Energy

Obama-Era Official Complains After Trump’s DOI Reviews Spending Programs

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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The Department of the Interior (DOI) has instructed officials to adopt a new screening process for grants and programs that promote the Trump administration’s top priorities, according to a Tuesday report from The Washington Post.

Scott Cameron, the DOI’s principal deputy assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, directed assistants at the bureau to filter grants through his aides. Awards of at least $50,000 to nonprofit advocacy groups are subject to the review process.

The move has especially incensed Obama-era officials. Laws passed by Congress govern these programs, David J. Hayes, who served as the DOI’s deputy secretary under former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, told WaPo.

“Subjugating Congress’ priorities to 10 of the Secretary’s own priorities is arrogant, impractical and, in some cases, likely illegal,” said Hayes, who heads the New York University School of Law’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, an organization designed to ratchet up litigation against President Donald Trump’s environmental agenda.

“Our senior leadership team never set up a process like this — that is, a process that identifies broad categories of contracts, at modest financial levels, that must be kicked upstairs to headquarters for political sign-off,” he added. Hayes’ group has been at the forefront of the anti-Trump movement, stirring up lawsuits designed to protect some of Obama’s legacy.

NYU’s new center will provide AGs with legal services and the money required to pay down court costs on renewable energy, climate and environmental issues. It will also sponsor 10 attorneys on fellowships who will work inside different AGs’ offices.

The center’s services are open to all AGs, but Democrats such as New York’s Eric Schneiderman, California’s Xavier Becerra, and Frosh will likely be the lone recipients, because they have indicated a willingness to drown the president in lawsuits over his climate policies.

Schneiderman, for instance, has spearheaded more than half a dozen lawsuits defending the Obama-era rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.

Trump’s been pushing the new process for months, DOI spokeswoman Heather Swift told The Daily Caller News Foundation. It’s intended to safeguard taxpayer money and fulfill the administration’s mission.

“It’s inaccurate to say that it was only ‘scientific grants,'” she said. “The Trump Administration is dedicated to responsibly using taxpayer dollars and that includes the billions of dollars in grants that are doled out every year by the Department of the Interior.”

Democratic and Republican administrations have routinely directed federal funds toward their pet projects.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke sent out a memo in April 2017, for instance, initiating a thorough review of the agency’s grants and cooperative agreements planned for that year. The DOI hands out $5.5 billion for such things every year.

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