February is the shortest month of the year but usually feels like the longest, and it’s made even more interminable by the fact that it’s the month when the president of the United States unleashes his spending wish list on federal agencies. This year, Trump truly outdid himself.
As the U.S. grapples with the consequences of decades of unrestricted gas-guzzling and coal burning, Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2021, a “Budget for America’s Future,” aims to slash funding for 14 different climate programs. And that’s just at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Overall, Trump’s budget would cut or entirely eliminate funding for climate-related programs at science and energy agencies across the federal government, including the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior, which see their budgets slashed by 8 percent and 16 percent, respectively, under Trump’s plan. The EPA is facing the biggest cuts — Trump wants to trim the department’s budget a whopping 26 percent.
The good news is that presidents rarely get to keep their budgets as they envision them — by the time the House and the Senate are through with it, the federal budget for the fiscal year that begins in October 2020 could look a lot different than it does now.
But if he had his druthers, Trump would toss the Energy Star rating program (which measures the energy efficiency of different appliances) and slash funding for the EPA’s superfund cleanup program by 10 percent. He would eliminate millions in grant funding for land conservation projects in Interior Highlands states and get rid of regulatory processes for developments on waterways and wetlands. And he’d dedicate new funding for research into “advanced coal processing” — a fancy term for finding new uses for coal — which would in turn “help to develop new markets for coal,” a resource that’s currently losing out to cheaper and greener renewable energy (and natural gas). Alas, Trump seems keen as ever to make good on his campaign promise to revitalize the nation’s coal industry.
He also wants to eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy at the Department of Energy and relocate pieces of the program to other areas of the government. That’s a strange move considering that increased funding for renewable energy research and development is one of three major tenets of the House GOP’s brand new climate change agenda. In addition to funding clean energy technology and innovation, that climate push, led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, aims to capture CO2 emissions (using trees, mostly) and reduce plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Trump’s budget flies in the face of the research and development leg of that push; it seeks to slash funding for R&D programs by half — from $5.3 billion to $2.8 billion.
At least environmentally conscious Republicans in Congress (and conservationists everywhere) got one win in Trump’s budget: The EPA could get an additional $8.4 million and seven full-time employees to “support reducing ocean pollution and plastic waste.” But nuggets of hope were few and far between in a budget that neglected to mention “climate change,” “warming,” or “greenhouse gases” a single time.