President Proposes Dramatic Cuts to EPA

Published April 3, 2017

President Donald Trump is calling for far-reaching cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget, including eliminating EPA’s global-warming programs.

In keeping with Trump’s campaign pledge to rein in federal regulations, the White House Office of Management & Budget’s (OMB) federal budget blueprint proposes substantial cuts in EPA’s budget.

Under the OMB plan put forward in early March, EPA’s budget would decline from $8.2 billion in 2017 to $6.1 billion in 2018, a 26 percent decrease. EPA’s 15,000-person workforce would be trimmed by 20 percent, falling to 12,000, a level not seen since the mid-1980s. The staffing reductions would occur through buyouts and layoffs.

The EPA cuts reflect the new administration’s priorities, the blueprint states.

“The administration’s 2018 budget blueprint will prioritize rebuilding the military and making critical investments in the nation’s security,” the administration said in the OMB document. “It will also identify the savings and efficiencies needed to keep the nation on a responsible fiscal path.”

‘Tradeoffs and Choices’

Underscoring the importance of the shift in priorities, the budget blueprint states the proposed funding level for EPA “highlights the tradeoffs and choices inherent in pursuing these goals.”

A host of longstanding EPA programs are on the chopping block. The budget targets 38 programs for elimination, including all climate-change initiatives.

Among those programs that would be cut are the Alaska Native Villages Beach and Fish programs, brownfields projects, Energy Star grants, endocrine-disrupter grants under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, environmental justice programs, 14 separate Climate Voluntary Partnership programs, multipurpose radon grants from the Office of Public Engagement and Environmental Education, Star Research grants for small minority-owned businesses, the U.S. Global Change Research program, and regional environmental clean-up and restoration programs focusing on Lake Champlain, Long Island Sound, San Francisco Bay, and South Florida waterways. EPA’s Office of Research and Development would receive a 42 percent cut in its budget.

In a move indicating the administration is serious about slashing overall discretionary spending, OMB informed all heads of departments and agencies if they object to specific cuts the White House is proposing and want to keep certain programs intact, they must find ways to offset the costs of retaining them, including eliminating or paring back other programs.

OMB’s blueprint is a proposal, and Congress, through the appropriations process, will ultimately set EPA’s funding levels.

Focusing on Core Mission

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says the budget plan would refocus EPA’s efforts on its core mission.

“Senior EPA officials insist—in cartoonish, tone-deaf fashion—they need more money, because the agency is so big,” Horner said. “This is an agency that repeatedly misses statutory deadlines it dislikes and spends a fortune on ideological hobbies and axe-grinding.

“The first step toward returning EPA to its core mission and respecting the taxpayers who fund it and then are punished by EPA’s self-serving power grabs is rightsizing its budget,” Horner said.

Calls for Greater Accountability

James Taylor, president of the Spark of Freedom Foundation, says EPA has traded science for activism.

“Congress and the Trump administration should ensure EPA money is spent on sound science and commonsense environmental policies,” said Taylor. “Instead of writing endless checks for EPA to waste on agenda-driven, jobs-killing programs, Congress would be wise to require transparency and accountability regarding all of EPA’s spending and enforcement actions.

“If EPA is truly concerned about global warming, it should work to facilitate hydraulic fracturing and natural gas production,” Taylor said. “Natural gas is a low-emissions power source that EPA continues to target with impediments to production.”

Taylor says the EPA budget should be dependent on assurances the agency’s regulations will not unduly harm the economy.

“EPA also has a history of presenting far-fetched environmental claims that kill economy-growing projects like the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska,” said Taylor. “EPA funding should be given with assurances it cease operating as the ‘Environmental Extremism Agency.'” 

Bonner R. Cohen ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.