Budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration – and the administration’s repeated attacks on the scientific basis for our environmental laws – threaten to destroy 50 years of progress in protecting public health and the environment.1
This first budget salvo was a “markup” document from the the Office of Management & Budget (OMB), a White House office. Agencies were given one week to provide comments, with OMB direction that any proposed changes to the markup had to be reflected in one-to-one cuts. In other words, if EPA wants to save one program (like Energy Star, Great Lakes cleanup, Environmental Justice…the list goes on), it has to put another program on the chopping block for an equal cost savings. It’s a Hobbesian choice. The Trump Administration’s final 2018 budget is expected to be released to Congress on March 16.
The OMB Markup by the Trump Administration proposed to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a 25%. budget cut.2 A sister science agency, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), was targeted for a 17% budget cut.
Update: Trump’s budget blueprint (the “skinny budget”) was released on March 15 – and it’s even uglier than the OMB markup. The OMB markup document (released before Pruitt’s confirmation) proposed a 25% cut to EPA’s budget. With Pruitt in the saddle, proposed cuts have INCREASED to 31%. https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget
“President Donald Trump’s planned cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency would slash its workforce by almost 3,000 employees and its budget by $2 billion.”3 “The president’s moves to slash regulations and chop EPA’s budget represent the most aggressive environmental rollback in decades. “If EPA doesn’t provide these protections, no one else will,” said William Reilly, the EPA administrator under President George H.W. Bush. “No one else in the government has that mandate. It’s EPA or nothing.”4
Congress has already reduced EPA’s budget by 28 percent in real dollars since 2010. EPA’s staff has been reduced by 10 percent over the last decade (from 17,000 in 2007 to about 15,000 today) – even as EPA’s statutory and programmatic responsibilities have grown.5 The White House budget plan would slash the agency to 12,000 people—setting the agency back to staffing levels of the late Reagan administration. EPA’s funding would fall $2 billion to $6.1 billion. When inflation is taken into account, that would be its lowest point since the Ford administration.6
Since the Ford Administration, Congress has added enormous responsibilities to EPA: the Superfund toxic site cleanup program; Clean Air Act revisions addressing acid rain; CFC elimination; expansion of the Safe Drinking Water Act; disaster planning and access to data for community members under the Emergency Planning & Community Right to Know Act; Pollution Prevention; as as well as the growing complexity of dealing with pollution from pesticides, dioxins and other chemicals.
“The Trump Administration has also proposed slashing the budget of NOAA (National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration) by 17%. NOAA is one of the world’s premier science organizations studying weather and climate, and partners with EPA on climate research.
NOAA is responsible for bringing us reports like this one – information that climate deniers would rather not see: “Assessing the U.S. Climate in February 2017: The United States had it’s second warmest February and sixth warmest winter on record.” 7
NOAA budget cuts in the OMB markup would reduce funding for weather prediction and climate science; weather satellites; the National Weather Service; coastal research; and university research programs. As with EPA, OMB has instructed NOAA to provide information about costs to layoff NOAA staff and to dispose of government offices.8
In a related action, last week the White House issued an Executive Order directing agency heads to submit a plan to “eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions.”9 Criteria for this review include:
“…whether some or all of the functions would be better left to State or local governments or to the private sector through free enterprise; whether functions are redundant; whether administrative capabilities necessary for operations are redundant with those of another agency, component, or program; whether the costs of continuing to operate are justified by the public benefits it provides; and the costs of shutting down or merging agencies, components, or programs, including the costs of addressing the equities of affected agency staff.10
The climate programs for EPA and NOAA were particularly hard hit in this first budget proposal. But the proposed cuts go well beyond climate, undercutting basic environmental programs that protect public health, as well as educational and “partnership” programs that help consumers and business operate and live more sustainably. The devil’s in the details, and this paper will take a closer look at which environmental programs are targeted.
1 Two good sources for how EPA programs have improved our health and environment: “EPA at 40” (study by the Aspen Institute) https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/epa-40th-anniversary-10-ways-epa-has-strengthened- america/ and “Protecting the Environment: A Half Century of Progress” (EPA Alumni Association) http:// www.epaalumni.org/hcp/
8 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/03/03/white house-proposes-steep-budget-cut-to-leading-climate-science-agency/?utm_term=.2e9ef923f45d
9 http://www.govexec.com/management/2017/03/new-trump-order-ask-agencies-eliminate-waste-workforce-redundancies/136118/; http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/13/trump-signs-executive-order-to-make-fed- agencies-lean-more-accountable.html