As Congress passed a $1.1 trillion temporary federal budget in the first days of May, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown, the Environmental Protection Agency escaped the cuts that President Trump and congressional Republicans initially promised.
However, legislators will have to approve another budget in September, setting congress up for another battle over federal spending priorities.
In March, President Trump released the “America First Budget Blueprint,” a so-called skinny budget that outlined his ideal federal budget. That plan would have slashed the Energy Star Program, making it one of the 50 Environmental Protection Agency programs that the Trump Administration planned to cut. NPR Reports that the proposed budget plan would have reduced the EPA by more than 30%.
The U.S. government started Energy Star in 1992 to rate the energy efficiency of computer monitors. It has since grown, ranking appliances as well as entire homes. Proponents of these cuts do not dispute the effectiveness of the program. Rather, they state that the private sector could take over its funding.
“This is something that the private sector can market and sell as a great quality for their product,” Nick Loris, an energy and environmental fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said in a statement to NPR. “So why is the government trying to nudge people in one direction when they simply shouldn’t need to?”
Since 1992, the program has proven its cost effectiveness several hundred times over. In fact, NPR reports that the $50 million program is estimated to have saved businesses and consumers $34 billion. Energy star even provides a service allowing homeowners to calculate their own “returns on energy efficiency investments.” While a minor kitchen remodel has an average ROI of 82.7%, installing Energy Star-rated appliances could boost this payoff even more.
Opponents to the cuts cite these recorded savings, among other benefits.
“These cuts make no sense,” Lowell Ungar, senior policy adviser with the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said in a statement to NPR. “The bottom line is proposed cuts to Energy Star would harm American consumers, they would destroy jobs, and they would make air pollution worse.”
In addition to programs like Energy Star, the EPA is supposed to protect public health from environmental threats. That includes monitoring large bodies of water, the air, and even pollution and contamination within U.S. homes. The EPA cites major concerns with dangerous substances in American homes, such as lead contamination, which caused crises in cities such as Flint, Michigan, and cancer-causing radon gas, estimated to be present in 1 in 5 U.S. homes.
Even if President Trump’s proposed cuts to the EPA go into effect, the green living movement is gaining momentum. As far as energy efficiency goes, building Energy Star-rated homes and purchasing qualifying appliances are just two of the ways that homeowners are making their houses more climate-friendly. Many others are choosing to install solar panels on their roofs and seal their homes with impact windows, which lock in air with polyvinyl butryl between two pieces of glass, thus reducing energy loss.
While the 2017 budget may safeguard these energy opportunities for homeowners, 2018 may be a different story. Bloomberg reports that the administration has already halted energy innovation programs, and the EPA has removed webpages on climate change research. Trends like these indicate that programs such as Energy Star, and the entire EPA, may still face major cuts.
“This is mostly an extension of the status quo. We look forward to 2018 to right-size the role of energy and environment in federal spending,” Chrissy Harbin, a spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit advocating for less government regulation, said in a statement to Bloomberg. “The fiscal year 2018 appropriations process is probably a much better opportunity.”