In late July, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed a budget for fiscal year 2018 that included $34 million in funding for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Clean Cities program. Earlier in the summer, the same committee in the U.S. House of Representatives approved a budget that included supportive language about Clean Cities, but failed to specify any amount of funding for the program. The Trump/Pence Administration budget proposed eliminating funding entirely for Clean Cities along with the Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program.
Clean Fuels Ohio, Earth Day Coalition, Transportation Energy Partners (TEP) and Clean Cities coalitions all over the country were extremely active in contacting members of the House of Representatives and the Senate urging for the restoration of the Clean Cities program. TEP wrote a letter to all members of both House and Senate Appropriations committees that was signed by over 500 companies, governments, public agencies, and organizations specifically supporting funding for the Clean Cities program.
Importantly, while the Senate included a funding level roughly comparable to previous budgets, the Appropriations Committee language required at least $28 million to be spent on competitive grants. While TEP and others consider competitive grants to be important, this would require the DOE to eliminate most of the program support for coalitions provided through federal energy labs, including the Alternative Fuels Data Center. This would devastate operations of many coalitions, and severely hamper tools used to support fleets and other stakeholders.
Little is expected to happen over the next few months. The full House and Senate need to act on their respective appropriations bills. TEP and others will try to remedy the Senate language regarding the structure of funding. After both chambers approve their respective versions, negotiators from both House and Senate will need to reconcile the differences. Clean Cities is only a small part of this discussion, but it is an example of how the House and Senate versions are very different.
Another danger for Clean Cities is the possibility that if Congress fails to pass a final budget, the Clean Cities appropriations likely would default to President Trump’s request for Clean Cities, which was zero funding. Under this scenario, the DOE would try to conserve previous fiscal year funding as long as possible. However, if this situation continues, the DOE eventually would need to begin to wind down the program. It is critically important to urge your Congressperson to support the Senate appropriations level, but reduce the mandated spending on competitive grants in order to preserve critical program support that coalitions and stakeholders rely on to deliver petroleum reduction deployment activities.