Week Ahead: It's Perry's Turn in the Budget-Defense Barrel

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is expected to face grilling from Congress similar to what EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt received about proposed steep cuts to his agency’s fiscal 2018 budget—one of numerous energy and environment events during the week of June 19.

Perry is scheduled to testify Tuesday before the House Appropriations’ Energy and Water Development Subcommittee. The ex-Texas governor then will face the Senate’s counterpart spending panel on Wednesday and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday. His appearances come after Republican appropriators, listening to Pruitt testify, dismissed the Trump administration’s proposals for EPA as out of hand.

Under President Donald Trump’s proposal, the Energy Department would sustain an overall 5.4 percent cut, or $1.7 billion—minor compared to most other Cabinet agencies—from the estimated funding levels Congress provided in fiscal 2017. The agency’s clean energy programs would bear the brunt of the cuts, with new funds funneled into the arm of the agency dealing with developing and safeguarding nuclear weapons.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy program funding would plummet by around 70 percent. Subprograms dealing with weatherization of homes and state energy are proposed for elimination “to reduce federal intervention in state-level energy policy and implementation,” according to the department.

Even fossil energy research, which supports research into coal, oil and other energy types that Trump has emphasized, is proposed to get a 55 percent cut. And Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, which advances nuclear power as resource and conducts nuclear-related research and development, would see a nearly 30 percent cut.

Perry said last month that the budget proposal “delivers on the promise to reprioritize spending to carry out DOE’s core functions efficiently and effectively while also being fiscally responsible and respectful to the American taxpayer.” But his predecessor Ernest Moniz, who served under President Barack Obama—and who is speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday about the need for more energy research—said the proposed reductions “would put us behind China and Europe” in developing clean-energy markets.

Two senators already have come out publicly against cutting Energy Department research: Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chairs Appropriations’ Energy and Water Subcommittee, and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who chairs Energy and Natural Resources. They joined several colleagues in a May letter asserting: “Federally funded research is imperative to ensuring we meet our energy, science, and national security needs for generations to come.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also is continuing to head to Capitol Hill to discuss his agency’s proposed budget. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee also will listen to Zinke on Tuesday, followed by the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday. Like Pruitt, Zinke also has faced bipartisan skepticism on called-for cuts at Interior, including elimination of a pilot program on abandoned mine lands, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and an earthquake early warning program, as well as a deep cut in money for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Alan Kovski will cover.

Pruitt, Zinke and numerous other public- and private-sector officials, including the Edison Electric Institute’s Tom Kuhn and NuScale Power’s John Hopkins, are scheduled to take part on Tuesday at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy breakfast on how energy innovation can drive future economic growth. David Schultz will cover.

In Other News

Water infrastructure: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife will hold a Tuesday hearing, “Innovative Financing and Funding: Addressing America’s Crumbling Water Infrastructure.” Amena H. Saiyid will cover.

Environmental technologies: The House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Environment Subcommittee will hold a Wednesday hearing on advances in environmental technologies. Among the companies testifying is Saildrone Inc., which collects and delivers live ocean data on weather forecasting and climate, among other uses, through a fleet of autonomous sailing drones.

Climate roundtable: Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), the Science Committee’s ranking member, will hold a Tuesday roundtable on climate change. Witnesses include scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Woods Hole Research Center.

Amended TSCA: The week of June 19 marks the one-year anniversary of Congress’s overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act. The statute requires the agency to release by Monday its strategies for assessing the risks of 10 chemicals and groups of chemicals. The EPA also is required to issue by June 22 three final rules, which will describe the agency’s approach to identify chemicals in commerce, determine which of them are priorities for risk assessment and carry out those risk evaluations. Many people have bet some or all deadlines may slip, but the agency has been working to meet them. Pat Rizzuto and Sam Pearson will cover.

WOTUS deadline: Monday is the deadline for states to submit comments on how they would like to see the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rewrite the waters of the U.S. rule following the direction provided by Trump. In his executive order, Trump ordered that the rewrite consider the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court case in which Scalia asserted Clean Water Act jurisdiction on the basis of relatively flowing water. Amena H. Saiyid will cover.