The Trump administration is poised to ask Congress for deep budget cuts in the Energy Department’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, slashing them by 72 percent overall in fiscal 2019, according to draft budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Many of the sharp cuts would likely be restored by Congress, but President Trump’s budget due out in February will mark a starting point for negotiations and offer a statement of intent and policy priorities.
The document underscores the administration’s continued focus on the exploitation of fossil fuel resources — or as Trump put it in his State of the Union address, “beautiful clean coal” — over newer renewable technologies seen as a central solution to the problem of climate change.
The Energy Department had asked the White House for more modest spending reductions for the renewable and efficiency programs, but people familiar with the process, who asked for anonymity to share unfinished budget information, said that the Office of Management and Budget insisted on the deeper cuts.
The cuts would also be deeper than those the Trump administration sought for the current fiscal year, but was unable to implement because of the budget impasse in Congress. The federal government has been operating on a series of continuing resolutions that have maintained existing spending. The current continuing resolution expires Feb. 8.
Spending for the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is set at a $2.04 billion level for the current fiscal year, which ends Oct. 1. Last year the administration asked for just $636.1 million, a decline of over two-thirds, though Congress did not implement the request. For 2019, the administration’s draft proposal would lower that request even further to $575.5 million.
The document also suggests substantial staff cuts, down from 680 in the enacted 2017 budget to 450 in 2019.
“It shows that we’ve made no inroads in terms of convincing the administration of our value, and if anything, our value based on these numbers has dropped,” said one EERE employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal budget information.
The Energy Department did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. The White House said in a statement: “We don’t comment on any leaked or pre-decisional documents prior to the release of the official budget.”
It is unclear whether the document represents a final budget proposal or will besubject to last-minute negotiation and revision. The federal budget is due out in February.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Christopher Mooney and Steven Mufson