Trump’s plan to slash EPA, clean energy funding gets the cold shoulder from Congress

Legislation is not perfect, though, for the environment.

Congress' proposed omnibus spending bill for FY'18 preserves funding for the EPA at current levels and boosts Department of Energy funding. CREDIT: TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty Images.
Congress' proposed omnibus spending bill for FY'18 preserves funding for the EPA at current levels and boosts Department of Energy funding. CREDIT: TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty Images.

Lawmakers on Wednesday unveiled a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that would fund the government through the end of September. The legislation, packaged in a 2,232-page document, still needs to pass both chambers of Congress and get President Trump’s signature before Friday at midnight in order to prevent a government shutdown.

The spending bill generally keeps funding for environmental and energy programs at current levels. The legislation pushes back on many of Trump’s proposed spending cuts, including for environmental and clean energy programs.

The spending bill is mostly good news for the environment and clean energy research, although lawmakers added a few troublesome provisions to the legislation.

Environmental Protection Agency

The Good: The spending bill rejects Trump’s proposal to slash the EPA’s budget by 31 percent. Lawmakers negotiating the omnibus appropriations bill instead chose to give the agency $8.1 billion for fiscal year 2018, keeping it at the same level as 2017.


The bill preserves money for several programs targeted by the Trump administration, including full funding for the EPA’s state and regional grants.

In a separate part of the spending bill, lawmakers added $763 million for various EPA programs related to water infrastructure and to cleaning up polluted Superfund sites.

The Bad: The bill instructs the EPA to treat wood burning as a carbon-neutral and renewable electricity source, something the federal government has not done since 2010. Critics of biomass believe the rider would circumvent science and encourage the burning of biomass for electricity.

The bill contains a rider — an additional provision attached to the bill — that shields farmers and ranchers from animal-waste air-pollution reporting requirements under the Superfund law. It also prohibits the EPA from enforcing protections against particulate matter, lead, carbon monoxide, and mercury from certain incinerators.

“These riders are especially concerning because children and people with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases are among the most vulnerable to the health impacts of air pollution emitted from incinerators and biomass burning,” American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold Wimmer said in a statement.

Department of Energy

The Good: The Department of Energy (DOE) gets $34.5 billion, an increase of nearly $4 billion over the FY’17 enacted level. DOE will see funding increases for many programs under the bill, including research efforts and energy efficiency programs that the Trump administration has tried to cut.


The bill funds DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at $2.32 billion, $290 million more than FY’17. Trump had proposed to reduce EERE to $636 million, about $1.4 billion, or 70 percent, below the FY’16 enacted level for the office.

It also funds Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a bipartisan initiative that funds research into cutting-edge energy technology, at $353 million, more than $47 million over the FY’17 budget. The Trump administration proposed the termination of ARPA-E in its FY’18 budget proposal.

DOE’s Office of Science, which covers much of the basic research done at DOE laboratories, would see its funding increase to a record $6.26 billion, a 16 percent increase over current spending.

The Bad: The bill calls for $727 million for the Office of Fossil Energy, a $59 million increase above fiscal 2017 levels. The office is responsible for advanced coal, natural gas, and oil technologies.

The increase in funding for fossil fuel research shows Congress still does not see the connection between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change. But the funding increase is not a huge blow to climate action because the legislation does not call for taking money away from clean energy research to boost fossil fuel investments.

Department of the Interior

The Good: The Department of the Interior (DOI) gets a funding boost in the spending bill. About $3.2 billion would go to the National Park Service, $270 million more than the 2017 enacted level. The bill includes a roughly $150 million increase to address the National Park Service’s $11.6 billion maintenance backlog.


In a statement, Kristen Brengel, vice president for government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association, praised the bill for providing funding “just as the National Park Service is preparing for another busy summer travel season.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gets $1.6 billion, $75 million more than current spending. It includes a $53 million increase to address a maintenance backlog at wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries.

The Bad: Although unrelated to Congress’ appropriation of funds, public lands remain under threat with Ryan Zinke staying on as Interior secretary. Zinke continues to seek an expansion of both onshore and offshore oil and gas production on lands managed by DOI’s Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) receives $5.9 billion under the legislation, about $234 million more than the FY’17 enacted level. That figure includes $1 billion for the National Weather Service and $883 million for NOAA Fisheries operations, research and facilities.

The Trump administration wanted to slash the NOAA budget by 16 percent. Several NOAA programs are developing advanced modeling to make storm forecasts more accurate and reliable. The omnibus spending plan preserves funding for the agency’s climate research arm — the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research — which Trump wanted to cut by 32 percent budget cut, the largest of any NOAA agency.

The spending bill represents “a resounding victory for all of the activists who fought back,” Elgie Holstein, senior director of strategic planning for EDF Action, said Thursday in a statement.

But there are many fights to come, Holstein said: “The Trump administration will not stop its attacks on clean air and water safeguards and sound science — and still has many allies in Congress.”