The White House's proposed fiscal year 2020 budget, released on Monday, would reduce the Environmental Protection Agency's spending by 31 percent, following proposed budget cuts of 23 percent for fiscal year 2019 and 31 percent for fiscal year 2018. The Trump administration's attempted deep cuts have had historically minimal impact on the agency's budget: In 2019, the agency received $8.1 billion in funding, $2.2 billion higher than what the administration had proposed. However, these cuts offer further evidence of the Trump administration's lack of concern for federal environmental protection.
According to the budget, "EPA will continue streamlining programs and processes, eliminating many voluntary and lower-priority activities, and empowering States and Tribes as the primary implementers of environmental programs."
These "voluntary and lower-priority activities" include the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, for which the budget proposes cutting $270 million of $300 million in federal funding to restore wetlands and improve water quality in the Great Lakes region, the Detroit Free Press reports. Among other reductions, the administration would also decrease funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant program, which provides money to retrofit or replace diesel-powered vehicles with cleaner models, from $87 million to $10 million; reduce chemical safety and sustainability research spending by over $40 million; and slash 90 percent of funding for the Atmospheric Protection Program, the EPA's mandatory greenhouse gas reporting program, E&E News reports.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler called this a "commonsense budget proposal," while advocacy groups like the Environmental Working Group and the Environmental Defense Fund were quick to criticize this latest example of what they view as the Trump administration's apathy toward the environment.
"In the face of a nationwide drinking water contamination crisis, a broken chemical safety net, and devastating hurricanes and wildfires, a rational and concerned president would seek more funding to protect Americans' health, keep our environment clean, and combat the threat of catastrophic climate change," EWG President Ken Cook said in a press release.
EDF Senior Vice President Elizabeth Gore pointed to the potentially disastrous implications of such a limited budget: "more asthma attacks, more heart problems, and more air pollution."
The proposed EPA budget, combined with a 70 percent decrease in funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, is leading critics to assess President Donald Trump's underlying motivations.
"The administration's budget proposal reflects the president's top priority: Appease his hard-right base and the fossil fuel and chemical industries that have infiltrated the top positions at the EPA," Cook said.