Energy

Lawmakers Ask Energy Dept Chief To Find Ways To Slash Spending

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

House lawmakers asked the Department of Energy (DoE) to find ways to cut spending over the next five years.

Top Republicans on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to Secretary Grace Bochenek asking her to find “administrative waste and a clear path to achieve significant budget savings in the next five years.”

Reps. Greg Walden of Oregon and Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania sent their letter Feb. 10, Fox News reports, and are asking for an internal report on potential budget savings by March 10. If no report exists, lawmakers want recommendations on where to cut spending.

President Donald Trump announced plans recently to cut federal agency budgets in order to increase defense spending by $54 billion.

Administration sources told reporters Trump wants to cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget 24 percent, or $2 billion, and reduce its workforce from 15,000 to 12,000 employees.

The Senate still has to vote to confirm former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Trump’s pick for Energy Secretary. Perry famously said in 2012 he’d eliminate the Energy Department, but since changed his views.

“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry told lawmakers during his January confirmation hearing.

“In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination,” Perry said.

The Energy Department’s budget hit nearly $30 billion in 2016, with most of that going towards managing the U.S. nuclear arsenal and funding science and energy programs. The department currently has 15,000 employees and more than 96,000 contractors.

Republicans have long pushed for the abolition of the Energy Department, which was created in the Carter administration. Lawmakers argued the Obama administration used the department to advance global warming policies and subsidize green energy.

The Energy Department was mired in controversy after the high-profile failure of the solar company Solyndra. The Obama administration gave Solyndra $535 million in loan guarantee before it declared bankruptcy in 2011.

The department’s green loan program is on course to lose taxpayers more than $2 billion. Officials spent $30 billion on 34 projects from solar power plants to luxury electric cars.

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