EPA Budget Cuts: Affecting More than Just the Ice Caps

on March 07, 2017 at 4:57 AM

According to the White House, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to get its budget slashed by at least 25%. The Trump Administration is hoping to target climate-change programs and programs designed to prevent air or water pollution.Environmental_Protection_Agency_logoThis news comes as no surprise since President Trump has given much warning that his intentions with the EPA would be to reverse his predecessor’s climate-change initiatives. According to the newly elected President, however, his plan will not put American water or air quality in harm’s way. The budget cuts in these domestic agencies are essential to the President’s ambitions to rebuild the military, and to augment the military budget. His proposals will be sent to Congress the week of March 13th. A document released by the White House states that a focus will be placed on what is required by law of the EPA, and encourages the agency to focus its efforts on “clean water, clean air, and other core responsibilities,” given the cuts they must cope with.

The budget cuts would decrease the EPA’s budget from $8.2 billion, to roughly $6.1 billion. This $2.1 billion difference would incite a 20% decrease in staff making the headcount approximately 12,400. Climate protection programs along with environmental justice and enforcement organizations are most likely to be effected by these cuts. Of course, environmentalists have denounced the budget cuts by citing the thousands of jobs lost. They also note that the welfare of the American people is reason enough to abandon the plan entirely. However, approval must first come from the Republican-led Congress before this proposal is legislated.

More details on the proposal show that grants to states for lead cleanup would fall 30% to about $9.8 million. Many are particularly concerned with the grants given by the EPA to local governments for the cleanup of brownfields, or abandoned industrial sites. Examples of other program cuts are similar across the board, with the exception of the budget allocated to Flint, Michigan to deal with the water crisis at hand. Overall, thirty-eight programs would be cut entirely. Funding for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, originally started by George H.W. Bush, would be eliminated completely.

Pending congressional approval, the new administration would also cut funding to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. The agency, a division of the Commerce Department that studies changes in the climate, weather, coasts and oceans, would lose 17% of their budget.

Some of the cuts in the proposal are likely to not pass, even with a Republican-led Congress since many of these funds were allocated with bipartisan support in the first place. Take, for instance, a proposal to cut all staff in a diesel emissions program. This would be unlikely to pass by either bodies of legislation.

In spite of these cuts, Donald Trump’s newly appointed head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has told U.S. mayors that the cleanup of hazardous waste and industrial waste sites, as well as undefined water infrastructure, will be a priority under his tutelage. This is in accordance with the proposed cuts from the White House to the programs that would actually administer these changes.

Pruitt, the former state attorney general of Oklahoma, is known for questioning the extent to which human activities contribute to climate change. However, he has gone so far as to directly state that he has concerns with the budget cuts to the state grant programs, indicative of potential rift between the EPA and the White House. This is furthered by an undisclosed top official who has stated that the EPA will do everything in its power to prevent budget cuts to essential programs.