Executive Branch Activity 

EPA, DOE, Interior, and Water 2018 Budgets Cut in President Trump’s Request to Congress

EPA:  President Donald Trump’s FY 2018 budget request, which was released last week, included a significant 31.4 percent decrease for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), from the current funding level of $8.2 billion to $5.7 billion. This represents the largest budget cut President Trump has requested for any agency and would leave EPA with almost half the budget it had in 2012. The budget also calls for the elimination of the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs  and climate change research at the agency.

DOE:  The President’s FY 2018 budget request included a 5.6 percent decrease in funding for the Department of Energy (DOE), from the current funding level of $29.7 billion to $28 billion. However, due to the President’s request to increase funding for DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by more than 11 percent, the President requested that the remainder of DOE’s budget be adjusted to accommodate, and therefore would incur a significant 17.9 percent overall decrease. The budget highlights proposed reductions in funding at the DOE for the Fossil Energy Research and Development program, the Office of Science by $900 million, and the elimination of the State Energy Program and the ARPA-E program.

Interior:  The President’s FY 2018 budget requests a 12 percent decrease for the Department of the Interior (DOI), from the current funding level of $13.2 billion to $11.6 billion. Among other things, the budget proposes to reduce funding by $120 million for “new major acquisitions” of federal lands and highlights “administrative reforms already in progress” that would allow DOI to streamline permitting processes.

Water:  The proposed budget includes a slight increase for the State Revolving Funds, with a request of $2.3 billion ($4 million increase over the 2017 CR level) and requests level funding for that Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program ($20 million equal to 2017 CR level). However, the budget calls for the elimination of two other significant water-related programs: the Department of Agriculture’s Water and Wastewater loan and grant program which is currently funded at $498 million; and regional watershed programs, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay, which are currently funded at $427 million. The budget also requests a 16.3 percent decrease for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, from the current funding levels of $6 billion to $5 billion.

Executive Orders

CAFE Standards:  Last week, President Donald Trump announced his plans to sign an executive order in the coming days directing the EPA to review the Obama Administration’s decision in its Midterm Evaluation not to alter the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) vehicle emission standards for model years 2022-2025. The Midterm Evaluation process was established as a part of the 2012 standards for model years 2017-2025, requiring EPA to determine no later than April 1, 2018 whether the standards  for model years 2022-2025 established are appropriate. The Midterm Evaluation was signed by President Obama one week before President Trump took office, which was more than a year before EPA was scheduled to complete its review and release the standards. The Obama Administration standards set limits on greenhouse gas emissions so as to require fuel efficiency of new vehicles to meet 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The executive order is expected to direct the EPA to release new standards by April 2018.

Oil and Gas:  Last week, the Trump Administration announced plans to rewrite the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands final rule which was finalized by the Obama Administration in 2015. The rule is currently stayed at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but BLM asked the court to put the lawsuit on hold as it launches a new rulemaking process to rescind it within the “next 90 days.” The rule contained stricter regulations for oil and gas fracking on federal and Indian lands, including requiring companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in their hydraulic fracturing operations and demonstrate integrity for well casing.

Legislative Activity

This Week’s Hearings

  • On Tuesday, March 21, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, will hold a hearing titled “The Importance of Domestically Sourced Raw Materials for Infrastructure Projects.”
  • On Tuesday, March 21, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Research and Technology, will hold a hearing titled “Research and Technology Subcommittee Hearing- National Science Foundation Part II: Future Opportunities and Challenges for Science.” Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy, the Acting Chief Operating Officer at the National Science Foundation, and Dr. Maria Zuber, Chair at the National Science Board, will testify.
  • On Tuesday, March 21, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing to receive testimony on opportunities to improve and expand infrastructure deemed important to federal lands, recreation, water and resources.
  • On Tuesday, March 21, the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Interior, Energy, and Environment, will hold a hearing titled “Examining GAO Findings on Deficiencies at the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.” 
  • On Wednesday, March 22, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs, will hold a hearing titled “Oversight Hearing on The Status of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) Restructuring Support Agreement.”
  • On Wednesday, March 22, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment, will hold a hearing to examine H.R. 806, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017. The legislation would provide states with additional time and flexibility to implement EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and would extend the review cycle from five to ten years for NAAQS under the Clean Air Act.