Less than four months into the Trump presidency, a blueprint arrived to the department heads of the Environmental Protection Agency. Close to fulfilling a longstanding campaign promise, the President released a memo detailing how the EPA’s budget would be cut by a third. By April 25th, administrators are supposed to explain how they’ll cope with reduced funding as well as a dwindling workforce.
Overall, the EPA would lose over a quarter of its workforce. The agency’s total numbers of staffers would go from about 15,000 full-time employees to 11,547, with the latter number representing a ceiling.
“This resource level will require taking a comprehensive look at our priorities and thinking differently about the best way to accomplish our core statutory responsibilities,” wrote Acting Chief Financial Officer David Bloom.
“Core statutory responsibilities” have, in essence, been a recurring theme. Before he was even elected, Donald Trump vowed to take a hatchet to the EPA. He, along with the Agency’s new chief, Scott Pruitt, have vocally opposed Obama-era clean air and chemical plant safety regulations.
The official line touted by the Trump administration suggests the EPA needs to return to its roots – regulating emissions and keeping water drinkable. Environmental justice programs have been slashed as have chemical plant rules and safety outreaches.
One proposal on the table which is sure to sit uneasily with liberals is the halving of the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. The memo singles out nearly $20 million in funding for studies on climate change, which are conducted in coordination with the US Global Change Research Program. Scientific American reports an additional $10.6 million, earmarked for the “Science to Achieve Results” grant program, would be funneled away to other federal causes. The program helps universities fund research.
$70 million would be eliminated from the Climate Protection Program; $7.2 million from environmental education outreach; $1.8 million from the Office of Public Engagement; and $2 million from environmental justice initiatives.
The head of the Office of Environmental Justice, Mustafa Ali, resigned last month.
The memo also indicates a shifting in responsibility for environmental regulation from the federal government to individual states. “Categorical grants like those for air quality, lead, pesticides enforcement and diesel emissions” would be shrunk from $1.1 billion to $597 million.
“Everyone is assuming Congress will come to the rescue, but the problem is Congress is responding to a budget the administration has proposed, and it’s doubtful that they’re going to go in blindly,” said Bill Becker, head of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.
The cuts could lead to states which already struggle with environmental and emissions regulation to be unable to foot their bills.