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Environment Takes the Biggest Hit in Trump’s Budget Blueprint

EPA budget slashed by 31 percent, funding for key climate change programs scuttled

Donald Trump’s first budget blueprint, released today, hits the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal climate change programs and initiatives the hardest while rewarding extractive industries and polluters.

photo of Great LakesPhoto by Joel DindaTrump's budget blueprint slashes funding for the EPA and eliminates funding for programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has helped address pollution in the Great Lake system, including Lake Michigan (pictured).

The $54 billion in cuts to federal programs in the president’s Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again slashes the EPA’s annual spending by more than 31 percent; cuts $250 million that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA) spends on grants and programs that support coastal and marine management, research, and education; and ceases payments to the United Nations' climate change programs such as the Green Climate Fund and Climate Investment Fund.

The EPA budget will slip from $8.2 billion to $5.6 billion — lower than it’s been in four decades. Proposed cuts include the scuttling of more than 50 EPA programs and the elimination of 3,200 staff positions (over 20 percent of the department).

The blueprint also envisions ending funding for President Obama's signature Clean Power Plan aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions; cutting $900 million from the Energy Department’s Office of Science, which has funded cutting-edge research on projects such as biofuels, nuclear power, and other advanced techniques for energy generation, storage, and use; and eliminating $102 million in funding for NASA’s earth science program (which would terminate four missions related to climate change).

According to Legal Planet, cut EPA programs include Energy Star, Targeted Airshed Grants, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, and infrastructure support for Native villages in Alaska that are rapidly losing land due to climate change. Funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay clean-up, and other "regional efforts" would also be axed. Most of the cuts come as no surprise to the environmental community given the new administration's pro-industry stance and the fact that Trump had spoken about gutting the EPA in the past.

The cuts also hit the 60-year-old State Department Food for Peace Program, which sends food to poor countries hit by war or natural disasters, and the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which funds popular programs like Meals on Wheels.

"I think it’s fundamentally a signal from this president that the US is going to back away from all of the international architecture that’s been created to respond to climate change," Andrew Light, senior fellow with the World Resource Institute's Global Climate Program (and a professor at George Mason University), told EIJ this morning.

"It’s going to mean the many different program that were created in the last 8 years to help other countries reduce emissions… the US is not going to be supporting those again…. And of course there’s the signal it sends, which is that the world’s largest emitter doesn’t think it has any responsibility.... I think that there might be other countries in the world in which this could ignite a debate over whether they should be as committed as they were in the run up to Paris to make their own commitments to reduce emission."

Trump’s first budget blueprint also features substantial increases in spending for the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement, and school choice. The Defense Department would see an increase of about 10 percent and the Department of Homeland Security’s budget will go up by about 6 percent.

The budget, known as a "skinny budget," is limited to the discretionary, $1 trillion portion of the $4 trillion annual federal budget. The remainder of the Trump administration budget, which would include proposals on taxes, mandatory spending and deficits and projections on the economy, won't come out until May.

As The New York Times reported yesterday, Democrats are unlikely to support the cuts, and if enough Republicans oppose it, it’s possible that it could lead to a government shutdown when the 2018 budget year begins October 1.

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