Trump budget slashes money of clean air and water programs

The Flint, Michigan, water crisis was perhaps the most high-profile example of the social inequalities tied to environmental issues.

According to documents (pdf) obtained and released late last week by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, Trump's budget would reduce funding for those toxic clean-ups by almost a third, while spending for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program to restore such sites would be cut by about 36 percent.

ORD has no regulatory authority, but it conducts the bulk of the research that underlies EPA policies. Lawyers have said challenging that scientific finding could be time consuming and legally complex.

Now, as President Trump is about to propose his first budget since his election, the preliminary signs are alarming.

A number of lawmakers, including several Republicans, have raised alarms about the size of the EPA cuts.

The Trump administration continues not to prioritize the urgency behind climate change: President Donald Trump has called it a Chinese hoax, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has publicly questioned the science behind it. Trump released his proposed 2018 budget to the public yesterday (May 23), and it severely cuts programs dedicated to climate change.

"Do we target it?"

"But more than eight years later, it has failed to finalize deadlines to ensure that Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia have reduced ozone pollution to healthy levels", the Center said in a May 3 press release. Does it mean that we are anti-science? "This administration says we can and we will achieve both a healthy environment and a growing economy".

Much of the EPA's climate research takes place in the Office of Air and Radiation, which is separate from ORD.

Timmons Roberts, environmental studies professor at Brown University, said if the budget is passed, Rhode Island won't be able to avoid the negative effects of climate change.

Ebell cited the slow pace of key EPA appointments, including deputy administrator and various assistant administrators, a lack of experienced personnel at the White House, deep ideological divisions between the president's close advisers, and an "imperfect choice" of EPA administrator, as the main reasons Trump was not acting more aggressively on climate rules. "I'm really concerned that Pruitt will make quick deals with companies, and they will be superficial and inadequate cleanups", she said.

The U.S. EPA has agreed to a request that it reconsider a rule that set federal limits on the levels of toxic metals that can be discharged from power plants. The EPA would get $5.655 billion in funding for fiscal 2018, which is about $2.6 billion less than fiscal 2017.

The budget states the ORD reductions would allow the EPA to "focus on core Agency responsibilities ..." It would be the lowest funding for these programs since the 1970s. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt dismissed half of the scientists on its Board of Scientific Counselors earlier this month.

All told, Trump is generous with the Defense budget, giving it a boost of $52 billion, while drastically cutting non-military domestic spending (by $57 billion), which includes the tiny portion of the federal budget that goes to fighting climate change. This administration's philosophy seems to be "if you don't measure it, you don't have to be held accountable for it".

The EPA's Bowman did not say when the buyouts would start or how many employees they were targeting in the current buyout program.

For those young people who may feel inspired to seek political office themselves, Torres provides these words of encouragement: "The lesson from 2016 is that millennials are more powerful than we realize - it was the only ray of hope in an otherwise dark election year".

  • Zachary Reyes