Friday, March 3, 2017

Trump's budget likely to propose deep cuts to the EPA

Here is one of the items from yesterday’s TrumpBeat from FiveThirtyEight. TrumpBeat: Follow The Money If You Want To Know What Trump Will Do

Environment: Cutting jobs at the EPA

Here’s the bottom line: “Basically, it is going to be hard to target the EPA for significant downsizing and maintain popular anti-pollution programs. And even if those programs do take a big hit, the added cash won’t make much difference to the Pentagon’s budget. This is another example of the administration’s ongoing difficulty with making promises that conflict with other promises.”

Continue reading to learn the details.

Word on the street this week: Trump’s proposed budget will include a 25 percent cut to the EPA, which would include eliminating at least 3,000 jobs there. None of this has been confirmed by the administration (natch), and some congressional Republicans are already pushing back, but it’s worth taking a look at what those so-far-hypothetical numbers would mean — especially given the president’s shoutout to protecting America’s air and water quality during his address to Congress on Tuesday.

First off, the EPA’s budget is already tiny in comparison to those of other federal agencies. Its cost of operations in 2016 was about $8.7 billion. In contrast, the estimated 2016 budget for the Department of Agriculture was $164 billion, the State Department got $29.5 billion, and NASA got $19 billion. Put another way, everything the EPA spent last year amounts to about 1.5 percent of the budget for the Department of Defense, the agency President Trump is hoping to further fund through cuts to EPA and other agencies. So giving 25 percent of the EPA’s budget to the Department of Defense would increase the latter’s budget by less than half of 1 percent.

Meanwhile, the largest chunk of EPA spending — 46 percent, or nearly $4 billion — goes to assistance agreements for states and Native American tribes. These are grants that fund locally directed environmental projects — exactly the kind of locals-know-best work that new agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has long talked of supporting. The second-biggest budgetary item for the EPA: environmental programs and management, i.e., enforcement, education and other programs that are directly tied to maintaining clean air and water. Those take up another $2.7 billion. Those two categories alone account for more than 75 percent of the money the EPA spends. What’s left over? Mostly, it’s money for Superfund sites, leaking underground storage tank remediation, and the science and technological research that assists the agency in getting all these other jobs done. The EPA has already cut 20 percent from its budget since 2011. “You really want to be sure you are not cutting the meat and muscle with the fat,” Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma told the trade publication Inside EPA on Tuesday.

The short of it is: if it ain’t military, it’s on the block.

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