Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

With Zinke, Perry in place, energy directives next

March 6, 2017 Ari Natter

This is an exceprt from BGOV’s daily energy newsletter. The full article was first available to Bloomberg Government subscribers. 

With Ryan Zinke and Rick Perry finally in place, President Trump is set to unleash directives this week for the federal government’s energy and environment policy.

In addition to a measure on coal leasing and one starting the rollback of EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration will reportedly open the way for a rollback of fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks.

On the auto front, the withdrawal could come in the form of a joint notice from the EPA and Transportation Department. As a result, the “midterm evaluation” of the efficiency standards through 2025 would resume, potentially leading to the relaxation of the standards desired by automakers, Ryan Beene reports.

To change the standards, EPA must produce a new rule to replace the current one including notice and comment — raising the potential of a court challenge by environmental groups.

(Of course, the energy orders could slip. A new White House order on immigration was promised each day last week and never came. It’s now planned for this week. So too is a plan or outline of an Obamacare replacement package. Add to that the latest Twitter controversy and we can’t rule out that the energy orders may get bumped.)

NOAA in its Own Budget Storm

On the heels of a proposed 25 percent budget cut to the EPA, the Trump administration is seeking deep cuts to another agency steeped in climate and science work.

NOAA’s budget may be slashed by 17 percent — with cuts to research funding and satellite programs — according to the Washington Post, which obtained a four-page budget memo summarizing the plan:

The proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would also eliminate funding for a variety of smaller programs, including external research, coastal management, estuary reserves and “coastal resilience,” which seeks to bolster the ability of coastal areas to withstand major storms and rising seas.

Scientists wasted no time in raising the alarm:

“The satellite data division, threatened with losing almost a quarter of its budget, provides observations of atmospheric temperature, wind, clouds and other meteorological parameters which are fundamental for weather forecasting and monitoring weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes,” Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said in a statement.

EPA Not Cut Enough?

Meanwhile, Trump’s 25 percent budget cut to the EPA, which sent environmentalists into a panic, isn’t enough for one group. The Heartland Institute, the Chicago think-tank known for casting doubt about climate change, argues that would simply take the agency back to 1991 funding levels, when it was still “much too big.” And the group argues a 25 percent cut is no sure thing:

“I suspect the new administration is asking for a 25 percent cut but will settle for a 10 percent or 15 percent cut in order to win congressional approval. Next year or the year after, EPA’s budget and staffing will be back to today’s levels. This is not ‘reining in EPA.’ This is barely getting its attention.”

The comments illustrate the tension the Trump administration and lawmakers are facing as they try to put together a budget that reflects their values, but can also garner enough support to get through Congress.

Zinke’s Vow to Defend Budget

Add a second Cabinet member to the list of those trying to fight budget cuts being foisted on them by the White House. Scott Pruitt said last week he wants to save grants to states and localities, and urged mayors to help him make the case for that funding. And now Ryan Zinke, in a meeting with Interior Department staff, promised to fight for that department’s budget.

“We’re going to fight about it,” Zinke said in his first address to employees since his March 1 confirmation. “I think I’m going to win at the end of the day,” Zinke said, prompting laughter from the hundreds of employees gathered in the department’s cafeteria.

This is an excerpt from BGOV’s daily energy newsletter.  Learn more about our daily newsletters focused on what matters most to you. 

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