Trump Budget's Devastating Effect on the EPA and Two of America's Greatest Water Resources

President Trump's budget for 2018 has the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency take the steepest hit—31 percent. Funding for two vital programs, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Chesapeake Bay Program, will have their funds eliminated.
March 20, 2017, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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[Updated March 21, 2017] To fund a $52 billion increase in defense spending, President Trump's budget will greatly reduce discretionary domestic spending. No agency will suffer a greater percentage drop than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: a loss of $2.6 billion from current levels, reports The New York Times on March 16. 

The budget calls for the elimination of about 3,200 staff positions — over 20 percent of the department.

Among the other departments to see their budgets reduced:

"The Trump administration has proposed eliminating U.S. EPA cleanup initiatives for the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes, but it would maintain funding for the agency's drinking water infrastructure programs," reports Ariel Wittenberg for E&E News.

"The budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to the State and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities," the administration's budget request says.

Chesapeake Bay Program

"Trump's budget would slash funds for Chesapeake Bay cleanup from $73 million a year to $0," reports Dave Mayfield for the 
The Virginian-Pilot.

A preliminary budget called for leaving $5 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional program convened in1983 to restore the Bay and its watershed by the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania; the mayor of the District of Columbia; and the administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency under President Ronald Reagan (per Wikipedia).

Administration officials defended the budget proposal, saying it addresses Americans’ concerns about a government that has grown too large, inefficient and intrusive.

Will Baker, president of the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, "called federal funding the 'linchpin to all of the state and local efforts' and said it has acted as 'an accelerator to other funds for saving the bay and improving the water quality in the rivers and streams that feed it'," adds Mayfield.

Great Lakes Initiative Restoration

Trump's budget zeroes out the $300 million EPA budget for this program, convened in 2010 under the EPA under President Obama "to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world — the Great Lakes," according to the program's website.

The program enjoys bipartisan support. “It makes sense for us to continue to make prudent investments in protecting and improving the Great Lakes,” Gov. Scott Walker, Republican of Wisconsin, told the Associated Press. "The Great Lakes are an invaluable resource to Ohio, and The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been a successful public-private partnership that helps protect both our environment and our economy," stated Sen. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, in a press release.

Cutting the funding would have repercussions with our northern neighbor, reports Dan Levin for The New York Times, which contributes $10 million annually to the project.

The budget proposal...has dismayed the Canadian government, which cooperates with the United States to clean up and protect the Great Lakes. The lakes are the source of drinking water for 45 million people — including 10 million in Ontario, about 90 percent of its population. Ontario has the largest shoreline on the Great Lakes of any jurisdiction in Canada and the United States.

Drinking water and wastewater infrastructure

"The Trump budget does propose maintaining EPA's drinking water infrastructure programs," reports E&E's Wittenberg. "The budget requests $20 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan program — the same amount provided by the 2017 continuing resolution."

The WIFIA program has been compared to the popular Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Program.

Other similar programs did not fare as well.

The Department of Agriculture's water and wastewater loan and grant program would be zeroed out to save $498 million from current levels.

Cutting the aforementioned programs would be "a bloodbath budget," said Erik D. Olson, director of the health and environment programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "He said the cumulative effect of cutting programs like USDA's loan program, the Great Lakes initiative and enforcement would be devastating."

The president's budget is a considered a blueprint as Congress has the final word. The Associated Press explains the budget-making process in greater detail. If the president and Republican majority in Congress do not come to an agreement, a government shutdown is possible. An extension of current government spending is needed by April 29 to avoid a partial shutdown.

[Updated to correct the amount cut from the budget of the Department of Transportation.]

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, March 16, 2017 in E&E News [Subscription]
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