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White House proposes EPA cuts, clean energy and conservation increases

President Obama moved more money into his climate-change priorities in his fiscal 2015 budget proposal, although the Environmental Protection Agency overall would receive less money. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)

President Obama moved more money into his climate-change priorities in his fiscal 2015 budget proposal, although the Environmental Protection Agency overall would receive less money.

The EPA would see spending bumps in areas key to implementing Obama's climate agenda, which has involved a suite of executive actions such as proposed greenhouse gas emissions limits on power plants. Grants to states and native tribes, for example, would increase by $76 million, up to $1.1 billion, which includes a $20 million fund to help those entities comply with the president's climate plan.

The EPA budget also includes funds for the $1 billion "climate resiliency fund" that Obama proposed last month, a program that will stretch across several agencies. The fund, which would be designed to help communities adapt to extreme weather events associated with climate change, would require congressional approval.

But overall, Obama would give the EPA $7.9 billion, a $300 million drop from last year's proposal.

Of the proposed cuts, $581 million would come through reductions to a state grant program for water infrastructure projects. The president's budget also calls for moving the EPA toward an electronic-based management system to coordinate grants and other efforts with states, which it estimates would save $75 million. Other savings would come through restructuring to "reflect the current era of data-driven analysis," the budget proposal said.

Meanwhile, spending for the Energy Department would rise by 2.6 percent, to $27.9 billion.

On the energy side of the agency — about half its budget is dedicated to nuclear non-proliferation — research funds would see an increase, while Obama took shots at fossil fuels.

The president repeated a call for ending $4 billion of annual tax incentives awarded to the oil and gas industry. And his budget would arm the Fossil Energy Research and Development program with $476 billion, which is $86 million less than 2014 enacted levels.

On clean energy, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program, which seeks to fund breakthrough technology, would get $325 million, which is $51 million more than last year's proposal. And the DOE's Office of Science would get more than $5 billion to fund basic research.

Obama also proposed giving the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy $2.3 billion in fiscal 2015. That would include a 15-percent increase for alternative vehicles and fuels, a 39-percent hike for energy efficiency and advanced manufacturing technologies and a 16-percent hike for renewable power projects compared with 2014 enacted levels.

The Interior Department would have $12 billion to work with, amounting to a 3 percent raise.

The department's Bureau of Land Management, which oversees onshore drilling, would see an 18-percent increase for its oil and gas program compared with 2014 enacted levels. But much of that would come from $48 million of new inspection fees that have the effect of "requiring the onshore industry to bear a greater share of the cost of managing the program from which it benefits, just as the offshore industry currently does," the budget said.

The president also recommended a spending reduction for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which regulates offshore drilling. It would get $205 million under the 2015 proposal, compared with the $222 million Obama proposed the previous year. Its sister agency that oversees all offshore energy development, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, would get a $1 million increase to hit $170 million.

Obama again suggested authorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides state grants for conservation, at $900 million and then making it permanent. House Republicans, however, have recommended zeroing out the program.

The Interior budget also would include funding for "an historic effort to revitalize the nation’s parks," a move that the Obama administration sees as an economic boon to communities that host and surround parks.