In a new budget proposal introduced this week, the Trump administration announced its intent to cut the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency budget by more than a fourth.
The 2021 budget requests $6.7 billion for the EPA, a 26% decrease from the money allocated for the agency for 2020.
The lean proposal would guide the EPA to operate under the strictest interpretation of national environmental statues, leaving many functions of oversight and inspection in the hands of oftentimes weaker state environmental regulations.
“For 50 years, EPA employees and our many partners have worked together to fulfill the agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment. Today, Americans enjoy cleaner land, air and water than ever before,” said EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement. “Under President Trump’s leadership, I am certain that we will inspire the next generation of environmental leaders to continue building on our progress for the next 50 years.”
Most of the cuts to the EPA budget would come from a major reduction in grants available to states. The funds available to states and tribes would be less than a third of what was made available in the previous budget.
The administration said its request would also eliminate 50 programs outside of what it interprets as the EPA’s core mission and other programs that are “duplicative of other efforts.” The White House said the cuts would save taxpayers over $600 million.
The 2021 budget would also introduce the implementation of voluntary “user fees” levied on facilities to fund the programs that oversee them.
The administration said its budget “prioritizes innovative action to address priority environmental issues” like lead contamination, PFAS and harmful algal blooms.
The Trump administration’s lead efforts are a continuation of a 2004 review of the Lead and Copper rule and largely follow the principles outlined in a 2016 EPA report.
The EPA’s 2019 “PFAS Action Plan” seeks to review potentially hazardous manmade chemicals known as PFAS, with the ultimate goal of assessing the necessity and appropriateness of a national maximum contaminant level for the chemicals.
So far, the only federal regulation to attempt to protect the public from the chemical is a non-enforceable health advisory of 70 ppb in drinking water for PFOA and PFOS, two chemicals in the PFAS family.
The Trump administration’s action to address harmful algal blooms is the reauthorization of a 1998 bill, the Harmful Algae and Hypoxia Research and Control Act. The bipartisan bill was amended to include freshwater bodies and signed into law in January 2019.
The budget proposal will now begin to make its way through the legislative process. Past attempts by the Trump administration to drastically reduce the money allotted to the EPA have failed and been mostly replaced by modest budget decreases.