Making a Visible Difference in Communities Across the Country

The EPA has made it a priority to work at the community level along with other federal agencies, states and other stakeholders to improve the health of American families and protect the environment all across the country. We will continue to build on these relationships in FY 2017.

EPA 2017 Budget in Brief

Environmental and public health impacts affect people most significantly where they live – at the community level. For many years, EPA's staff have invested time in listening to community leaders and residents to understand their needs at the local level. EPA has then used this information to work with local, state and other federal officials/agencies to leverage collective resources effectively in support of local goals.

The Trump Administration has shifted EPA's priorities away from listening to communities: nearly every community program is targeted for severe reductio or outright elimination in the 2018 EPA workplan.

Below is a summary of major community programs in which EPA plans to dis-invest under the Trump Administration.

Environmental protection is not equal for all Americans. Here is some data from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

  • Communities of color have higher exposure rates to air pollution than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts.
  • Landfills, hazardous waste sites, and other industrial facilities are most often located in communities of color. 
  • Lead poisoning disproportionately affects children of color. Climate change disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color.
  • Water contamination plagues low-income areas and communities of color across the nation.

EPA’s Environmental Justice program coordinates EPA’s efforts to address these disparities through all of EPA’s programs.  EPA’s focus includes tribal populations, rural communities and children. The programs’ goal is to provide communities with the support needed so they can work effectively with EPA and other federal programs (such as Brownfields, Superfund, Air and Urban Waters) in addressing local pollution problems. In 2015, EPA identified more than 50 environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities for more focused and coordinated action. See a list of the communities.

The Environmental Justice program is eliminated in FY18.

EPA’s air quality standards provide the framework to control air pollution from stationary (factories, power plants, industrial processing plants) and mobile (cars, trucks, boats, airplanes) sources. States build implementation plans to achieve these national standards,  using strategies designed to fit the needs of communities within their boundaries.

The air quality programs developed by EPA and states under have greatly improved US air quality: between 1970 and 2013, emissions of the six most common air pollutants fell by 68%, even as GDP tripled, energy consumption increased by 50%, vehicle use doubled and U.S. pop. grew by 54%.

However, more than half of Americans live in areas that still exceed harmful levels of (ground level) ozone or particle pollution, putting some 116 million Americans at risk to lung cancer, asthma, cardiovascular damage, reproductive problems, and premature death.  (The Colorado Front Range (Denver to Fort Collins) is one of these high-risk areas, ranking in the top ten for high levels of ground-level ozone, after missing multiple deadlines to reduce ozone levels below regulatory thresholds.)

The Trump Administration is attempting to roll back air quality standards for pollutants that contribute to ozone pollution (methane and VOCs), as well as delay implementation and likely roll back standards for the ozone standard itself.  Ozone is a trigger for asthma and other lung diseases.

For further information about the Trump Administration's attempts to roll back these air pollution standards, see our discussion of Air Quality in For Oil & Gas Producers, the Livin' Is Easy

In FY17, EPA identified several priority activities aimed at directly helping communities - and the people who live there - to address local impacts from air pollution.  EPA funding for community-level air quality monitoring is one example:

In FY17, EPA said: “Communities do not always have sufficient air quality data at the local level to understand and act upon existing risks... the EPA will continue to develop advanced monitoring technical support and tools to help communities detect, monitor, understand, and act upon their local air quality issues.”

  • In FY18, the Trump budget says: “Community scale air toxics monitoring will be funded by states and communities.”

This Administration also proposes to close 14 air quality monitoring sites (six on Tribal lands) now functioning as part of EPA’s long term monitoring system network.

EPA is, first and foremost, a public health agency. Many of the Agency’s FY17 priorities address air quality-related public health issues at the community level.  All but one of these programs/activities have been eliminated in FY18.  The survivors will see funding slashed by ~70% - 80%

Following are EPA’s FY17 community level air quality-related programs/activities, and their fate in FY18:

Clean School Bus USA - eliminated

Provides funding to reduce diesel emissions in school buses.

