To some, the current White House administration seems out to get the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The first blow was the appointment of an anti-EPA advocate at the helm of the agency. Now, the administration is proposing a budget plan that significantly cuts the EPA’s funding.
According to The Washington Post, The White House’s proposed 2018 fiscal plan prioritizes defense spending at the expense of discretionary funds for programs that are more likely to affect the day-to-day lives of Americans. “The administration’s 2018 budget blueprint will prioritize rebuilding the military and making critical investments in the nation’s security,” the document reads. “It will also identify the savings and efficiencies needed to keep the nation on a responsible fiscal path.”
Part of those saving will be found in the government’s spending on basic science, which will drop by 10.5 percent compared to recent years, reports Science. According to someone familiar with the administration’s plans, the EPA’s Office of Research and Development could lose up to 42 percent of its budget as well. This would trickle down into the grants the EPA gives out to states, as well as its air and water programs, with potential funding decreases of 30 percent. The agency itself would be downsized, with the current staff of 15,000 people slashed to about 12,000, and the annual budget dropped from $8.2 billion to $6.1 billion.
“This budget is a fantasy if the administration believes it will preserve EPA’s mission to protect public health,” former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy told The Washington Post. “It ignores the need to invest in science and to implement the law,” she continued. “It ignores the lessons of history that led to EPA’s creation 46 years ago. And it ignores the American people calling for its continued support.”
This won’t come as a surprise to many. The new administration has not shown through its actions that it sees protecting the environment as a priority, and President Trump himself once described climate change as a “Chinese hoax.” Clearly, the EPA is being relegated to the status of low priority. “Basically, the direction is to reduce enforcement, which is already pretty strained,” said Eric Shaeffer, former head of the EPA’s Office of Regulatory Enforcement.
But the environment does need protecting. Climate change is no hoax. The scientific community has been one in reiterating this, and recently, the business sector emphasized the importance of fighting climate change as well. However, everything seems to be falling on deaf ears at the White House.
Surprisingly, EPA head Scott Pruitt says he is worried by the looming budget cuts. “I am concerned about the grants that have been targeted, especially around water infrastructure, and those very important state revolving funds,” Pruitt told E&E News. It isn’t clear, however, what Pruitt meant when he said he will make sure “that we reallocate, re-prioritize in our agency to do regulatory reform to get back within the bounds of Congress.” Does this include existing programs that fight climate change? It’s hard to know how he plans to run an agency he has sued more than a dozen times in the past.
While Congress isn’t obliged to follow the budget proposal from the White House, there isn’t any certainty that these cuts won’t be implemented. Until then, we keep our fingers crossed and be thankful that several states have taken up the challenge of fighting climate chance through efforts to seriously reduce their carbon footprint.