A Lens on Trump’s Proposed Budget: The EPA and a Depleted Earth

In his $1.1 trillion proposed budget for 2018 discretionary spending, Trump slashed funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), by $2.6 billion.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

“A Lens on Trump’s Proposed Budget” is a series of articles highlighting the potential impacts of President Donald Trump’s 2018 proposed budget entitled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” The purpose of the series is to provide quantitative and qualitative facts as the proposed budget enters the budget approval process with Congress.

“We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.” That is what President Donald J. Trump said in October 2015 as a presidential candidate in response to a question by Fox News reporter Christopher Wallace. “It” was the environment, and Trump espoused his belief that the environment and the economy cannot simultaneously flourish.

Since ascending to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump has tried to make good on his plan to only leave “a little bit” of government funds to the environment. In his $1.1 trillion proposed budget for 2018 discretionary spending, Trump slashed funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by $2.6 billion. That is one-third of the agency’s current allotment.

The EPA’s stated mission is to protect human health and the environment. To accomplish that mission, the EPA performs a number of tasks, including creating and enforcing corporate regulations, issuing grants to state and local institutions for environmental programs, conducting studies, and publishing scientific findings that are used by non-profits, politicians, science organizations, and other entities to inform actions, priorities, and policy decisions.

Trump’s proposed budget includes direction to eliminate EPA funding to specific programs such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a protector of the largest body of surface fresh water in the world. The Great Lakes are 21 percent of the Earth’s surface fresh water and 84 percent for North America in particular. Trump justified the cut with the following statement in the budget: “The Budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to State and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities.” The steep decline in EPA funding would also result in eliminating 3,200 EPA jobs.

A bipartisan collective of 63 Congressmen sent a letter to the chairman of the Interior and Environmental Subcommittee requesting that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative be fully funded at the $300 million dollar level for the 2018 fiscal year.

In addition to trying to defund the Initiative for 2018, Trump recently signed an executive order that would take away $50 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative’s current budget in order to help pay for a new $2.6 billion wall between the United States and Mexico.

Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI) took exception to Trump’s executive order. “President Trump continues to attack our way of life in Michigan by cutting Great Lakes protection efforts. It is outrageous that the President has not only proposed eliminating the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative next year, but now wants to immediately cut from the program this year to pay for a border wall. These Great Lakes protection efforts, supported by both Democrats and Republicans, combat invasive species like Asian Carp and protect our freshwater from pollution. We cannot put our Great Lakes in jeopardy – our jobs, our livelihood and our way of life are at stake. I will fight these cuts by the President in every way that I can,” said Kildee in a statement.

Water quality in Michigan has been a national concern since the Flint water crisis became a mainstream media focus in 2015.  In order to save money, Flint authorities switched to the polluted Flint River in 2014 as the public water source instead of continuing the relationship with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department that provided water from Lake Huron. The result was mass lead poisoning and an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease.

“The people of Flint have been subjected to unprecedented harm and hardship, much of it caused by structural and systemic discrimination and racism that have corroded your city, your institutions, and your water pipes, for generations,” reads a report by a Michigan government-appointed civil rights commission.

The $100 million recently awarded to Flint from the EPA to upgrade water infrastructure was the result of a measure signed into law by Obama in 2016. Trump-appointed EPA head Scott Pruitt — a climate change denier who has sued the EPA 13 times over the years — has stated that the federal government is committed to improving Flint’s water infrastructure.

The Trump administration is also committed to rolling back climate change initiatives from the Obama era. The proposed slimmed down EPA budget, combined with Trump’s executive orders, would mean the end of the U.S.’ climate change research and international climate change efforts like the Clean Power Plan and the historic Paris Climate Agreement.

“With this Executive Order, President Trump has chosen to recklessly bury his head in the sand. Walking away from the Clean Power Plan and other climate initiatives, including critical resiliency projects is not just irresponsible — it’s irrational. Today’s executive order calls into question America’s credibility and our commitment to tackling the greatest environmental challenge of our lifetime,” noted Sen Tom Carper (D-DE).

With little to no federal environmental protections from corporations, no climate change research funding, and no dollars going towards clean power initiatives, the U.S. will be ill-prepared to combat an increased number of extreme weather conditions, clean water scarcity, and other ravages of climate change that disproportionately impact vulnerable low-income and people of color communities.

Trump has already advanced the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipeline projects. Additionally, the lack of focus on climate change resiliency will hamper the U.S.’ ability to proportionally contribute to national and international efforts providing food and clean water for the 9 billion human global population scientists project for 2050.

Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.