Proposed Funding Cuts Would Take Us Backward
A 22 percent funding cut to our government agencies would slow our progress to a clean energy future.
Earlier this year, House Republicans outlined their budget and spending priorities for the 118th Congress. Among the suggestions is one that would lead to increased energy costs and make it easier for industry to dump pollution into our communities without consequence: reverting all government spending back to fiscal year 2022 (FY22) levels. Under this proposal, which was reportedly part of a deal orchestrated by Speaker Kevin McCarthy to court votes to become Speaker of the House earlier this year, nearly all functions of the government would be subjected to these egregious cuts. Defense spending and health-care programs for veterans are likely to be shielded from these reductions in spending, however, meaning that in order to fully revert to FY22 levels, the cuts to nondefense discretionary spending need to be much steeper. Should the House follow through with this plan to cap total spending levels at FY22 levels, it is estimated that nondefense discretionary spending would be cut by 22 percent.
What does this mean for our energy?
A 22 percent funding cut to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) would have immense repercussions for our technological advancements toward low-cost energy, our ability to deploy clean energy efficiently and our maintaining and training a clean energy workforce. For example, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) currently funds clean energy research and development projects in all 50 states. These projects will boost the competitiveness of the United States in the global market for clean energy technologies, ensure that we have the workforce to deploy and maintain these technologies, save households and businesses money on their energy bills, and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air and water pollution.
If funding levels are cut by 22 percent, hundreds of projects within EERE and elsewhere at DOE would be canceled or paused, resulting in layoffs of up to 1,000 individuals. Canceling or pausing these projects would also see the United States lose its competitive advantage in the clean energy space—forcing us to rely on other countries for the technological advancements in clean energy that help increase efficiency and cut the cost of energy.
At the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), a 22 percent funding cut would bring the agency’s energy deployment activities to a standstill. DOI, acting through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Bureau of Land Management, oversees the development of renewable energy, both on land and offshore. Currently, BOEM oversees more than 27 active offshore renewable leases, spanning across 2.1 million acres of ocean, while the Bureau of Land Management has permitted more than 120 renewable energy projects. Reducing the resources made available to these agencies would not only bring renewable energy deployment efforts at DOI to a standstill but would also hamper the economic growth associated with the deployment of these projects. The impacts would stretch from the construction workers building the projects to the factories where these projects are manufactured.
What does this mean for our environment?
Funding cuts of 22 percent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), tasked with protecting both human health and the health of our environment, would hamper the agency's ability to enforce environmental laws and help clean up our communities from pollution. One of the critical roles that the EPA plays is enforcing environmental laws and regulations to give our communities a voice and hold polluters accountable for their actions.
When Volkswagen AG cheated on emissions tests for some of its vehicles, resulting in the vehicles spewing 40 times the federal standards for some pollutants, the EPA stepped in, resulting in a $4.3 billion settlement. In St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, when Limetree Bay Terminals failed to operate pollution monitoring systems, resulting in a significant release of pollutants impacting the local communities, EPA stepped in to pause the refining at the terminal and make sure that Limetree Bay monitor the pollution spreading to nearby communities.
Should a 22 percent funding cut to EPA occur, the inspection workforce enforcing our environmental laws and regulations would face a loss of the staff needed to inspect pollution at facilities. For those inspecting these sites specifically, staffing would continue to decrease to levels not seen in more than 40 years. With fewer staff, on-site monitoring of polluting facilities would decrease by the thousands, potentially leaving many communities across the country unnecessarily exposed to air and water pollution for longer periods of time.
What are the other impacts?
In addition to the impacts described above, reducing funding levels for our government would have other, far-ranging impacts that would put our health and our environment at risk. As we have seen with the recent tragedy in East Palestine, Ohio, our rail infrastructure needs further safeguards to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring. If funding is slashed by 22 percent, rail safety capacity would shrink significantly, resulting in 30,000 fewer miles of track inspected annually. Additionally, cuts would:
- Result in more than 4,000 fewer days of inspecting hazardous gas pipelines and gas export facilities, increasing the likelihood of an undetected incident;
- Reduce the fuels management treatments that DOI could accomplish by roughly 1 million acres, leaving communities near wildland fire areas at greater risk;
- Minimize technical assistance support provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, resulting in 84,000 fewer producers receiving conservation support on nearly 54 million acres of land;
- Curtail the National Science Foundation’s ability to position the United States as a leader in STEM fields by providing 4,600 fewer awards to researchers and students; and
- Impede the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service from making the necessary upgrades to provide the most accurate weather forecasts and extreme weather projections and warnings.
This reported proposal put forth by House Republicans is unserious and would create challenges across our communities. The budget proposal released by the Biden administration represents a clear difference in priorities: a budget that aims to lower energy costs, invest in American innovation, and hold polluters accountable for their actions. When it’s time for Congress to enact appropriations into law, we hope to see them put communities over polluters and pass bills that echo the values demonstrated by President Biden’s budget.