Newly-signed federal spending bill spares energy research for 4 months


On Friday afternoon, President Trump signed a bipartisan spending bill negotiated in the House to fund the federal government through September 30, 2017. The bill contained funding for energy-related programs and offices that the president has called to be defunded. And, late this week, the Department of Energy (DOE) internally announced a cancellation of its grant freeze.

The omnibus spending bill was put together by House representatives over the previous weekend to avert a government shutdown. The bill was approved by the Senate on Thursday, and, with Trump’s signature, it became official.

Within the bill, the DOE’s Office of Science will get an extra $42 million for the 2017 fiscal year. Trump’s 2018 budget proposal wants to cut funding for this office by $900 million. That same 2018 budget proposal also called for the elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), but this week’s spending bill will provide ARPA-E $306 million, reflecting a $15 million increase from the year 2016.

The story is similar for the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program. Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would cut the fuel-efficient technology funding program entirely, but this new spending bill allots $5 million to the program. And the Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, another program Trump hopes to eliminate in 2018, gets $37 million. That program funds technology to combat air pollution and greenhouse gases.

Other increases can be found in the DOE budget for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which gets a $17 million bump to $2.1 billion, or nearly the same as what it received in 2016, according to Bloomberg BNA. Trump also plans to slash funding for this program in 2018. For now, that extra cash may clash with the office’s leadership. Earlier this week, it was reported that Trump had informally nominated Dan Simmons to head the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Simmons is a vice president at the Institute for Energy Research who worked against renewable energy policies during his time there.

Outside the Department of Energy, other agencies are seeing bipartisan agreement on funding that seems to buck the president’s call for cutting vast sums from energy-related activities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whose budget Trump wants to cut by a third in 2018, will only receive a one-percent cut this year. And the Interior Department, whose budget the administration wants to cut by 10 percent next year, got a $253 million increase from 2016 levels.

The news is a temporary reprieve for offices and programs that have had grants frozen in recent months. According to E&E Daily, DOE employees received a memo on Thursday that the department would “honor all commitments for funds previously obligated for grants and cooperative agreements.” A spokeswoman told E&E that that “includes funding agreements for the entire agency and not just ARPA-E.”



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