The core mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is protecting human health and the environment. Budget cuts proposed every year of the Trump administration are putting that mission in grave danger despite statements to the contrary from the EPA. The proposed 2021 budget has a recommended 26% decrease in funding. Happy Birthday EPA!
Pollution is an obvious health risk and in 1970 the new EPA was created to clean up and safeguard our natural environment in order to protect people’s health as well as the physical environment. It is easy to understand that air quality affects breathing related illnesses like asthma and water quality affects pathogen related illnesses as well as hazards from hard metals like lead in the water. A clean environment is a healthy environment. We are seeing anecdotal reports from around the world that the quarantines and economic slowdowns caused by the response to the pandemic are having a positive impact on environmental quality. Certainly in a time of pandemic, keeping a clean environment would pay major dividends.
Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, is the Director of the EPA. When appearing before a congressional committee this year about the proposed budget he said,
We are focused on the core mission of our agency so we can continue to protect the land, the air, the water, and we believe we can do that with the budget we requested. The Hill, 2/27/20
Congressional representatives, including Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), were not impressed by Wheeler’s defense.
Some of the most significant proposed rollbacks on environmental protections are at odds with the scientific record. The Hill 2/27/20
Representatives said the budget seems to fly in the face of scientific recommendations from EPA’s own Science Advisory Board.
The President has proposed a 2021 EPA budget with the following changes:
The easiest way to understand the impact of these cuts is to see the EPA’s own analysis over time.
FY 2021 EPA Budget In Brief (https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-02/documents/fy-2021-epa-bib.pdf)
The Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental protection advocacy group, assessed the current year budget. What jumps out is that many programs, especially categorical grants that are based at the state and local level, are either being drastically cut or eliminated. This mirrors the EPA 2021 goal of “more effective partnerships.” President Trump today made it clear that the states are to procure their own medical supplies during the pandemic and that it is not the responsibility of the federal government to be their “shipping clerk” (3/19/20 11am EDST corona virus press briefing). His EPA budget reflects what the administration calls “leveraging” resources from states and local governments and the private sector. Treating units of government like businesses, competing for the lowest bid is not good for the environment.
The Interior Department is responsible for most of the natural lands management as well as the National Parks Service and all National lands. They often work with EPA on land management and recovery issues. This department is proposing big cuts as well.
Cut National Parks Service by $581 million
Cut Land and Water Conservation Fund by 97% - money from offshore oil and gas leases is used to support national parks and wildlife refuges.
This is part of a regulatory relief effort to enable the private sector to access natural resources more easily.
Trump proposed similar drastic budget cuts last year and was rebuffed by Congress. Given the changing circumstances with corona virus, it is more important than ever to maintain our environment and to pay attention to the budget process so as not to lose these necessary budget funds.