Apr 21, 2017

Trumpworld puts $5.5B in Interior spending under close scrutiny

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Here's two updates on how the Trump administration is putting new restrictions on funding decisions at energy and resource agencies.

Interior Department: Axios obtained an internal memo showing that high-level Trump officials at the Interior are requiring a new review of fiscal year 2017 grants and cooperative agreements of $100,000 or more before they can move forward.

  • Secretary Ryan Zinke, in the April 12 memo, notes that the agency distributes $5.5 billion in such funding annually and that he wants to better understand the "immense impact" the spending has on Interior's "mission delivery."
  • The effort includes a review of "flexibility" to direct specific grants and agreements to "new priorities" at Interior.

Energy Department: Politico Pro reported yesterday that the department has begun withholding funding on Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) grants that have already been approved under the Obama administration.

  • Projects that received initial backing are expected to have money withheld under the "procurement hold," according to the report.
  • ARPA-E funds research and development in a wide range of "breakthrough" energy technologies. The agency has bipartisan support in Congress, but Trump's proposed fiscal year 2018 budget seek to end all funding.

Quick take: The apparent restrictions at ARPA-E could set up an early clash between Congress and the Trump administration over support for green energy R&D ahead of wider spending battles over fiscal year 2018 appropriations.

  • The apparent funding restrictions are already getting attention on Capitol Hill, where ARPA-E has backing on both sides of the aisle. An aide to Sen. Dick Durbin, who is on the Appropriations Committee, told Axios that funding for an ARPA-E recipient in Durbin's state of Illinois has been frozen.
  • The Energy Department isn't offering any details about what's happening in response to press inquiries. "As with any transition from administration to administration, we have undertaken a full review of all department programs, policies, and taxpayer funded grants," a spokeswoman said in a statement to Axios, adding that the department is "applying good governance principles to how these programs are being executed."

Go deeper

Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and U.S. ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. Meanwhile, Italy reported its first virus-related death on Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,359 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 8 hours ago - Health

Wells Fargo agrees to pay $3 billion to settle consumer abuse charges

Clients use an ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wells Fargo agreed to a pay a combined $3 billion to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday for opening millions of fake customer accounts between 2002 and 2016, the SEC said in a press release.

The big picture: The fine "is among the largest corporate penalties reached during the Trump administration," the Washington Post reports.