Politics & Government

Trump proposes budget to hobble the EPA

In this Feb. 21, 2017, file photo, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks in Washington. President Donald Trump is proposing to cut a third of the EPA’s funding.
In this Feb. 21, 2017, file photo, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks in Washington. President Donald Trump is proposing to cut a third of the EPA’s funding. AP

President Donald Trump wants to decimate the Environmental Protection Agency with a budget that would hobble federal programs to safeguard air and water.

Trump’s budget proposal released Thursday would slash more than a third of EPA’s funding. Polluter enforcement would be reduced and communities would lose federal help in cleaning up contaminated sites.

Some 3,200 jobs would be cut – representing 20 percent of the agency’s workforce.

Fifty EPA programs would be eliminated entirely, including a grant that helps states and cities fight air pollution.

The EPA cuts go far beyond levels that have been sought by Republican appropriators in Congress and there is already pushback from members of the president’s own party.

But, even though the deep cuts are highly unlikely to survive, the proposal demonstrates Trump’s contempt for an agency that he accuses of overreaching regulations.

“It’s an absolute travesty for California and every state or community that thought they had a true partner in the federal government,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., chairman of the House subcommittee that handles the EPA’s budget, did not embrace Trump’s proposal to butcher the agency. He’s previously proposed a much more modest cut of 6 percent with a freeze in the workforce size.

Calvert said he wants more details from Trump about his proposal.

“In our system of government, Congress holds the power of the purse and we will be working with the president to find savings as well as fund programs vital to our nation,” Calvert said.

In California Trump’s budget would eliminate grants to improve air quality around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and in the agricultural heartland of California’s Central Valley.

Around the country, water quality programs in the San Francisco Bay, Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and possibly the Puget Sound would come to an end.

The budget also acts on the president’s rejection of the scientific consensus that humans are causing the planet to warm. It would eliminate funding for EPA climate change programs and the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution pumped into the atmosphere.

Trump’s proposal would slash more than 40 percent in grants to states to help them with clean air and water, toxic substances and pesticides. A program that helps local communities clean up contaminated sites would also see a severe reduction in federal funding.

“The budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities,” Trump’s budget blueprint says.

The result is that states like North Carolina would have to raise taxes if they want enforcement of federal environmental laws, said Molly Diggins, North Carolina director for the Sierra Club.

“North Carolina's environmental protection programs and enforcement depend heavily on federal funding. State air and water quality, beach and estuary protection, and waste management programs rely on millions in federal dollars each year,” Diggins said.

Trump’s budget cuts would also mean a $4.8 million hit in North Carolina to weatherization programs for low income families, according to an analysis from the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Craig Kenworthy, executive director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, said the cuts would be devastating for air quality enforcement in Washington state.

“It’s going to mean more air pollution, higher health care costs and ultimately more dead people,” he said.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., praised Trump’s cuts.

“We’re going to take all this stuff that comes out of the EPA that’s brainwashing our kids, that is propaganda,” said Inhofe, who denies that human activity is causing the planet to warm, on CNN.

But other Republicans recoiled at the size of Trump’s cuts. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Trump is going too far in targeting water and wastewater programs important for health and safety.

“We need to remember that these programs are not the primary drivers of our debt, and to look at the full budget to find the best ways to reduce federal spending,” said Murkowski, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee that sets the funding for federal agencies.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, objected to Trump’s plan to end funding for restoration of the Great Lakes.

“The Great Lakes are an invaluable resource to Ohio,” Portman said.

Sean Cockerham: 202-383-6016, @seancockerham