WASHINGTON, March 16, 2017 – The “skinny budget” proposal released today by the Trump administration would put the Environmental Protection Agency on a crash diet.
EPA would see its funding cut by $2.6 billion, or 31 percent, and its workforce by 3,200, or about 21 percent for the 2018 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Funding for more than 50 programs would be eliminated, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay program, which focus on reducing pollution from runoff and other sources in those watersheds.
“The budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities,” the blueprint says. Although the vast majority of federal agencies – including USDA – would see their budgets reduced under the Trump proposal, EPA would be hit the hardest.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which performs thousands of wetlands determinations annually under the Clean Water Act’s Section 404 program, would see its budget cut to $5 billion, from $6 billion, under the administration proposal.
Trump’s plan would significantly reduce funding for EPA “categorical grants” to states, from about $1 billion to $597 million. Under that program, states receive grants to reduce nonpoint source pollution, implement pesticide programs and enforce pesticide regulations – among other things.
That proposed funding level “eliminates or substantially reduces federal investment in state environmental activities that go beyond EPA’s statutory requirements,” the blueprint says.
The blueprint does not mention funding for the Office of Pesticide Programs, which registers active ingredients for agricultural use.
Environmental groups criticized the budget proposal in a conference call with reporters, saying that although the administration wants to give the states the primary role in implementing environmental laws, it does not want to provide the money to help them do it.
“You’re moving more authority back to those entities but you’re not increasing the funding going to them so they can do that work efficiently,” said Vernice Miller-Travis, former acting chair of the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities.
The 62-page blueprint – which contains at least eight blank pages – is short on specifics. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities noted that abbreviated budget proposals submitted by previous incoming administrations were all at least twice that length and included many more details.
“The Trump budget includes only estimates for fiscal 2018 and only for its proposed changes to discretionary programs (those funded through the annual appropriations process) – even though discretionary programs make up less than one-third of the federal budget,” CBPP said.
The proposal would eliminate funding for the Clean Power Plan, a regulatory scheme requiring states to adopt programs to reduce carbon pollution from coal- and gas-fired power plants. The Supreme Court has stayed implementation of the CPP while its legality is being considered by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to release a decision soon.
The environmentalists who spoke today said the proposal is just the first step in what is likely to be a long process.
“This is the opening salvo in what will be a months-long, defining battle,” said David Goldston, director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He said the debate will not just be about the budget but about “what services Americans get from their government.”
For more news, go to www.Agri-Pulse.com.