The Trump Budget Aims to Cripple Environmental Protection

Thanks to the Environmental Protection Network for this summary analysis of the Trump Administration’s proposed budget cuts to EPA – and our environmental protections.

The Trump Administration claims that it supports
clean air and water,
but its proposed FY 2018 Budget tells another story.

Their deep cuts would slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s Budget 42% after accounting for level funding of two large water infrastructure grant programs. EPA’s staff, located in 10 regional offices, headquarters, and a variety of labs around the country that are essential to carrying out EPA’s life-saving responsibilities, would be reduced by one in four, to 11,611 in one year. The smallest workforce since 1982 would be tasked to administer 7 major congressionally mandated programs including implementation of significant 2016 revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act. Budgets of programs protecting the environment will be further stressed to cover the cost of shrinking their staff. Despite the Administration’s intent to push more responsibility to states, grants to states for that purpose are cut 30%. The punishment inflicted on EPA is deeper than any other major federal agency. Staff layoffs most likely will hit younger, more recently hired staff, decimating the next generation of environmental professionals and crippling EPA and state efforts for years to come.

Summary of the Proposed FY2018
EPA Budget

The Trump – Mulvaney – Pruitt proposed Budget for FY2018 would severely affect almost every aspect of EPA’s programs and operations. This summary identifies some of its most significant impacts. As more details are revealed, EPN will update and revise its analysis.

  • EPA’s total Budget would be cut by 31% from $8.244 billion in FY 20171 to $ 5.655 billion, 2 returning EPA to inflation-adjusted funding levels3 not seen since virtually the inception of the EPA in 1970.
  • The Budget would cut EPA’s workforce by 3,785 “Full Time Equivalents (FTEs)”, from 15,396 to 11,611, or by nearly 25%. It would leave EPA with its smallest workforce since 19824 despite significantly increased responsibilities since that date. Impacts would be felt in the 10 regional offices, the Research Triangle Park (RTP) North Carolina facility that houses 15 EPA offices, including EPA’s major center for air pollution research and regulation, and EPA labs across the country, including Ada, Oklahoma, Cincinnati, Ohio, Gulf Breeze, Louisiana,

    Athens, Georgia and Las Vegas, Nevada.

  • For perspective, the “savings” from cutting $2.6 billion from EPA’s current Budget of $8.2 billion is one four-hundredth of the Trump Administration’s overall proposed $1.15 trillion Budget for discretionary spending. The $2.6 billion taken from EPA would be less than two days’ worth of the $638 billion requested defense Budget.

  • Most of EPA’s Budget would be cut 42%: Because the Budget’s selective cuts do not reduce (but actually slightly increase) two of the largest items in EPA’s Budget – the state revolving funds for building clean water and drinking water infrastructure – the proposed cuts would actually amount to a 42% cut to the balance of EPA’s Budget, which includes all EPA programs and grants to state environmental agencies that are tasked to implement these programs.
  • Some cuts are deeper than signaled in earlier Administration documents: For some programs, reductions were even greater than had been anticipated based on documents revealed previously. Specifically, all of the Agency’s principal accounts – “Appropriations”- are smaller than originally proposed in March, with the exception of the Superfund program5. While the overall request is approximately the same as before (5.665 billion vs 5.7 billion), special set-asides (“rescissions,” etc.) will require additional cuts to many programs.
  • EPA staffing slashed: The unprecedented nearly-3,800 person cut to staffing is on top of significant reductions in the previous five years. This would dramatically disrupt the Agency’s ability to do its work to protect the environment and almost certainly involve layoffs. Because government rules for layoffs generally protect older workers, the Administration’s proposal will deprive EPA not only of the staff it needs now but many of the next generation of environmental professionals, crippling EPA for years to come.
  • Core programs deeply cut: The administration has stated that EPA should focus on its traditional core programs. However, under this Budget those programs would be cut as follows: 6
    • Air and radiation program – 44.8%
    • Water pollution protection program – 25% o Drinking water protection programs – 18%

    • Pesticide and chemical review and regulation – 22.7% o Hazardous waste management – 37.5%7

