A memo detailing how U.S. EPA would cut its budget by one-third shows that the agency would eliminate hundreds of employees working on climate change, including 20 lawyers who provide support for the Clean Power Plan.
Acting Chief Financial Officer David Bloom sent the blueprint to the heads of EPA departments on March 21. They are supposed to provide feedback and explain how they would make the cuts and still fulfill statutory requirements. Acting assistant administrators are meant to certify the budget plan by April 25.
“This resource level will require taking a comprehensive look at our priorities and thinking differently about the best ways to accomplish our core statutory responsibilities,” Bloom wrote.
The proposal lists many programs slated for elimination as duplicative, outside EPA's essential duties or “mature.” It also seeks to fund some programs with more industry fees.
President Trump has proposed halving the budget of EPA's Office of Research and Development. The memo shows that would mean eliminating $19.4 million of EPA's climate change research that is conducted in coordination with the U.S. Global Change Research Program and cutting 47 FTE. It would also mean getting rid of $10.6 million for the Science to Achieve Results grant program, which funds research at universities.
As previously reported, the proposal would eliminate the $69.7 million Climate Protection Program, which houses voluntary partnerships like Energy Star. It would cut 224 FTE from that program.
EPA would eliminate $7.2 million and 11 FTE for environmental education, and $1.8 million and 12 FTE for the Office of Public Engagement. EPA would also cut $2 million and 40 FTE for environmental justice.
In addition, the proposal would move money around at the Office of the General Counsel, nixing lawyers working on the Obama administration's climate standards for power plants, which Trump has moved to gut.
Outside of climate, the budget document attempts to shift responsibility for many federal environmental laws to states. It would cut categorical grants like those for air quality, lead, pesticides enforcement and diesel emissions, resulting in a reduction to $597 million from $1.1 billion.
Bill Becker, head of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents state air regulators, said that taken together, the cuts are dramatic, and states would have trouble footing even more of the bill than they already do.
“Everyone is assuming that Congress will come to the rescue, but the problem is Congress is responding to a budget the administration has proposed, and it's doubtful that they're going to go in blindly,” he said.
He added that Congress has been legitimately criticizing EPA for failing to publish air standard guidance on time, but this budget would make that even harder to accomplish.
The proposal also assumes the agency would see a decrease in new regulatory actions and would cut 24 FTE from EPA's Regulatory, Economic, Management and Analysis program, which evaluates the impact of regulations on business and the economy.
The blueprint directs two EPA departments to look at legislative options for privatizing Energy Star, the energy efficiency labeling program for consumer products. It aims to do something similar for vehicle emissions standards. EPA appears to want to recover the costs of ensuring vehicles meet standards by instituting more fees on industry, which would require action from Congress and likely create a budget shortfall in the meantime.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.