Diesel Emissions Grant Program - funding reduced ~80%

Provides funding for school bus upgrades

Address communities with significant cumulative exposure to air pollutants & air toxics - scaled back

FY17, “EPA targeted its traditional discretionary funding for areas that suffer from poor air quality due to greater levels of industrial and mobile source activity  (e.g., near ports, distribution areas, or large stationary sources, etc) and will focus on projects that engage local communities and provide lasting benefits."

          • In FY18: “EPA will focus its efforts on reducing mobile source emissions in and around ports.”

Indoor airPLUS program -  eliminated

This is a voluntary partnership and labeling program that helps new home builders improve the quality of indoor air by requiring construction practices and product specifications that minimize exposure to airborne pollutants and contaminants.

Asthma programs - eliminated

    • Training & networking on asthma triggers for healthcare professionals.

"EPA recently completed a 10-year effort to build capacity at the national, state and local levels to manage environmental asthma triggers by directly training 45,700 healthcare professionals.  In 2016 EPA enrolled the thousandth program in,  a virtual, on-line interactive community for asthma champions to share and more rapidly spread effective program strategies in order to advance asthma care."

      • Indoor Air Quality/asthma management  in schools

 "Approximately one half of our nation’s schools now have indoor air quality (IAQ) management programs in place, helping to ensure healthy school environments and the EPA will continue to promote the adoption of IAQ management programs to reach the remaining 60,000 schools."

      • Asthma management support to disadvantaged communities

"Strong evidence indicates that many chronic health conditions like asthma disproportionately affect low income, minority, and tribal communities.  EPA will continue to leverage public and private systems to drive policies, interventions, and individual actions that increase healthy indoor air where people live, learn and work. The agency will build the capacity of an additional 300 community-based organizations to support the delivery, infrastructure, and sustainable financing of environmental asthma interventions at home and school."

      • Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities

"EPA will continue to co-lead the implementation of the Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities, an initiative under the auspices of the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children."

National Radon Program - eliminated

In FY18, the Trump Administration says "The agency will encourage radon risk reduction as a normal part of doing business in the real estate marketplace, will promote local and state adoption of radon prevention standards in building codes, and will participate in the development of national voluntary standards (e.g., mitigation and construction protocols) for adoption by states and the radon industry."

Radon grants to states are also eliminated.

EPA’s water quality standards provide the framework to control water pollution from discrete discharge points (“point sources”) and non-point sources (stormwater runoff).  States adopt stream quality standards (based on the individual characteristics of each river section) and manage permit programs aimed at achieving/maintaining associated water quality standards.  

EPA provides funding, technical support and training for operators of local wastewater treatment plants.  EPA also establishes health-based standards for drinking water, and provides funding, technical support and training for operators of local drinking water treatment plants.

(For more information about EPA's role in funding and providing ongoing support for  U.S. infrastructure, see our discussion at Infrastructure: Big Talk, Bigger Cuts.)

Over half of people living in the US, and 99% of people living in rural areas, get their drinking water from groundwater supplies.  EPA and states regulate industrial well drilling in groundwater that supports drinking water through the Underground Injection Control  (UIC) program.

In FY18, funding for State/Tribal UIC permitting activities is reduced by 30%.  EPA oversight is not addressed.  A number of 2017 priority activities aimed at protecting groundwater drinking water supplies from oil and gas wells have been eliminated or are not addressed in 2018. For more   See discussion of groundwater at Oil & Gas Sector: Groundwater).

Like air quality, EPA and the states have made significant progress in cleaning up U.S. surface waters.  However, water quality remains a significant challenge, with approximately 43,000 known impaired water bodies identified nationwide at the end of calendar year 2015.  In addition to providing funding and support to state water quality programs and local water and wastewater operators, EPA has developed a number of programs to support local and regional water quality restoration efforts.