    • Hazardous site cleanup (Superfund )– 28.1%

  • Most EPA climate programs eliminated including climate research and 15 voluntary partnership programs that facilitate greenhouse gas reporting and energy efficiency. Funding, relative to the severe challenge represented by climate, was relatively low to begin with. A full list of eliminated climate programs is in Appendix A.
  • Science, a core EPA function that supports regulation, permitting and enforcement, slashed nearly in half (47%). 8 This area would be the most severely cut, contrary to verbiage in the Budget document acknowledging the important role of science in carrying out EPA’s regulatory, permitting and enforcement responsibilities. The damage is not only to EPA but to scientists across the country.
  • Grants to states and tribes slashed: Categorical grants that support the core air, water and other programs are cut by 30% despite Administration assertions that states should play a larger role in implementing environmental laws. A host of other types of grants are eliminated entirely. As a result, total state grant funding is cut by over 50% (excluding the water revolving funds that pay for local infrastructure). Since federal funding provides, on average, more than 25% of the operating budgets for state environmental programs, the Budget will cripple permitting, implementation and enforcement. (A complete list of changes to state and tribal grants is found at the end of this summary.)
  • Enforcement of environmental laws undermined: The Budget would cut EPA’s enforcement program by 24%, reducing resources for compliance assistance and enforcement. Superfund enforcement – a program that recovers cleanup costs paid by taxpayer from the responsible polluting parties – would be cut 40 %, including elimination of the office responsible for cleanups at federal facilities such as former nuclear weapons production sites.9 In addition, proposed cuts in grant funding for state environmental agencies, which bring most enforcement cases, would reduce their capacity to monitor pollution and enforce against violators of pollution control requirements. EPA enforcement more than pays for itself; since 2000, $6.4 billion in penalties have been recovered to the US Treasury or to restitution of victims.
  • Geographic programs eliminated: The Budget zeroes out geographic programs that help clean up and protect important ecosystems. These include the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, Lake Champlain, Long Island Sound, San Francisco Bay, the Florida Keys and other south Florida ecosystems. Many of these programs were developed because states could not solve cross-state and international issues alone. After decades of bi-partisan support for assisting states with difficult and often cross-boundary pollution problems, the Budget puts that burden squarely on the states while, as noted above, cutting funding for states.
  • More than 50 EPA programs eliminated in total: The Budget would completely eliminate over fifty separate programs. In addition to the climate and geographic programs discussed above, these include programs that serve low income and disadvantaged communities that are disproportionally damaged by pollution (“Environmental Justice”); programs that help communities manage diffuse pollution sources such as oil, grease and toxic chemicals from urban runoff that can foul drinking water (Non-Point); and Water Sense, a labeling program that makes it easy for Americans to find products and homes that save water. The history of voluntary programs illustrates the power of EPA as a convener and its credibility as a source of technical information to work informally with industry and others to reduce pollution. (A complete list of programs being eliminated is found at the end of this summary.)
  • Other notable points:
    • $68 million for the cost of letting people go: “Workforce Reshaping” is an Orwellian euphemism for the buyouts and other HR costs resulting from the proposed huge reduction in staff. Budgets of programs protecting the environment will be further reduced to cover the cost of shrinking their staff.
    • Key professional support functions are also reduced. Although smaller than some other cuts, these are significant and undermine the agency’s legal review and capacity to contribute scientific analysis as EPA carries out its congressionally-mandated responsibilities.
        • Office of General Counsel -cut 12.5 %;
        • Administrative judges -cut 13%, likely resulting in delays adjudicating cases relating to enforcement orders or permits.
        • Science Advisory Board -cut 7.9%;
    •  o One of the few increases is for economic and regulatory analysis (increased 4.6 %).
    • Not Disclosed in the Budget – Increase in the Administrator’s personal security detail: according to press reports, one budget increase would bolster the Administrator’s personal security detail for 24/7 coverage, a first for an EPA Administrator.
1 The FY 2017 numbers that the Congressional Submission uses are the so-called “Annualized CR” estimated prior to congressional passage of a full-year “CR.” The latter, available on May 2, is not used by OMB/EPA because the detailed distribution of resources (via an “Operating Plan”) is not yet complete. The actual FY 2017 resource levels are somewhat larger in most cases.
2 EPA’s FY2017 budget includes a $ 100 million one-time appropriation of funds for drinking water systems, designated for Flint, Michigan. That amount is included in the FY2017 base budget figure above, provided by EPA.
3 Source: CRS Analysis of OMB Budget of the United States Government Fiscal Year 2016, Historical Tables, Table 5.4.
4 Historical Note: The period of FYs 1981 – 1984 had a noteworthy dip in workforce; prior to this, workforce was not so small since 1977.
5 $15 million was restored to the March proposal for Superfund but overall the program is still $326 million less (-30%) than the previous year.
6 There is no single budget line for these programs. A full listing of the budget lines on which the percentages above are based is attached.
7 Includes Underground Storage Tanks and Inland Oil Spill Programs.
8 Measured via the four “core” Office of Research and Development (ORD) program categories, 98% of the ORD budget.
9 A separate office for federal facilities is required because EPA cannot bring court cases against other agencies; instead it uses a different set of administrative enforcement processes. Ostensibly the budget would retain the federal facility enforcement function
10 Health Effects of Exposure to Radon: BEIR VI, Committee on Health Risks of Exposure to Radon (BEIR VI), National Academy of Sciences, 1999


