The Trump administration is withholding $823m from a renewable-energy and energy efficiency programme that it unsuccessfully tried to cut, it has emerged.
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (OEERE), within the US Department of Energy, was targeted for 80% cuts by the White House in its most recent budget request, but Congress increased its funding instead, to $2.85bn a year.
But according to Democrats on the House Science Committee, unspent funds add up to $823m — money that is supposed to be used for grants and financial assistance for renewable energy, electric vehicles and energy efficiency.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says that the delayed funding is another example of “ideologically driven efforts that thwart action to combat climate [change]”. Other examples include pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement and easing Obama-era restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and power plants.
“The agency is flouting congressional intent,” said NRDC analyst Arjun Krishnaswami.
The office recently cancelled funding of proposed projects and has left scores of staffing positions unfilled, said Democrat Congressman Bill Foster, chairman of the House Science committee’s Investigations and Oversight subcommittee.
““When Congress passes a budget, we expect that budget to be followed,” he said. “It’s unclear to many of us there has been a completely good-faith effort.”
Daniel Simmons, assistant secretary at the OEERE, told the subcommittee that the agency fully intends to spend its entire budget and was in the process of hiring more staff.
“This has been a very good-faith effort,” Simmons said. “We are trying to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”