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Industry, Political Leaders United In Opposition To Trump’s 2018 Budget Slasher

President Donald Trump has released his fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which includes cuts to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Already, industry and political leaders and many clean energy plus environmental advocacy groups are speaking out in response to the proposal as fears of cuts to clean energy and environmental protection have been confirmed. The budget would make huge cuts in renewable energy research and eliminate agencies within the DOE that fund energy technology projects. Across the spectrum, many are voicing that the cuts could potentially ‘devastate’ an emerging economic sector with lasting damage, and hamper competitiveness with major cuts to groundbreaking renewables research.

The administration has proposed the termination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a bipartisan initiative that funds research into cutting-edge energy technology. The decision to eliminate ARPA-E was “in line with administration policies,” according to the budget request. Clean energy research and development received another major blow with the administration’s proposal to reduce the budget of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to $636 million, about $1.4 billion, or 70 percent, below the fiscal year 2016 level for the department.

Clean energy industry leaders were swift and united in their reasoned and well-articulated opposition to the proposals. Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), highlighted the gains made by the clean energy sector and also the bi-partisan support it has. She did not, however, hid her disappointment, stating “We were disappointed to see the administration’s proposal to slash programs that promote American-made clean energy. Clean energy research programs have been priorities of both Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses and the investments have paid off many times over.

She added, “renewable energy innovations in rapidly commercialising technologies ranging from inverters to storage, to advanced infrastructure have vast promise for American industry, as solar energy becomes an increasingly large part of our nation’s energy portfolio”. Focusing on the budget’s journey through Congress, she said further, “we look forward to working with Congress as it drafts a budget that supports important clean energy programs that create American jobs, advance innovation and stimulate billions of dollars in private investment.”

Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), emphasised the jobs creation capabilities of the wind sector when he said, “while the administration’s 2018 budget proposes many changes, thanks to strong bipartisan leadership and support in Congress we believe the program has the support it needs for greater funding of wind energy research and development. Over 100,000 jobs are now supported by American wind power, including manufacturing jobs across the Rust Belt, and billions are being invested in rural America. Funding for cost-saving research efforts, like those housed in the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, helps advance wind energy technology in a way that translates into more well-paying jobs and more savings for American homeowners and businesses.”

The budget cuts run far and wide, and they cut deep. According to the media reports, the budget slashes Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding by a third, with Utility Dive additionally reporting “the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see a 70% budget cut; the Office of Fossil Energy budget would be reduced 54%; the Office of Nuclear Energy budget will decline almost a third.” The Washington Post notes that “dozens of other programs also would be zeroed out entirely, including funding for radon detection, lead risk reduction, projects along the U.S.-Mexico border and environmental justice initiatives.” Additionally, Ecowatch states that less money will be allocated to enforcement of environmental crimes and climate change research.

Political leaders are being frank and robust in their opposition to the proposals, as they stand. US Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, criticised Trump for his proposed cuts in clean energy research. “His budget proposes a staggering seventy percent cut to renewables and energy efficiency initiatives,” Cantwell said in a Tuesday statement responding to the budget proposal. “This would devastate an emerging sector of our economy by killing thousands of clean-energy jobs all over the country — all in a misguided effort to hold onto the past at the expense of our future.” She added that the DOE has “a long proud history of acting as an incubator for innovation with bipartisan support and that tradition won’t end now” with the release of Trump’s FY18 budget proposal.

U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., who recently co-sponsored an offshore wind incentive bill, says in a release that “scientific research and development will be hobbled” under the budget – in turn, “endangering America’s global competitiveness.” “The Trump budget represents a full-scale retreat from American leadership in the global clean energy race,” he warns. “Without investments in new and innovative energy technologies at the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation, the Trump administration will hand over clean energy jobs to China, India and the European Union.”

The proposed budget is also being criticised heavily by environmental groups. “President Trump’s proposed budget is economically irresponsible and environmentally disastrous,” Ken Berlin, President and CEO of The Climate Reality Project, said. “The budget claims to consider ‘America First,’ but in fact does the opposite. It endangers Americans by eviscerating the Environmental Protection Agency, crippling the institution charged with protecting their health and safety.”

In response to the Trump administration’s proposals, Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, stated, “This budget will make our families sick while making corporate polluters rich. Trump’s budget is rigged for billionaires and CEOs, making deep and painful cuts that sell out our public lands, decimate programs that protect the health of our families and communities, and put family-sustaining clean energy jobs at risk – just to boost the profits of corporate polluters.” In addition, he points out that the budget “slashes nearly all funding for climate action and climate science research.” “The American people are watching, and they will continue to demand that their voices are heard as Congress sets funding priorities for our government,” he continues. “Congress needs to stand up for our families and reject any cuts to programs that would that put our children at risk.” policy director Jason Kowalski rebuked the White House’s budget plan for prioritising the interests of the fossil fuel industry. “This latest budget starves the Environmental Protection Agency while stuffing the faces of fossil fuel billionaires,” he said. “The American people overwhelmingly support government investments in renewable energy and environmental protections, while opposing the new coal, oil and gas extraction this budget aims to open up.

In addition, Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists and former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, says the budget “takes a wrecking ball to agencies that protect our health, safety and environment.” “I also know from my experience heading a state environmental agency that states have neither the funds nor the staff to pick up the slack when federal enforcement is decimated,” he says in a statement.

Mr Kimmell adds that though the DOE “has an office that’s breaking new ground on advanced energy technologies that could boost the U.S. economy significantly,” Kimmell argues, “the president doesn’t have the foresight to see the benefit of these types of programs.” “We need a budget that takes us forward, not backwards. Members of Congress should oppose this budget and ensure that agencies in charge of keeping American families safe and healthy have the funding to do their jobs,” he added.

Many commentators agree that the budget is unlikely to be passed in its current form since many programs that would be impacted have bipartisan support.

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