Report: Trump DOE budget would cut renewables office 70%, fossil 54%, nuclear 31%

Dive Brief:

  • The Trump administration is planning deep cuts for offices focused on renewable energy, nuclear power and fossil fuel research at the Department of Energy, according to Axios.
  • A draft budget document viewed by the outlet reportedly includes a 70% cut to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a 54% cut to the Office of Fossil Energy, and a 31% cut to the Office of Nuclear Energy. The White House is expected to submit its full 2018 budget to Congress next week, and deep cuts are also expected at the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The report comes a day after a group of Senate Democrats wrote to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry expressing concern that DOE has delayed or refused to award funds already approved by Congress for various energy projects.

Dive Insight:

Last month’s budget compromise to keep the federal government running through September mostly spared federal agencies related to the power sector, with the EPA budget getting trimmed by 1% and the DOE budget actually increasing slightly. 

But the White House wants a second bite at the apple, according to a new report that highlights the deep proposed cuts to resource-specific offices at the DOE. The report adds detail to a preliminary “skinny budget” proposal released by the administration in March, which targeted a 6% overall cut to DOE and included unspecified cuts to the nuclear, fossil and renewable energy offices. 

Whether overall funding levels have changed in this draft budget is unknown, as Axios did not publish complete budget numbers. Also uncertain is the future of ARPA-E, an early-stage research and development agency prized in the power sector that was slated for elimination in the skinny budget. 

The revelations come a day after leading Senate Democrats wrote to Secretary Perry, complaining of reports that DOE is slow-walking funding for many energy initiatives already approved by Congress. 

“We have heard from small businesses, universities and research institutions … that the DOE has slowed down or frozen some of its essential research and development programs,” the senators wrote, citing specific concerns about programs under ARPA-E, the DOE Weatherization Assistance Program and State Energy Program.

“Each new president has the right to influence the direction of the executive branch,” they wrote. “But the president cannot ignore statutory requirements or funding direction provided by appropriations legislation for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.”

Trump is set to pitch his full budget to Congress next week, but the DOE cuts and similar rollbacks at EPA are unlikely to survive unscathed. Trump’s skinny budget was greeted with criticism from both sides of the aisle when it was released back in March.

“[T]here’s a lot in it that a lot of us don’t like,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chair of the Senate energy committee, said of the proposal.

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