What Does a 31% Cut to EPA Budget Mean for Environmental Managers?


by | Mar 16, 2017

emissionsPresident Donald Trump’s proposed budget, which he will release today, would mean less environmental oversight and fewer environmental regulations for companies. This is according to reports that the spending plan calls for reducing the EPA’s budget by almost a third and cutting about 20 percent of the agency’s staff.

The EPA would see the deepest cuts of any federal agency: the Trump administration wants to cut $2.6 billion from the EPA’s budget, shrinking it to $5.7 billion, down from $8.3 billion under the Obama administration. The New York Times reports this would bring the EPA’s budget to its lowest level in 40 years, adjusted for inflation.

“Basically, the direction is to reduce enforcement, which is already pretty strained,” said Eric Shaeffer, head of the Environmental Integrity Project, an advocacy group, and a former head of the EPA’s Office of Regulatory Enforcement told the Washington Post.

The spending plan would eliminate about 3,200 employees from the agency’s 15,000-member staff. The White House says this move will help shift the EPA’s focus back to its “core legal requirements” of safeguarding air and water, Bloomberg reports, quoting Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney.

“The president wants a smaller EPA. He thinks they overreach,” Mulvaney said. “You can’t drain the swamp and leave all the people in it.”

More than 50 environmental programs would be eliminate under the proposed budget, including the Energy Star initiative. Regional environmental work in areas including the Great Lakes and industrial waste-clean up through the Superfund program would also take a hit — although as The Hill reports, Congress is likely to approve higher levels of spending for some environmental programs.

The Superfund program, for instance, is popular with members, and region-specific cuts will draw objections for members who represent those areas.

The plan would also axe funding for the Chemical Safety Board, which investigates accidents at refineries and other industrial sites.

“Indeed, the budget expressly intends to give EPA a secondary role in supporting state and tribal environmental protection efforts, rather than the primary role it has played for the last 40 years,” said attorney James Rubin, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney who previously worked in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the US Department of Justice. “It is unclear whether even the Republican House and Senate have appetite for such wholesale changes in focus and responsibility, but the Administration has certainly presented its vision of a far more limited federal agency.”

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt told E&E News that he was concerned about some of the proposed cuts and had already spoken with OMB Director Mick Mulvaney about the agency’s funding.

“I am concerned about the grants that have been targeted, especially around water infrastructure, and those very important state revolving funds,” Pruitt said. “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, 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.”

Environmental regulations in the Trump era will be a topic of discussion at the Environmental Leader 2017 Conference, June 5-7, in Denver. Join Martha Rudolph, director of environmental programs, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and John Jacus, partner, Davis, Graham & Stubbs, as they discuss this shift in environmental policy and how it affects your business.

View here for a complete description of this session taking place Tuesday, June 6. Visit here to view the complete agenda for the conference. 

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