Back in February, the White House released its proposed budget for 2018. Among other things, the President’s budget sought to cut EPA’s budget by $2.5 billion, or over 23 percent. Targets of the proposed cuts included: climate change programs, state radon protection programs, water-system improvements along the U.S.-Mexico border, state and tribal assistance grants that provide for the monitoring of toxic substances and inspecting of brownfields, as well as staff reductions.
These proposed cuts were not unexpected. Last year, the administration proposed cuts to the agency by 30 percent.
Last week, however, Congress rejected the President’s call for cuts to the EPA. Congress’s budget kept EPA’s budget at its current amount of $8 billion. Of that $8 billion, the spending package allocated $3 billion to the agency’s water infrastructure programs and also increased the amount devoted to remediating Superfund sites. In addition, the spending bill denied the White House’s request to cut EPA staff.
While EPA’s overall budget did not get cut, the President’s proposal and ultimate budget signals several things. First, this administration is not relenting in its desire to see the EPA reduced to Reagan-era levels. While the President has some allies on this front, it appears that the majority of Americans are not on board. Given the lack of public support, the GOP could not support the President. It remains a matter of time to see whether public opinion on this will change and support the President, or whether the President’s position on the EPA will change as a result of public opinion.
In addition, given the administration’s desire (and Administrator Pruitt’s backing) to eliminate Obama-era climate change programs from the budget, this strongly signals additional changes in this area. Just this morning, it was widely-reported that the EPA is expected to announce a rejection of mileage standards enacted under President Obama, which would have required automakers to achieve 54.5 mpg fuel economy targets by 2025. This anticipated rollback of fuel mileage standards as well as the budget’s cutting of climate change programs demonstrate the administration’s commitment to industry and forecasts even more changes to come.