May 1, 2017
On March 16, the White House released its proposed fiscal year 2018 budget outline entitled “A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” The outline includes a substantial reduction to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) fiscal year 2017 budget of $8.1 billion according to an April 7, 2017 Mondaq report.
The proposal cuts nearly 31% in EPA’s funding, reducing its resources dedicated to enforcement and compliance, and implementation of environmental laws through regulations to just $5.7 billion. The agency has not witnessed such a diminished budget since the early 1990s. Thus, the reduced funding will have significant impacts on current national, state, and local environmental programs.
What the Proposed Budget Outline Says
To make the nearly $2.4 billion reduction in funding from the FY 2017 budget, the outline proposes sweeping cuts across several major agency programs, including the elimination of entire programs:
- Cuts $100 million earmarked in the FY 2017 budget for (1) EPA’s support of the Clean Power Plan, (2) the Global Climate Change Initiative, the U.S.’s contributions to the United Nations Green Climate Fund, and the U.S.’s participation in other international climate change partnership programs, and (3) climate change research.
- Eliminates $427 million in funding for specific regional, multistate programs such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay water cleanup program.
- Removes $347 million from the budget by cutting more than 50 other existing programs such as the Energy Star efficiency labeling program, Endocrine Disrupter Screening Program, Targeted Air Shed Grants, and programs aimed at providing infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages.
The budget outline further proposes decreased funding to regulatory and enforcement programs, grants to states, and internal EPA sections, including:
- Reduces funding to the Office of Research and Development and the agency’s participation in providing Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants from $483 million in FY 2017 to $250 million (STAR grants are awarded to non-EPA scientists to conduct research that compliments the agency’s work.)
- Shrinks funding for enforcement from $548 million in FY 2017 to $419 million (the proposed budget allocates funding to the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, which investigates violations of environmental laws, but the potential to reorganize this office, including eliminating it and combining its responsibilities with other programs, has been hinted at by the White House and EPA.)
- Decreases funding to the Superfund cleanup program, pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), from $1.1 billion in FY 2017 to $762 million.
- Lessens funding provided to states in the form of categorical grants intended to help states implement various air, water, waste, pesticides, and toxic substances programs from $1.1 billion in FY 2017 to $597 million.
What the Proposed Budget Outline Means
There is no doubt that the proposed budget reflects the views of the White House and the promises made by the President during his campaign to deprioritize certain EPA programs and to reduce regulations. However, as history shows us, just like those before it, the White House’s budget proposal is exactly that—a proposal. It is a starting point down a long road of negotiation.