The EPA Budget

What's happening?

The White House released its first budget under President Trump: "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again."

 

A president can offer suggestions to Congress, but it is up to Congress to implement them or not. But a budget is a statement on that president's priorities and, arguably, morals. Usually, a president's budget outlines that administration's stances on taxes, entitlements like Social Security, the deficit, and “discretionary” spending by agencies. This budget only addresses that last piece—how the government should allocate money to agencies and how those agencies should spend it.

 

The budget suggests significantly more spending on defense ($639 billion, a $52 billion increase), veteran's affairs, and homeland security (which would include funding for the border wall). It suggests significantly less spending on a long list that includes practically everything else.

 

At the top of that list? The Environmental Protection Agency.

Budget increases and cuts suggested in President Trump's first budget (Washington Post)

Why is it important?

In the 1970's, the EPA hired photographers to document the environment as it related to people's daily life. The images are haunting. They show what life was like before we had key environmental protections—which are enforced in large part by the EPA.

 

The EPA budget has long been at the center of a larger partisan debate over government spending on environmental scientific research and climate-related programs. 

Debate it!

Should we cut spending to the EPA as this budget recommends?

Yes: 

These budget cuts reflect a renewed commitment to the EPA's core mission: protecting air and water quality. It will give room to the states to make decisions about other environmental protections. And, by removing some aspects of the EPA that constrain the energy industry, these cuts will pave the way for new business and industry growth.

 

A smaller EPA will forge close relationships with states, which would allow them to better manage their own resources and determine state-level environmental protections. In the words of the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, “federalism matters.”

 

The small number of jobs lost at the EPA pales in comparison to the growth we can expect in the energy industry. According to the Department of Energy, "3.64 million Americans work in traditional energy industries." Cutting back on unnecessary regulations will allow this industry to flourish.

 

The EPA has long been overreaching its original apolitical role. As the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget says: "The president wants a smaller EPA. He thinks they overreach, and the budget reflects that." Journalist Ian Tuttle agrees, "the 1970 Clean Air Act, a landmark piece of legislation that has been remarkably successful in reducing lead, carbon monoxide, and other forms of pollution, is now being used to impose air-quality demands on manufacturers that some national parks don’t meet. The EPA has also used the Clean Air Act to justify its 2015 Clean Power Plan, a massive regulation that would set a cap on carbon pollution by power plants (and threaten the existence of many of them)."

 

Further, this budget reduces duplicative spending. It emphasizes the importance of clean drinking water, but also recognizes that the Department of Agriculture and the EPA don't need overlapping budgets. We can save money and put it to better use.

No: 

This budget borders on insanity in its utter lack of consideration not only for the environment but also for American's lives and health.

 

Here are just a few of the things we would sacrifice with these cuts to the EPA. You decide: 

  1. All international climate change programs
  2. Half of the funding for the Office of Research and Development, the agency's scientific research
  3. No funding for the Clean Power Plan, which regulates carbon dioxide emissions from power plants
  4. Clean-up efforts in polluted areas like the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes
  5. Much of the budget for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance, which means the EPA would be largely unable to enforce even it's remaining programs
  6. 50 programs and 3,200 jobs

 

These budget cuts can't even accomplish what the White House wants, much less what the country needs.Take for example one of the only areas President Trump prioritized in this budget: drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. What he didn't realize (or worse, did) was that despite this "priority," other budget cuts put our safe drinking water at risk. First, $129 million in cuts to the enforcement budget mean the EPA won't be able to act anyway. Second, the budget doesn't increase funds to water safety at all—it merely keeps them the same. Third, another part of the budget eliminated the nearly $500 million program in the Department of Agriculture that maintains clean drinking water in rural communities. They aren't "duplicative"; they're keeping the water safe in different parts of the country.

 

According to employees, the EPA "is already on a starvation diet, with a bare-bones budget and staffing level." This would be "akin to taking away the agency’s bread and water"—or maybe just making that water unsafe to drink.

Learn more...

  1. The budget, "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again"
    • "Eliminates the duplicative Water and Wastewater loan and grant program, a savings of $498 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. Rural communities can be served by private sector financing or other Federal investments in rural water infrastructure, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s State Revolving Funds."
  2. The 1970's EPA photography project, Documerica
    • "For the Documerica Project (1971-1977), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired freelance photographers to capture images relating to environmental problems, EPA activities, and everyday life in the 1970s."
  3. The Washington Post's interactive, "What Trump Would Cut in His Budget"
    • "To pay for an increase in defense spending, a down payment on the border wall and school voucher programs, among other things, funding was cut from the discretionary budgets of other executive departments and agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and the Agriculture Department took the hardest hits. The proposal also eliminates funding for 19 agencies."
  4. Vox's piece, "Donald Trump's first budget outline, explained"
    • "The impact of the cuts and hikes laid out in the document would be massive. Trump wants to fund a border wall, deportation raids, a hiring spree for Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and purchases of new F-35 fighter jets and a variety of Navy vessels. And it would dramatically hamper enforcement of environmental and labor regulations, end grant and loan programs for clean energy and disadvantaged regions, and significantly reduce funding for biomedical research.