The severe, real-world casualties of Trump's EPA budget cuts

Elgie Holstein

The Trump White House is proposing to decimate funding for federal environmental protection programs – including safeguards for some of our most vulnerable citizens – crippling the agency charged with keeping America’s air and water safe.

The federal budget, normally a snoozer with thousands of pages full of tiny print and numbers, is suddenly a lightning rod for policymakers and citizens who are waking up to what’s at stake.

The Trump administration wants to hobble the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, leaving only, as the president put it, “little tidbits.” The specifics, contained in internal documents that leaked this week, are startling.

Climate change programs - gone

First, the budget stops all work on President Obama’s landmark Clean Power Plan, which would impose the first-ever limits on carbon emissions from old, coal-fired power plants.

All funding is also stripped for collection of methane emissions data from the oil and gas industry, despite the harm methane does as a highly potent greenhouse gas.

For good measure, the Trump budget plan would then eliminate the EPA’s Global Climate Change Research Program, created in 1990 to coordinate climate research by 13 federal organizations.

On EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s watch, the president wants to cut the agency’s $8 billion budget by an unprecedented 25 percent and slash its 15,000-member workforce by 20 percent. This at an agency that already operates with one of the smallest budgets in the federal government after facing a series of cuts since 2011.

Funding for toxic cleanup – gone

Hundreds of thousands of sites in cities and towns nationwide are polluted by industrial waste containing dangerous chemicals and radioactive waste. The president’s budget proposal would eliminate cleanup funding for communities that count on federal funding to restore such land for redevelopment and new jobs, and to keep their citizens safe.

The president also wants to make deep cuts in EPA’s long-running program that provides funding for local air monitoring – work that lets families and schools know when high pollution levels are dangerous for kids with asthma and for senior citizens. 

And as the Flint water crisis continues to make national news, he would take the budget ax to EPA’s essential work in providing funding for local wastewater treatment facilities, and for infrastructure and testing to assure safe drinking water for communities.

Support for vulnerable Americans - gone

President Trump, who has said that all children deserve equal opportunity, apparently sees no need to help communities most vulnerable to pollution and our changing climate. So far, the following have also been eliminated from his EPA budget:

  • Support for Alaska native villages that are sinking because of climate change
  • Diesel emissions reduction program
  • Environmental education
  • Environmental justice grants and grants to small minority businesses
  • Protection of the iconic waters of Lake Champlain, Long Island Sound, San Francisco Bay and South Florida
  • Grants to states to combat indoor radon

An assault of this scale on the nation’s premier environmental watchdog would be disastrous.

We will know a couple of weeks from now, when the president submits his final budget to Congress, just how extensive the attack on the EPA will be. But what we know so far gives us no illusions.

President Trump is not looking out for Americans or for the environment of our great country.

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