It’s still just an outline of a more detailed document expected in May, and multiple analysts say it has no hope of clearing Congress. But in the days after last week’s White House budget release, news coverage has pointed to the scope of devastation Donald Trump is trying to wield with his budget axe—in energy and climate and far beyond, often to the detriment of some of his strongest supporters in coal country and elsewhere.
The government eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps nearly six million poor households cover their heating and cooling costs.
“Compared to other income support programs that serve similar populations, LIHEAP is a lower-impact program and is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes,” the budget states. “A number of federal and private academic reports on the program’s efficacy have had generally positive things to say about the program’s efficacy,” the Washington Post counters.
Transportation for America points to the incongruity of the “infrastructure president” cutting discretionary funds at the Department of Transportation 13% and eliminating several sources of transit funding.
“This budget proposal severely undercuts the President’s stated commitment to infrastructure, and would leave behind many of the rural communities that supported him in November,” said Director Adrea Turner. “After months of promises to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure, the first concrete action taken by the Trump administration on this issue is to propose drastic cuts to transportation programs that bring notable economic benefits to communities across the country, from small towns to large cities.”
The hit list includes complete elimination of the popular Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program, which funded more than 400 projects in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. “The program leverages billions to accelerate key projects that drive local, regional, and state economic development,” Turner noted. “Through the first five rounds of funding, TIGER projects brought 3.5 other dollars to the table for each federal dollar awarded.”
The Guardian, meanwhile, spotlights the loss of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data that has helped U.S. businesses create new job-creating products and services.
“No one has estimated the financial benefits of making EPA data easily accessible to the private sector,” the paper writes. “But anecdotal evidence shows it plays a significant role in many billion-dollar industries, from lending and real estate to renewable energy development and auto designs and manufacturing. For example, chemical companies use the data to come up with less toxic compounds for dyeing textiles.”
Cuts at the State Department will essentially mean walking away from U.S. commitments under the Paris agreement, even if the country doesn’t formally withdraw from the accord, InsideClimate News notes. The budget “chokes off funds to the UN climate talks, Green Climate Fund, and the Clean Power Plan that underpin the U.S. contribution to international efforts,” ClimateHome states. “By reneging on commitments made under Barack Obama, Trump’s stance undermines global cooperation, experts told Climate Home. Raising ambition in China and India just got harder to justify.”
“It’s clear that the administration intends to halt or reverse everything domestic and foreign related to addressing the challenge of climate change,” Kei Koizumi, a top Obama-era budget official at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, told ICN. “It’s breathtakingly consistent.”
“It is a pity, because the U.S. will not be truthful to its commitments,” Laurence Tubiana, former French climate ambassador, now CEO of the European Climate Foundation, told ClimateHome. “That will certainly create a lot of diplomatic feedback.”
The budget would also cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, leading to devastating impacts for millions of Canadians, the New York Times reports. “As the largest city on Lake Huron, the cuts will undo decades of work by many to clean up the Great Lakes on both sides of the border,” said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley. “What good is it having lower taxes when you can’t drink the water?”
Beyond the immediate hits in the budget, ex-Sierra Club CEO Carl Pope warns that Trump is kicking off a profound—and profoundly damaging—cultural shift among U.S business leaders.
“Assaults on decency and health that would have been unthinkable a few months ago are now the expected response by corporate executives pressured by short-term market pressures and right-wing political allies,” he writes. “Let’s be clear. American business is at risk of plunging into a race to the bottom—not only must Americans resist Trump directly, they must resist the culture of law-breaking and recklessness he is trying to trigger.”
Much of the influence is coming from the office of climate-denying Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who famously tossed a snowball on the floor of the U.S. Senate to back his claim that climate change is a hoax.
At least a dozen of his former staff have moved over to the EPA, including the chief of staff and deputy chief of staff to Administrator Scott Pruitt, as well as Pruitt’s senior advisors on air, climate, and legal issues, the Washington Post reports. Two other Inhofe alumni have become top domestic and international energy and environmental advisors to Trump. And coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, yet another former Inhofe staffer, is expected to be named EPA deputy administrator.
“Inhofe was like the original climate-denier in chief. He was one of the first people spouting this gibberish—fact-free but dangerous gibberish,” League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski told the Post. “Now he and his cronies have far more reach and are far more dangerous than they’ve ever been….That’s good news for the polluters, but horrible news for public health.”
In Politico, meanwhile, Inhofe contended that fossil companies don’t really want action on climate change, whatever they say on the record. “They [say they] do because they want to be on the inside. When [agencies] start promulgating rules, they want [to say], ‘Remember us? We’re the ones who said we’re on your side,’” he said.
“A lot of people in what I call the big corporate world, they don’t consider it selling their souls. They know that they are working for a board of directors, that board of directors pays their salary and they have to come up with things that they know better. I’ve seen this in the corporate world for a long time. I used to be in the corporate world.”