The Trump Administration proposed significant cuts to the overall EPA budget of 31 percent with a workforce reduction of 21 percent.
EPA’s budget would be cut from $8.2 billion to $5.7 billion. This reflects the ‘back to basics’ goal of EPA administrator Scott Pruitt - returning many of EPA’s functions of to the states. Unfortunately, these cuts would also impact the recycling and sustainable materials management programs at the Agency. The budget also significantly reduces the offices that conduct research and enforcement. The Congress, where budgets begin, have reinstated much of the EPA budget. The draft House 2018 Fiscal Year appropriations bill provides $7.5 billion, a reduction of $528 million below Fiscal Year 2017 and $1.9 billion above the administration’s request. The House version aims to retain the administration’s goals of “reshaping” the EPA workforce and reining in outdated regulations, including the controversial “Waters of the United States” rule.
While many would welcome such cuts as a way to pare back and control EPA’s “overzealousness,” it leaves many of these programs with open-ended projects and unleashes outside groups to independently pursue industries without much of the restraints of a government enforcement agency. For example, when EPA pursues an enforcement action, there are many rules and checks on this power both legal and political. Environmental groups usually remain on the sidelines while these enforcement actions occur. However, if EPA does not take action, an environmental group will bring a citizen suit, media attention, or other strategies against their targets without many restraints. With regard to other programs, EPA’s research programs provide valuable information to protect human health and the environment. An example is the federal research into exposure to crumb rubber used on playing surfaces. In this case, with proper funding, the research should have been completed in a one year timeframe. Instead, with limited funding and the threat of a funding shortfall, such a study cannot be completed in a timely manner providing regulatory certainty to industry, communities, policymakers, parents, and athletes.