Climate Programs

Climate Programs are not consistently identified by name or current funding level in the budget.

Virtually every program element containing climate change activities in Air and other programs were excised of them. The eliminations include 15 voluntary partnership programs:

  • Energy Star (rates consumer products for their energy efficiency)
  • Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting Program
  • Green Power Partnership (to increase the use of renewable electricity in the US)
  • Combined Heat and Power Partnership (promotes use of wasted heat, saving both energy and water and reducing pollution)
  • Natural Gas STAR (voluntary oil & gas industry program to reduce methane leaks)
  • AgSTAR (helps farmers recover biogas from livestock wastes)
  • Landfill Methane Outreach Program
  • Coalbed Methane Outreach Program
  • Voluntary Aluminum Industrial Partnership (to reduce release of potent greenhouse gases)
  • SF6 Reduction Partnership (voluntary EPA/electrical industry effort reducing leakage) [SF6Sulfur hexafluoride, an excellent electrical insulator, is also an extremely potent and long-lived greenhouse gas]
  • Responsible Appliance Disposal Program
  • GreenChill Partnership (food retailers reduce refrigerant leaks that destroy the ozone layer)
  • State and Local Climate Energy Program
  • Center for Corporate Climate Leadership
  • SmartWay (shipping goods with less fuel and less pollution)

Eliminated budget-identified climate programs include the Global Change Research (“sub-program”)

Geographic and Water Programs

    • Chesapeake Bay
    • Gulf of Mexico
    • Lake Champlain
    • Long Island Sound
    • Puget Sound
    • San Francisco Bay
    • South Florida
    • Great Lakes Restoration
    • Other = 2 locations (Lake Pontchartrain, S. New England Estuary) and “other activities”)
    • State Grants for Non-Point Source Pollution (per CWA § 319) – by itself, $ 164 m eliminated)
    • National Estuary Program and Coastal Waterways – EPA staffed programs
  • Beaches Protection –EPA staffed program and grants
  • Fish Protection – (ditto )
  • Marine Pollution – ( ditto )
  • Infrastructure Assistance: Alaska Native Villages grant
  • Mexico Border – internal program and Infrastructure Assistance grant
  • Water Quality Research and Support Grants traditional Congressional add-on almost never requested by Agency

Other Programs and Special Initiatives

  • Lead Grants to States
  • Lead Risk Reduction Program
  • Pollution Prevention – internal program and state grants
  • Radon state grants and Indoor Air Radon programs (for the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer in the US10)
  • Radiation Protection program (in general)
  • Underground Storage Tanks state grants
  • Leaking Underground Storage Tank Prevention
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Endocrine Disruptors (studies substances that adversely affect the hormone system)
  • Environmental Education
  • Environmental Justice
  • Homeland Security: Critical Infrastructure Protection
  • Indoor Air: Radon Program
  • Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) Waste Minimization and Recycling
  • Indoor Air: Reduce Risks
  • Regional Science and Technology
  • Pesticides – Science Policy and Biotechnology Advisory Panel
  • Small Minority Business Assistance
  • Stratospheric Ozone Multilateral Fund
  • Targeted Airshed Grants
  • Trade and Governance
  • STAR Research Grants (“sub-program” across four ORD core programs)
  • WaterSense (“sub-program” of Surface Water Protection – voluntary partnership program to label water-efficient products)

See also the EPA Congressional Justification (on EPA’s website) for its own account of “Eliminated/ Discontinued Programs” (pp 726-732)

Cuts to EPA Core Programs
Under the Trump Budget






Cuts to State Grants Under the
Trump Budget



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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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