Week Ahead: Lawmakers May Get Earful on Energy, Environment

Members of Congress holding town hall meetings in their home districts during the week of May 29 are expected to hear about energy and environment concerns as part of the public’s reaction to President Donald Trump’s new budget proposal.

Severe cuts proposed in the Trump administration’s budget blueprint for fiscal year 2018, released May 23, has led lawmakers of both parties to predict money will be restored to at least some programs, including those suggested for the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy. The blueprint fleshed out earlier details on Trump’s call to slash EPA’s funding by 31 percent as well as a variety of Energy Department programs dealing with energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The Indivisible Project, a citizens’ group formed to oppose Trump administration policies, urged its supporters to confront lawmakers about the budget at town hall meetings during the Memorial Day recess.

Indivisible spokeswoman Sarah Dohl said Trump’s overall budget is one of the group’s four main focuses at upcoming town halls, but not specifically its energy/environment components.

“That said, it’s a critical issue that is raised at almost every town hall in questions from constituents (usually a climate change angle),” Dohl told Bloomberg BNA in an email.

The Trump administration has defended proposed cutbacks at EPA and other agencies, saying it seeks to spare taxpayers from footing the bill for programs that the administration deems unnecessary or wasteful.

As Bloomberg BNA’s Rachel Leven has reported, Republican members of Congress were booed during the April recess within and outside of district town hall meetings for questioning whether the climate is changing, for supporting the proposed EPA cuts, and for other related issues.

One new issue that could surface at town halls is the Trump budget proposal’s call for boosting government revenues by allowing oil drilling in a portion of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The debate over drilling in ANWR has divided lawmakers and pitted environmental advocates against oil companies and Alaska officials for several decades.

Other groups also plan to discuss the budget proposal during the Memorial Day recess. The Waterways Council, which advocates for upgrading inland waterways infrastructure, will hold a June 1 media briefing in Washington covering the budget blueprint, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ work plan for fiscal year 2017 and other issues. Alan Kovski will cover.

Also coming up the week of May 29:

Pruitt Goes Home: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt—who grew up in Lexington, Ky., before becoming Oklahoma’s attorney general—is scheduled to return to his hometown to speak May 31 at the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers’ 2017 Conference and Trade Show.

Zinke Goes North: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is taking a weeklong trip around the Arctic Circle, joining Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and other members of Congress for a trip to Norway, Greenland, and Alaska.

New Requirements for Nanoscale Materials under TSCA: Jim Alwood, a new chemicals program manager with EPA, will discuss during a June 1 webinar new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reporting and record-keeping requirements for nanoscale materials. Manufacturers, processors, and end-users of substances, chemicals, formulations, and mixtures that the rule defines as nanoscale materials by EPA are affected by the regulation, which is effective Aug. 17. SEMI, a trade association serving the micro- and nano-electronics industries manufacturing supply chain, hosts the free webinar. Pat Rizzuto will cover.

Air Pollution: An EPA advisory committee that examines air pollution from cars and other vehicles meets May 31. The committee will be discussing how new gasoline additives as well as new car-sharing options are affecting air pollution levels. David Schultz will monitor.

—With assistance from Rachel Leven, Alan Kovski, Pat Rizzuto and David Schultz.