

Regional Environmental Efforts

Sen. Ron Portman (R-Ohio) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) vowed to ensure full funding of an EPA program to clean up the Great Lakes, known as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which faces near-elimination under Trump’s budget.

Presidents from both parties have targeted the program, and “every year we have successfully defeated those efforts and ensured that this critical program receives full funding,” Portman said in a March 11 statement.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said he also will work with surrounding states in the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed to reverse deep cuts to the bay’s restoration. Trump is proposing just $7.3 million in fiscal 2020 for a program that received an estimated $73 million in the current fiscal year.

“The president’s budget does speak volumes—it tells us the President of the United States is not committed to an Environmental Protection Agency that can protect our environment,” Cardin said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dean Scott in Washington at dscott@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com; Susan Bruninga at sbruninga@bloombergenvironment.com; Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergenvironment.com

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