Science Expected to Win Out in Latest Budget Battle, But Future Assaults Could be on the Horizon

Statement by Rob Cowin, Director of Government Affairs in the Climate and Energy Program

Published May 2, 2017

WASHINGTON (May 2, 2017)—Congress is expected to pass a five-month budget bill this week to prevent a government shutdown. This omnibus package is a repudiation of the Trump administration’s proposed budget reductions for the 2017 fiscal year, as well as its “America First” budget blueprint the 2018 fiscal year. This compromise legislation also reveals strong bipartisan consensus on the need for robust federal support of our nation’s scientific agencies and commitment to technological innovation. 

Below is a statement by Rob Cowin, director of government affairs for the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“The bipartisan budget compromise is a win for those who see science and innovation as indispensable to the prosperity and growth of our nation. This agreement rebukes the harmful cuts to science investments proposed by the Trump administration and shows how out-of-touch the president’s fiscal priorities are.

“While the Trump administration proposed steep cuts to science and innovation, the Republican-controlled Congress wisely chose to reverse course, increasing or maintaining funding for things like climate research at NOAA and earth science analysis at NASA. In doing so, they rejected handicapping our nation’s ability to study and predict extreme weather, manage water resources, assess disaster risk, build climate change-resilient infrastructure, and any other critical applications of research and data that these programs and agencies provide.

“And while the Trump administration proposed to eliminate funding for innovative clean energy research and development by dissolving the Energy Department’s ARPA-E program, Congress instead chose to not only retain the program, but increase its funding. Congress and the American people know the value of this program, which has attracted $1.8 billion in private capital, in transforming energy technologies and keeping America globally competitive in the rapidly growing clean energy market.

“One significant flaw in the budget deal, however, is the insertion of scientifically-inaccurate language that declares biomass energy from forests ‘carbon-neutral.’ This damaging provision will have far-reaching implications, including preventing an accurate assessment of potential net increases in carbon emissions from forest biomass that is not grown, harvested or used in a sustainable manner. Errors like these are exactly why Congress should not be legislating science.

“Although the latest budget battle is coming to an end, it’s up to Congress to show resolve in the face of future budget assaults by the Trump administration during the 2018 fiscal year and beyond.”

Here are the official numbers for the programs mentioned in the statement above. NASA Earth Science and the climate research program at the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research division (OAR) in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both held steady at $1.92 billion and $158 million respectively. The budget for the OAR division as a whole increased 6.7 percent from $482 million in the 2016 fiscal year to $514 million. The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy saw a 1.4 percent increase from $2.07 billion in the 2016 fiscal year to $2.1 billion. Similarly, the department’s ARPA-E program budget, which totaled $291 million in the 2016 fiscal year, received a budget increase of 5.2 percent.