President seeks 31 percent cut in EPA budget
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March 16, 2017
President seeks 31 percent cut in EPA budget

In its Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again (Blueprint),the Trump administration’s preview of its full fiscal year 2018 budget request to Congress, the EPA’s funding would be cut by $2.6 billion, or 31 percent, the largest proposed reduction for any federal agency. The $5.7 billion budget request for the EPA would be the lowest for the Agency since it received $5.4 billion in FY 1991. The reductions would be achieved by eliminating many EPA programs and 3,200 EPA jobs. Currently, the EPA has a staff of 15,376. The reduction would leave a staff of 12,176, the smallest since 1984. The Blueprint is a brief summary of the White House’s full budget, which will be ready later this spring, and is intended to give Congress and the public “a view of the president’s priorities.” Congress itself writes the final budget, and there are no guarantees that lawmakers will agree to all the cuts the White House seeks.

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Funding yanked for UN Climate programs

The major action in the Blueprint is a $52 billion increase (10 percent over FY 2017) for the Department of Defense. The Department of Homeland Security would also receive a $2.8 billion (6.8 percent) increase.

Funds to these departments would be collected through cuts to almost every other Executive Branch Agency. After the EPA, the largest percentage decrease—29.7 percent—would occur in the Department of State. The majority of those reductions would affect international aid programs, including assistance to foreign organizations “whose missions do not substantially advance U.S. foreign policy interests.” One such organization is the United Nations Environmental Programme, and particularly the UN’s efforts to address climate change. The proposed State Department budget would eliminate payments to the UN’s Global Climate Change Initiative, the Green Climate Fund, and two Climate Investment Funds.

Shifting responsibility to the states

“The budget for EPA reflects the success of environmental protection efforts, a focus on core legal requirements, the important role of the states in implementing the Nation’s environmental laws, and the President’s priority to ease the burden of unnecessary Federal regulations that impost significant costs for workers and consumers without justifiable environmental benefits,” according the Blueprint.

The Blueprint for the EPA includes the following:

  • Increasing state revolving funds for critical drinking water and wastewater infrastructure by $4 million over 2017 levels. $20 million is also allotted to the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, equal to the funding provided in the 2017. This credit subsidy could potentially support $1 billion in direct federal loans, according to the Blueprint.
  • Discontinuation of funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts—saving over $100 million for the American taxpayer compared to 2017 levels.
  • Reducing the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account to $762 million, $330 million below the 2017 level.
  • Reducing funding to the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance to $419 million, $129 million below the 2017 level. The intent here is to concentrate the EPA’s enforcement of environmental protection violations on programs that are not delegated to the states.
  • Budgeting $250 million to the EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD), $233 million below 2017. This would compel the ORD to prioritize activities that support decision-making related to core environmental statutory requirements, as opposed to extramural activities, such as providing Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants.
  • Eliminating most funding for specific regional efforts such as initiatives for Great Lakes restoration and the Chesapeake Bay. These geographic program eliminations are $427 million lower than 2017 levels.
  • Eliminating or substantially reducing federal investment in state environmental activities that go beyond EPA’s statutory requirements. Funding for these activities, called categorical grants, would be reduced by almost half, from $1.07 billion to $597 billion.
  • Saving $347 million by eliminating more than 50 EPA programs, including Energy Star; Targeted Airshed Grants; the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program; and infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages and the Mexico Border.

Other agencies

Other environment-related items in the Blueprint include reduced funding for “lower priority activities” in the Department of Agriculture’s National Forest System; elimination of water and wastewater programs run by the USDA, which duplicate EPA programmatic efforts; elimination of the Department of Interior’s Abandoned Mine Land grants; and allocating $1 billion for the DOI’s “safe, reliable, and efficient management of water resources throughout the western United States.”

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