Perry tries to pacify lawmakers furious with Trump budget

Source: Sam Mintz and Christa Marshall, E&E News reporters • Posted: Friday, March 16, 2018

Energy Secretary Rick Perry defended his agency’s budget request this morning to House lawmakers who expressed frustrations about both specific line items and their interactions with the Trump administration.

Republicans and Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee said they were disappointed in how long it had taken the Department of Energy to provide more information on its request, some of which had only arrived this morning.

“Unfortunately, the department has been very slow to provide details,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water.

Ranking member Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) — who is about to become the longest-serving female member of the House — said she had “never seen delays like this.”

Perry placed some of the blame on the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“This process is not anywhere as fast as I’d like it to be, either. Working from our friends with OMB is a new experience for me,” he said. “I’m not making excuses; I’m just telling you I recognize it, I don’t like it either, and I’m going to do something about it.”

President Trump’s $30.6 billion request for DOE would eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and DOE’s loan guarantee program.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy — which supports research on solar, wind and advanced vehicle technologies — would fall by more than half under the White House plan, from more than $2 billion currently to $696 million.

Because of the recent two-year bipartisan budget deal, the numbers for EERE are $120 million higher than what the White House originally planned.

In response to Kaptur’s questions about EERE, Perry echoed one of his deputies, Mark Menezes, who has said cuts are a result of the program’s success.

Because of advancements in technology like solar and energy storage, Perry and Menezes say, money should be refocused elsewhere.

“The criticism that you’re not spending the same amount of money in this line item, I would say to you that it’s because there have been success in those areas,” Perry said.

“We’re reprioritizing where these dollars need to go, what’s the best return on our investment. We’re reprogramming, repurposing, if you will. I think there’s some great celebration going on about successes that we’ve had.”

Perry also took questions about ARPA-E, DOE’s innovation arm, which has strong support from many members of Congress, despite Trump’s plans for its elimination.

Kaptur asked Perry to promise he would inform the committee about any major changes to ARPA-E after the program’s current chief, Chris Fall, called for flexibility this week (Greenwire, March 14). Perry expressed support for ARPA-E at the conference.

Perry told Kaptur, “You have my commitment that I’m going to work with this committee.”

Perry pointed to his work with an emerging technology fund as governor of Texas.

“If it’s the will of this committee for ARPA-E to exist going forward in some form or fashion, I hope you that will have the confidence that not only have I done this before as a governor, but we can stand up together and say, ‘This is how it’s supposed to work; this is a good return on the investment.'”