Trump Administration OMB Proposal Zeros Out Brownfields and 37 Other EPA Programs
Washington Post breaks OMB plan that seemingly puts new EPA chief at odds with potential budget cuts to popular (and essential) state and local support programs
Last night the Washington Post reported it had reviewed a detailed White House plan prepared by OMB that would reduce the EPA staff by one-fifth in the first year and eliminate dozens of programs, including the brownfield grant program. The funding level proposed would drop the agency's allottment from $8.2 billion per year to $6.1 billion and cripple many EPA functions. EPA staff would be cut from its current level of 15,000 to 12,000—down already from more than 18,000 employees at the start of the Obama administration in 2008.
Grants to states, as well as air and water programs, would be cut by 30 percent. The Chesapeake Bay cleanup project would receive only $5 million in the next fiscal year, down from its current $73 million.
In addition, 38 separate programs would be eliminated entirely. Grants to clean up brownfields would be zeroed out along with the radon program, climate change initiatives and certain funding for Alaskan native villages the agency’s Office of Research and Development could lose up to 42 percent of its budget.
The Post could not get EPA to comment on the budget proposal, but noted its new administrator, Scott Pruitt, cautioned this week that the particulars of the budget remain in flux:
“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 after Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday. He added that he had already spoken with OMB Director Mick Mulvaney about the EPA funding.
“What’s important for us is to educate OMB on what the priorities of the agency are, from water infrastructure to Superfund, providing some of those tangible benefits to our citizens,” he said, “while at the same time making sure that we reallocate, re-prioritize in our agency to do regulatory reform to get back within the bounds of Congress.” Read more about Pruitt's EPA Pivot.
Any cuts would have to go through a congressional appropriations process and is highly likely to face stiff, bipartisan resistance from lawmakers. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a former chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on interior, environment and related agencies, told the Post he did not think Congress would approve such a steep drop in funding. Given the relatively small funding levels, long history or bipartisan support and terrific return on public investment, Mr. Simpson seems to speak for the consensus regarding these locally targeted and catalytic funds. These important pass through infrastructure programs are some of the things EPA does extraordinarily well. Even amidst the rankor of the political season, the last Congress was ready to raise funding levels for the brownfield program with bipartisan proposals put forth seperately in both chambers.
“There’s not that much in the EPA, for crying out loud,” he said, noting that Congress had already reduced the agency’s budget dramatically in recent years.
For their small size, the impacts of these marginal investments are enourmously outsized—returning orders of magnitude. Equally effective replacements would presumably hard to design and implement. So without these catalytic programs, it would be seemingly much more difficult to manifest real, markable progress towards President Trump's mandate to rebuild and renew America.
Update 03/02/17 2:15PM: The Washington Post reports that EPA Chief Pruitt told mayors from around the country at a meeting this morning of the U.S. Conference of Mayors that he intends to defend the Superfund and Brownfields programs. "Superfund is an area that is absolutely essential,” Pruitt said. “The brownfields program, as well.” “It’s a tremendous success,” Pruitt remarked in agreement with a mayor speaking to the long, history of success stories, urging the mayors to send him details of where the program has worked best. “I want to hear from you about those successes. I want to be able to share those with the White House. … We need stories. We need illustrations about how important the brownfields program is to creating jobs and the environmental benefits that have been achieved.”
Pruitt also again confirned this morning that he intends to advocate for water infrastructure funding as part of a broader infrastructure push by the Trump administration.
See also the preceding BL blog: New EPA Chief Pruitt Pledges to Defend Billions in Grants to States
See also this more recent blog:
You might also like: