Budgets. To much attention, this week the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its proposed budget for the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year, which is none too friendly to environmental programs. The White House recommends a 31 percent cut to the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some of these cuts include slashing all funding for "the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts" and "regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs," as well as "Energy Star; Targeted Airshed Grants; the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program; and infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages and the Mexico Border." There are a myriad of reasons why cutting funding for these programs would be a disaster. For example, over the last 22 years, the Energy Star program has helped save consumers more than $362 billion on utility bills. Other agencies, such as the State Department, Department of Energy, and Department of Agriculture, face similar program cuts. Although the budget blueprint is only what the administration proposes, and is not at all what Congress is likely to pass, the budget nevertheless signals animosity toward the public and a deep misunderstanding of environmental issues.

Rulemaking. This week, Trump spoke to automakers in Detroit, announcing that he will order EPA to reconsider a key component of the Obama Administration's climate legacy. The Obama EPA announced in January that based on its midterm technical evaluation, it would keep the planned fuel economy standard of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 for light duty vehicles. The Department of Transportation (DOT), which co-writes fuel economy regulations with EPA, did not sign on to that determination, leaving room for the Trump administration to reconsider. Trump's request comes in response to a letter from U.S. automakers that states that the "standards threaten to depress an industry that can ill afford spiraling regulatory costs." The reopening of the determination does not roll back prior fuel economy standards and does not require EPA to change its findings.

EPA is also requesting public comment on exempting a uranium mining project in South Dakota from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The Department of Interior's Bureau of Land and Management plans to repeal or revise a 2015 rule governing hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," on federal lands. BLM plan to restart the rulemaking process in the next 90 days. The rule was intended to minimize water contamination from "fracking" by requiring stricter well designs and requiring companies drilling on public lands to disclose the ingredients used in the fracking process.

Nominations. The Trump administration continues to drag its feet on nominations and appointments, but is expected to put forward a few more shortly:

  • EPA Deputy Administrator: Andrew Wheeler, a coal lobbyist and former aide to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), who authored The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.
  • DOT Deputy Administrator: Jeff Rosen, former DOT General Counsel.
  • DOE Chief of Staff to Secretary Perry: Brian McCormack, political consultant for electric utilities and former George W. Bush administration official.
  • Commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: Robert Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission; Kevin McIntyre, a partner at law firm Jones Day; and Neil Chatterjee, top energy advisor to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Scandals. Since November, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been investigating ExxonMobil's public and private climate policies. This week, the AG's office discovered Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used an email alias under the name of "Wayne Tracker" to discuss climate change and other important topics while CEO of ExxonMobil. The filing raises questions about whether Exxon fully compiled with a the AG's subpoena and why Tillerson would use a fake account if he had nothing to hide.

Six Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins urging him to investigate EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's potential conflicts of interest given Pruitt's reported ties to major oil and gas producers, electric utilities, and political groups. The letter cited a New York Times report of industry executives holding secret meetings with Pruitt, while he was Oklahoma's attorney general, to discuss ways to combat the Obama administration's environmental agenda. The letter also mentioned that Pruitt often joined lawsuits with energy companies that contributed to his campaigns and used a private email account for state business, despite stating during his confirmation hearing that he had not.

Legislation. This week 17 House Republicans reintroduced a resolution from last Congress that acknowledges climate change. While the resolution recognizes the impacts of climate change, it does not call on specific solutions. The measure is similar to one introduced in 2015, but the geographic reach of cosponsors has expanded from coastal states. It now includes Republicans from Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, and Nebraska, and Utah.

Rumor mill. It's been reported that President Trump is asking U.S. energy companies about their views on the Paris Climate Agreement. When asked by the administration, many of these companies preferred that the United States stayed in the agreement and would support weakening U.S. commitments under the agreement. This report seems to confirm earlier reporting that the Trump was considering staying in the Paris Climate Agreement but weakening U.S. commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What You Can Do

- Energy & Environment Policy Working Group, RISE Stronger

Have comments or something to add? Contact the RISE Energy & Environment Policy Working Group at [email protected]