Trump Clamps Down On Spending At Interior, Energy Depts

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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The Trump administration is clamping down on grants and subsidies handed out by two federal agencies overseeing energy and land management programs.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke sent out a memo in early April initiating a thorough review of the Department of the Interior grants and cooperative agreements planned for this year. Interior hands out $5.5 billion for such things every year, according to an internal memo obtained by Axios.

“In order to help me to understand the immense impact grants and cooperative agreements have on the mission delivery of the Department, I am directing implementation of the following temporary procedures for processing grants and cooperative agreements,” Zinke wrote to top Interior officials.

Zinke wants to review all planned grants and cooperative agreements totaling $100,000 or more before they can be approved. Other federal agencies have undertaken similar reviews of spending.

The Energy Department has withheld all funding for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) projects approved under the Obama administration, according to Politico Pro.

The Obama administration created ARPA-E in 2009 to fund “breakthrough” energy technologies that can’t get private sector funding. To date, ARPA-E has spent $1.5 billion on energy projects, most recently handing out $70 million for projects to store carbon dioxide in the soil and alternative transportation fuels.

“As with any transition from administration to administration, we have undertaken a full review of all department programs, policies, and taxpayer funded grants,” an Energy Department spokeswoman told Axios.

The White House’s budget proposal calls for eliminating the ARPA-E program, along with other Energy Department subsidy programs for new energy technologies.

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal cuts these programs because “the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies.”

Trump would cut the Energy Department’s budget $1.7 billion, or 5.6 percent, to $28 billion, but the budget plan calls for increasing spending on maintaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

It’s unclear if Trump’s budget will pass congressional muster. ARPA-E is a popular program for lawmakers who get to send money to their districts, so cutting the program could be a point of contention.

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