Final 2018 Budget Plan: Energy Star, EPA Cuts Remain

May 23rd, 2017 by Trey Barrineau

The White House’s 2018 federal budget plan, which was released today, is a close match for the outline that came out in March. Deep cuts are still planned for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including the elimination of the popular Energy Star program. Additionally, window research projects that are run by the Department of Energy (DOE) could also get the axe, and  weatherization programs for low-income households are facing elimination as well.

The administration’s budget proposal is not written in stone. Congress has the final say on spending plans, and Democrats (and many Republicans) are expected to push back on many of the proposals in the budget. This could lead to a government shutdown in the fall, when the 2018 fiscal year begins.

Here’s a look at how the budget plan could affect parts of the federal government that are of interest to the fenestration industry.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The proposal would reduce the EPA’s funding by a whopping 31 percent, going from $8.2 billion in 2017 to $5.6 billion in 2018 – the same as the March budget plan. To reach that goal, the Trump administration would eliminate more than 50 programs, including Energy Star, which rates the efficiency of thousands of products. More than 300 door and window companies participate in the program, and EPA research shows that Energy Star-labeled windows represent about 80 percent of the U.S. market.

“The Budget eliminates funding for Energy Star and several other voluntary partnership programs related to energy and climate change,” the document reads. “These programs are not essential to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) core mission and can be implemented by the private sector. … There is no need for EPA to administer voluntary partnership and certification programs like Energy Star with taxpayer dollars, given the popularity and significant private benefits these programs provide to industry partners and consumers. Similar certification programs have been and continue to be successfully administered by non-governmental entities like industry associations and consumer groups.”

EPA says it will try to move Energy Star into private hands.

“The EPA will explore options for the potential transfer of the ENERGY STAR and other climate protection partnership programs to non-governmental entities,”  according to the EPA’s Justification of Appropriation Estimates for the Committee on Appropriations.

After Trump’s first budget announcement in March revealed the proposed elimination of Energy Star, many in the fenestration industry jumped to its defense. In April, more than 1,000 companies, including about 20 in the door and window industry, signed a letter to Congress in support of the program.

Congress also could resist the Energy Star cuts later this year. Earlier this month, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) told attendees at the EE Global Forum that many of the Trump administration’s proposed reductions to the EPA and the Department of Energy would face strong opposition across the political spectrum.

“The fact is there is bipartisan support for programs like Energy Star,” she said. “We understand that these programs bring benefits to the American people.”

Department of Energy (DOE)

Trump is looking to cut the budget for the DOE by 5.6 percent, or $1.7 billion, the same as the March plan. It eliminates some programs, including the Advance Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which funds research into energy-efficient windows. ARPA-E would close shop for good in 2019. The budget would also eliminate the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which helps low-income families improve the energy efficiency of their homes, and the State Energy Program, which provides funds for upgrades such as new windows for lower-income households.

According to the Alliance to Save Energy, a typical year in WAP operations delivers $340 million in energy savings, supports 8,500 jobs and has a program-wide benefit-to-cost ratio of  4 to 1.

Additionally, the budget plan cuts funding for the Building Technologies Office (BTO) from $160 million to $107 million. BTO does work to improve efficiency in homes and buildings. BTO also does research and technical work that helps states and local governments develop stronger efficiency codes for homes and buildings.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

The president’s 2018 budget plan cuts funds by 13.2 percent to $40.7 billion.

Department of Labor (DOL)

The 2018 budget would decrease by 19.8 percent to $9.7 billion, slightly less than the 21-percent cut proposed in March. Among the cuts would be the elimination of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Susan Harwood training grants, which the administration calls “unnecessary and unproven.”

 Small Business Administration (SBA)

The president’s budget would cut funding by 4.9 percent to $800 million; however, it would still support more than $45 billion in loan guarantees for small businesses.

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