The White House’s proposed 2016 budget calls for a new $4 billion fund to reward states that make significant progress in reducing their carbon pollution.
The measure, part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency budget plan released Monday, furthers President Barack Obama’s climate change agenda, which shows up repeatedly in the White House fiscal 2016 budget as a major administration priority.
“No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change,” the administration said in releasing its budget proposal, which was widely considered dead even before it arrived. The statement went on to detail how 14 of the planet’s 15 warmest years on record have fallen in the first 15 years of this century, and it said that not acting now would carry significant long-term costs.
The $4 billion incentive fund is certain to face withering opposition in Congress, which is now controlled by Republicans and already had taken a dim view of the president’s carbon-pollution plan.
The fund would help states seeking to comply with the Obama administration’s proposed “clean power” rule, a centerpiece of a major push by the president to help the United States – and the planet – attack climate change by reducing the amount of carbon pollution that’s pumped into the air.
The proposed rule was announced amid fanfare in June, and Obama has continued to push it strongly, even as state officials and Republicans – as well as industry groups – strike back. The rule is now in the proposal stage, and the administration expects to finalize it this summer.
In a conference call Monday, administration officials said they were still working out details of the fund, which would be in addition to the EPA’s regular budget.
The money is something any state could consider applying for, not just those with the biggest pollution problems, Janet McCabe, who handles air-quality issues for the agency, said during the conference call. While the plans are still being developed, the fund might distribute money based on a formula that would take into account each state’s carbon-reduction target, its size or other factors.
At its core, however, the fund would provide support for states that choose to go beyond the mandates of the clean power plan, which gives specific targets to individual states to reduce carbon pollution. States would have flexibility in deciding how to meet the targets.
The fund would provide support for states that exceed their goals, perhaps by reaching the goals faster or by cutting pollution more deeply than their targets require. According to the EPA, the fund would help states invest in a range of activities such as expanding energy-efficiency projects or renewable energy programs.
Overall, the EPA is a modest winner in the president’s budget.
Under his budget, the agency would get $8.6 billion, an increase of about 6 percent, or $452 million from its fiscal 2015 level. Its overall budget and workforce largely remain below levels of the past decade.