Proposed Budget Cuts to EPA Offer Questionable Benefits

ruhr-area-882265_640What do President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mean? Reduced oversight? Increased chance of toxic and hazardous materials accidents? Premature return of Superfund sites to the community before hazardous waste cleanup has been completed? How can this possibly be beneficial to American businesses when it would be so obviously detrimental to the American people? Business has a long history of reluctance to ensure safety without regulatory oversight. Cuts to EPA programs will mean cuts to worker safety and heightened risk.

In the Trump administration’s preview of the White House’s 2018 budget request to Congress, Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) funding would be cut by $2.6 billion, or 31 percent – the largest proposed reduction for any federal agency.

The Budget states: “The President’s 2018 Budget requests $5.7 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, a savings of $2.6 billion, or 31 percent, from the 2017 annualized CR level.” Savings? That doesn’t sound like a budget cut. Yet that statement is in stark contrast to how the Budget treats the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) budget directly following. In this instance the document states “The President’s 2018 Budget requests $19.1 billion for NASA, a 0.8 percent decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level, with targeted increases consistent with the President’s priorities.” Why aren’t NASA’s cuts considered a savings?

Further, some 3,200 EPA employees will be laid off to accommodate the budget cuts. So much for President Trump’s promises about creating jobs. Not happening here. 3,200 jobs are not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly is for the ones who will be fired.

The greatest impact of the EPA’s budget cuts is that many programs will be eliminated because the Budget claims that existing State environmental rules and programs already perform the same activities. That’s a rather broad statement. California may well have similar or more restrictive rules, but many states do not, nor can they afford to implement such rules. As a result, the budget cuts effectively eliminate EPA rules and oversight for those states. Further, State regulations typically supplement Federal ones, and do not repeat requirements. In reality, this Budget might cause more problems than it solves.

What the Budget emphatically states is that funding will be discontinued for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts. It claims to deliver $100 million in savings, yet these programs are designed to deliver future savings across a broad spectrum from reduced health impact to reduced dependence on fossil fuels. The “savings” appear to be a myopic approach that disregards long-term benefits.

The Budget provides Congress and the public with “a view of the president’s priorities.” Fortunately, because Congress writes the final budget, there are no guarantees that all the cuts will be approved.

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