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership works with local partners to restore urban waterways. In FY17, 19 community groups all across the country (including Denver’s South Platte Urban Waters Partnership) receive EPA support from this program.  The Trump Administration has slated it for elimination.

This Administration has also proposed to eliminate the National Estuary and Coastal Waterways programs, which provide funding and technical support to restore coastal waters. EPA grants are currently funding 28 local programs; that funding will be eliminated in FY18. EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries, which provides resources for coastal managers, will be eliminated (along with all of EPA’s climate programs).

Pollution flows downstream, not respecting state political boundaries. EPA’s  Geographic Regional Water Programs were developed to address unique, multi-media, high-priority regional environmental problems. The Trump Administration has proposed  to eliminate all 12 of these programs in FY18.  (Summary descriptions of these 12 programs can be found on the Water tab in the comparative budget analysis.)

Wetlands perform a number of vital functions in watersheds, including filtering pollutants out of water.  EPA provides funding to states, tribes, and local governments to aid wetland protection and restoration through Wetlands Program Development Grants. in FY 18, the Trump Administration proposes to cut funding for this program by ~30%.

This year, the Trump Administration has initiated a process that would result in removing Clean Water Act protections from two million miles of waterways and millions of acres of wetlands. Rollback of this rule would put drinking water at risk for 117 million Americans. For more information, see our discussion at The CLEAN WATER RULE – Why “Navigability” Matters

Lead: EPA addresses risks to human health from toxic chemicals through a variety of programs. The  Lead Risk Reduction program, which addresses lead contamination in homes, schools, childcare facilities. products, drinking water, soils and outdoor air, is slated for elimination in FY18.  Lead Paint Categorical Grants (used to support certification of firms capable of implementing lead-safe practices in abatement and renovation, repair and painting) are also eliminated. An FY 2017 enforcement priority focused on improper management of lead dust & debris by home contractors; this initiative is not addressed in FY18.

Pesticides: Another FY17 enforcement priority focused on manufacture and use of pesticides (not addressed in FY18).  Grants to States and Tribes to implement and enforce pesticide oversight programs are cut 38% and 30% respectively. 

Related: The Administration has also proposed to eliminate the Pesticides Science Policy and Biotechnology Advisory Panel.  Pesticides are implicated in endocrine disruption; both the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program & associated research are eliminated in FY18.

Children's Health Protection program: This program coordinates and advances protection of children's health through a variety of programs (regulatory development, policy, program implementation, communication).   In FY18, funding is reduced ~70%.

Chemical Facility Safety: The Trump Administration is attempting to roll back recently enacted community protections from chemical releases industrial facilities. See discussion at Oil & Gas Sector: Chemical Facility Safety.

A summary description and more details about each program/activity noted here can be found at EPA's budget and performance plan pre- and post-Pruitt (FY 2017 vs. FY 2018. 

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Save EPA has been an all-volunteer group of former EPA officials who became alarmed about the Trump agenda for EPA and joined together to fight it.

With newly-elected President-Elect Biden and VP-Elect Harris coming in January, the need to "save EPA" is much less urgent. This is not to imply all clear skies ahead - there is much re-building to do, there will be negative pressures on the new administration, and we will likely have policy differences in the future. However, we are hopeful that these differences will be discussed rationally, using science as a basis for moving forward, and keeping EPA's mission of protecting human health and the environment in the forefront.

And so, we are going back to retirement!  We're keeping our website up at , as a resource for those who want to follow and influence the restoration work. Our report on the Trump record at EPA describes the actions that need to be reversed [], and our guide to participating in the rulemaking process [] can help you be part of the solution.

Thank you for your support and commitment during the past 3.5 years.  While the Trump assaults were unending, they were also frequently unsuccessful, and that was due in large part to public outrage.  Keep it up!  Although EPA will be in much better hands with a Biden administration, there is always a need for an informed and engaged public.

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