Democrats in the U.S. Congress appear to have held off the Trump administration’s latest attempt to slash federal funding for environmental protection and clean energy programming, under a US$1.3-trillion budget deal finalized earlier this week by congressional leaders.
“For Democrats who sought to preserve energy and environmental programs held over from the Obama administration, the spending package represents a victory—at least until the next budget negotiation,” the Washington Post reports.
“Together, we rejected the Trump administration’s proposal to make massive and dangerous budget cuts,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), ranking Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee responsible for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and related agencies.
The budget bill freezes EPA funding at $8.1 billion after the White House tried to cut the agency’s budget more than 23%. It preserves EPA’s state and regional grants and protects agency staff, including scientists, from Administrator Scott Pruitt’s bid for a large-scale buyout initiative. At the Department of Energy, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy gets a $47-million budget increase, to $353 million, despite White House efforts to eliminate the program. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy receives a 14% percent increase, rather than the nearly three-quarters cut to renewables and efficiency programs in the White House budget.
“Democrats also thwarted riders that would have blocked the EPA from enforcing Obama-era methane emissions rules, rescinded the Waters of the United States rule restricting farm runoff and other pollution from going into streams, and removed gray wolves in Wyoming and around the Great Lakes from the endangered species list,” the Post reports.
“It’s been a long time coming, but Congress got it right with this bill by maintaining or increasing funding for energy efficiency programs, despite the dramatic cuts proposed by the administration,” said Ben Evans, vice president of government affairs and communications at the Alliance to Save Energy.