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Rough Waters Ahead: The Trump Administration’s EPA Budget Cuts

Posted by: Katherine Eshel on

Tags: Rough Waters Ahead

The Trump administration released a budget proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency in May that included a 31 percent cut to the EPA’s overall budget and deep cuts to essential programs that protect the quality of the nation’s waters.

What impact would the Trump EPA budget, or lesser cuts proposed by Congress, have on the health of America’s waterways? This week, we launch a new report series, Rough Waters Ahead, written with Environment American Research & Policy Center, that tells how the EPA has helped to protect and restore the health of our nation’s great waterways – including the Delaware River Basin, the Great Lakes and Puget Sound – and how the Trump administration’s proposed budget would affect them.

Each of these waterways has made strides since the bad old days of the late 1960s and early 1970s, but each faces continuing pollution threats that put human health and the health of wildlife and ecosystems in jeopardy.

Returning the EPA’s budget to 1970s levels would have disastrous impacts on the agency’s ability to protect our waterways.

President Trump’s cuts would slow efforts to prevent pollution and clean up contamination. Many state and tribal assistance grants are slated to be reduced by 30 percent or more. Some grant programs – such as programs to address nonpoint source pollution from stormwater runoff, farms and other dispersed, and to identify and clean up leaking underground storage tanks that may be leaking oil or other hazardous products into groundwater – would be eliminated. The Trump administration’s budget would also zero out geographic programs to address pollution problems in Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, and other large water bodies.

The EPA’s water programs, which work to reduce runoff pollution, monitor waterways for pollution and protect wetlands and upstream lands, are slated for a 34 percent reduction. The EPA’s resources for pursuing polluters and enforcing water quality protections would also be slashed, with a proposed 24 percent budget cut. Funding for the EPA’s Superfund cleanup program would be reduced by 30 percent, slowing progress on existing cleanup sites and preventing new cleanups from being added. Finally, the EPA’s research and development budget would be cut nearly in half - a larger cut in research and development funding than for any other agency.

If implemented, these cuts would have disastrous impacts on the agency’s ability to deter pollution from industrial facilities, agriculture, sewage treatment plants, stormwater and other sources, while undercutting efforts to restore iconic waterways – putting the health of the American people and the waterways they love at risk.

Budget numbers don’t do justice to the damage the president’s budget would inflict on our waterways. By reviewing the various ways in which specific EPA programs have protected specific waterways around the country, the Rough Waters Ahead reports illustrate what’s at stake as Congress debates EPA funding. Tomorrow on the blog, we’ll highlight one of many examples of the EPA’s central role in protecting our waterways: its efforts to keep acid mine drainage out of the Delaware River watershed.

Swimmers take to the water during the Annual Polar Bear Plunge at Three Tree Point Park in Burien, WA. Puget Sound faces a wide range of threats to its beautiful waters, and depends on a strong EPA for protection and restoration efforts. Photo by Michael Brunk, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.