U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said he will fight proposed cuts to the federal Low-Income Heating Energy Assistance Program.
LIHEAP would be cut in half - by about $2.5 billion, according to two sources who are familiar with President Barack Obama's Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposal told The Associated Press. That program provides home heating aid program for the poor.
"Home heating assistance provides vital help for needy Pennsylvania families and older Pennsylvanians. That is why I have helped to secure additional funding for LIHEAP in the past," Casey, D-Pa., said Friday. "There are certainly areas of the federal budget that could be cut, but LIHEAP is not one of them. I will fight cuts that would harm Pennsylvanians who are struggling to make ends meet as the economy recovers from the devastating recession. There is already not enough funding to help everyone eligible to receive home heating assistance and additional cuts will leave Pennsylvanians out in the cold."
Casey joined a bipartisan group of 30 other senators which wrote a letter to Jacob Lew, director of the Office of Budget and Management, urging him to reconsider the reported decision to cut the LIHEAP funding.
The senators said they believe it is critical that careful attention is paid to the effect of rising energy prices on the nation's economic recovery.
"According to the most recent data, energy costs are increasingly taking up a larger share of U.S. consumers' budgets, accounting for more than 6 percent as of December," the letter states. "Historically, according to Professor James Hamilton at the University of California, when energy costs approach 5 percent of consumers' budgets, there is a burden on economic growth as consumers are forced to reduce spending on other necessities such as food, health care and housing. These are the hard economic realities facing millions of Americans as gasoline, heating oil and electricity prices increase across the country.
"LIHEAP directly addresses these economic challenges. The program helps low-income families and seniors with their energy bills, while at the same time generates $1.13 in economic activity for every dollar in benefits paid, according to economists Mark Zandi and Alan S. Blinder."
In addition to the proposed LIHEAP cut, the Obama administration will propose significantly cutting fossil fuel research, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Friday.
The Energy Department budget proposal, which will be released Monday, would cut the Office of Fossil Energy by 45 percent, or $418 million, Chu said. That includes eliminating the Fuels Program, the Fuel Cells Program, the Oil and Gas Research and Development Program and the Unconventional Fossil Technology Program.
Following up on the president's State of the Union call for the nation to get 80 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2035, Chu said the budget would include over $8 billion for research, development and deployment investments in clean energy technology programs. A White House fact sheet last month said that represents a one-third increase.
Obama, in that speech, also called for eliminating billions in tax breaks to oil companies, and Chu said that the administration will propose repealing several tax preferences for fossil fuels. Chu said those repeals, which are not part of the DOE budget, would save $3.6 billion next year and $46.2 billion over 10 years.
The cuts and increases, which were first reported by National Journal, would have to be approved by Congress.