EPA Targeted for Radical Downsizing
On May 23, President Donald Trump released a proposed budget for the Environmental Protection Agency that would impose historic cuts as part of an effort to dramatically shrink the agency’s mission. His actions threaten to increase pollution and put public health at risk.
Under Trump’s budget plan, instead of being a national leader in environmental protection, “EPA would primarily support states,” according to Trump’s “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” This proposal, which still needs the approval of Congress, targets the agency for a 31 percent cut (from $8 billion annually to $5.7 billion). This would mean the termination of about 3,800 of the agency’s 15,000 jobs, and the elimination more than 50 programs, including for the cleanup of the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Lake Champlain, Long Island Sound and San Francisco Bay.
President Trump claims that the cuts must be made in the budget of EPA and other federal agencies to allow for a $54 billion increase in spending for the Pentagon, which already receives more money than the armed forces of the next seven largest nations combined. “EPA’s total annual budget is just over $8 billion, which is hardly more than a rounding error next to the $600 billion the Defense Department spends every year,” said Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project. A study by the U.S. Defense Business Board found that the Pentagon could save $25 billion a year simply by reducing waste. That’s more than three times EPA’s entire annual budget.
Meanwhile, EPA’s enforcement of one law alone – the federal Clean Air Act – prevents at least 160,000 deaths of Americans each year from air pollution, including from 1.7 million asthma attacks triggered by smog and fine soot-like particles from coal-fired power plants. Cutting EPA’s ability to enforce that and other environmental protections will likely mean more illness and death among average Americans, especially the elderly and young.
“The immense and ill-conceived cuts that the Trump Administration has proposed would inflict severe harm to the system of environmental protection that the nation has built over the past half century,” a coalition of former EPA officials called the Environmental Protection Network wrote in a recent budget analysis. “The unavoidable consequences of the cuts would be more pollution that causes illness, death and dangerous changes to the earth’s climate and ecosystems.”
To put the proposed EPA budget and staffing figures in perspective, the Environmental Integrity Project assembled this web page, based on EPA records and Trump’s budget blueprint. To examine an official internal EPA document from March that details proposed cuts, click here. To read a National Association of Clean Air Agencies report on the proposed Trump EPA budget cut proposals from May 23, click here.
Size of Budget:
Although some Congressional Republicans claim that EPA needs to be cut back because it has grown out of control, federal records show that the agency’s budget (now $8.1 billion) has been about the same for the last decade and a half, with the George W. Bush Administration budgeting $8.1 billion for EPA in fiscal years 2002 and 2003 and $8.4 billion in 2004. The proposed FY2018 budget of $5.7 billion will be the lowest budget in over two decades.
After adjusting for inflation, Trump’s proposal for 2018 would cut EPA’s budget 33% below last year’s spending levels and 44% below the average in President George W. Bush’s two terms.
The number of employees working at EPA has already been cut 16 percent since 1999, when the full-time employment ceiling reached its high point of 18,366 employees during the Clinton Administration. President Obama trimmed the EPA workforce (see note on chart below) by nearly 11 percent, more than any other president, bringing it from 17,252 employees in fiscal year 2009 down to 15,376 in FY 2016. President George W. Bush cut EPA’s workforce by 4 percent. President Trump’s budget proposes reducing the EPA workforce by 3,200 employees, or 21 percent.
The Trump Administration’s March 1 budget proposal for EPA included an 11 percent cut for civil enforcement, from $171 million annually to $153 million. Cuts to enforcement will not only likely increase the amount of pollution released into the environment, but also harm public health.
Since 2000, EPA’s civil and criminal enforcement efforts have reduced a total of 16 billion pounds of air and water pollution and brought in nearly $6.8 billion in civil and criminal penalties, almost $140 billion worth of pollution reduction investments, and over $8 billion in other environmental projects, according to EPA annual civil and criminal enforcement reports.
In 2016, for example, civil enforcement by the agency was responsible for $13.7 billion in environmental projects and injunctive relief, as well as $1.4 billion in civil penalties. Criminal enforcement last year brought $207 million in restitution and fines, and $775,000 in court-ordered environmental projects.
Superfund Site Cleanup:
The White House budget also proposes cutting the Superfund budget by $423 million, or nearly 57 percent, which could also slow or halt the EPA-mandated cleanup by industries of scores of contaminated toxic waste sites across the U.S., potentially slowing economic redevelopment. Since 2000, EPA’s Superfund program has secured commitments from private companies to invest $23 billion in the cleanup and monitoring of contaminated sites, according to EPA reports.
For a detailed map and information about Superfund sites in your state, visit this EPA page. Map below from EPA website, with purple squares marking privately-owned contaminated sites and red circles indicating federal land.
Climate Change Programs:
Trump’s proposed budget would also eliminate all funding for climate change programs and implementation of the Obama Administration’s rules for restricting for carbon dioxide from power plants, also known as the “Clean Power Plan.” The Administration also wants to end all spending for international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts—cuts worth a combined $100 million.
Following up on his budget proposal, President Trump on March 28, surrounded by coal miners and industry executives at a press conference, signed an executive order at EPA headquarters that ordered the agency to revoke the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, end a moratorium on leases for coal mining on federal lands, and disband the government’s Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases.
“The Trump Administration claims current science is too uncertain to support action against
climate change, but then cuts scientific research at EPA (and other federal agencies) that could provide
an even more robust understanding of the problem and its world-changing consequences,” the former EPA officials in the Environmental Protection Network wrote in their budget analysis.
The Trump budget proposal cuts nearly in half EPA’s already spare funding for the Office of Science and Development, which provides facts and analysis needed to make sound
decisions about public health and environmental protection, according to the Environmental Protection Network.
Cuts to States and Other EPA Programs:
Although the Trump administration claims that it wants to shift responsibilities back to the states, the White House’s proposed budget cuts nearly in half the grants that support state agencies, which are central to implementing the state programs, according to the Environmental Protection Network (EPN). The budget proposal for a 45 percent cut to grants to states, tribes and local governments to support their implementation of clean air, water and other programs. “The 45 percent overall cut in state grants would effectively cripple most state environmental agencies,” the EPN report says. “State environmental agencies are the first line of defense against air, water and waste pollution affecting their residents.”
Proposed budget reduces the number of regional offices from 10 to eight, hurting EPA’s ability to assist partner states. “Together with the proposals for draconian staff and budget cuts, regional office consolidation would throw EPA into turmoil, making it extremely difficult if not impossible to get its remaining work done,” the EPN report says. EPA is to identify by June 15 two regional offices
In other parts of the Trump Administration’s proposed budget, the White House is planning to slash funding for the EPA Office of Research and Development by almost half, from $483 million per year to $250 million. Completely eliminated would be funding for almost 50 other programs, including Energy Star (which encourages fuel-efficiency in consumer goods); EPA’s endocrine disruptor screening program and assistance to Alaska Native Villages and communities on the U.S. border with Mexico.