Energy & Environment

Trump budget slashes EPA funding, environmental programs

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President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal 2021 calls for significant reductions to environmental programs at federal agencies, including a 26 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Trump’s budget would eliminate 50 EPA programs and impose massive cuts to research and development, while also nixing money for the Energy Star rating system. The Energy Star program, which measures the efficiency of electronics and appliances, would instead rely on businesses to pay a fee to participate in the program.

The proposed spending reductions mark the latest effort by the administration to chip away at government agencies focused on science, the environment and public lands. The White House budget request would reduce spending at the Energy Department by 8 percent and cut 16 percent from the Department of the Interior’s budget.

Trump has consistently proposed cutting funding for those agencies, and Congress has routinely ignored the president’s budget request by instead increasing funding.

“Congress should toss this Trump budget into the dustbin of history like they’ve done with the other ones,” former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who served during the Obama administration and is now head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

“This president is putting our families and communities at risk by taking direct aim at the environment, public health and energy innovation. It is unconscionable to take such drastic cuts to EPA, the Energy Department and other agencies that keep us safe, protect our kids and grow our clean energy economy,” she added. “At a time when we’re only seeing greater risks from climate change, these agencies deserve to be fully funded by Congress.”

At the EPA, the Trump budget would cut the Superfund program, tasked with cleaning up hazardous waste sites, by 10 percent, despite data showing the agency has the largest backlog of toxic waste cleanups in 15 years.

The budget also would cut research and development funding at the EPA nearly in half, lowering funding from $500 million to $281 million.

The administration wrote in a budget summary that “research grants to non-federal entities such as universities, are not required to meet EPA’s statutory obligations and therefore would not be funded.”

The proposal would cut funding for a number of waterway protection projects in blue states like Maryland, New York and Washington. Projects in swing states like the Great Lakes region and Florida’s Everglades would be fully funded.

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Among the 50 programs targeted by the administration are ones that help fight pollution, radon, lead, as well as those that give clean water grants to small and disadvantaged communities.

Even with the massive cut to its budget, EPA said the funding “maintains the Administration’s focus on EPA’s core mission — providing Americans with clean air, land and water, and ensuring chemical safety, while targeting emerging domestic and global environmental challenges.”

The budget would cap the agency at roughly 12,500 employees, the lowest level since 1986 and a large drop from 17,000 just a decade ago. 

Within the Department of Energy, Trump again proposed eliminating the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which researches energy technology. It would shift some aspects of the program to other parts of the government. 

“The elimination would enable a streamlining of Federal activities and ensures more focus on early-stage R&D, where the Federal role is strongest, and reflects the private sector’s role in commercializing technologies,” the administration said in its justification. 

It also aims to reduce funding for energy research and development programs by nearly half, from about $5.3 billion to $2.8 billion. The administration said the proposal would “focus federal activities on early-stage R&D” and rely on the private sector for later state research and development. 

House Republicans, however, have recently emphasized the role of innovation in their proposals to tackle climate change. 

The Interior Department’s budget would cut funding for major agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, which would lose about $144 million in funding, the Fish and Wildlife Service, which would lose about $265 million in funds and the National Park Service, which would lose about $581 million in funds compared to the 2020 budget passed by Congress, according to the Interior Department’s current budget authority. 

The administration has also proposed slashing funds for federal land acquisition for the Interior and Agriculture departments from $227 million to just $18 million, a 92 percent cut, saying that the government should focus on maintaining its existing lands rather than “acquiring additional lands that the federal government cannot afford to maintain.” 

The proposed budget would also slash the recently reauthorized Land and Water Conservation Fund by nearly 97 percent. 

The Interior Department’s budget would also provide for the development of both fossil fuels and renewable energy on public lands, although in certain areas the budget provides greater funding for fossil fuel sources.

For example, the budget proposal would provide $195.5 million for the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas activities, $18.9 million for its coal management program and $29.5 million for its geothermal resources, wind and solar energy projects on public lands, and rights-of-way applications. 

“We are responding to the demand in the marketplace and reality is there just a lot more interest in our historical programs, in oil, gas and coal,” said Scott Cameron, the Interior Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, on a press call.

Trump, in his budget message, stressed his administration’s commitment to “regulation relief.”

“After only 3 years, my administration has cut a historic number of regulations, and we have put the brakes on an endless assault of new, costly actions by federal agencies,” the message said, adding that, in the past, the government has “abused its authority to go after businesses.”

The President’s budget excludes funding for the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, keeping a promise the White House made Thursday that reverses Trump’s three-year effort to reignite construction of the controversial project. 

—Updated at 5:05 p.m.

Tags Budget Donald Trump Energy Star Gina McCarthy Superfund
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