Trump’s Budget Would Mean Less Money for Clean Air and Water, More Money for War

by Ryan Schleeter

March 30, 2017

The White House draft budget would cut funding for the EPA by 31 percent and give it to the Department of Defense, not taxpayers.

Explosive Water from Fracking in Pennsylvania

Sherrie Vargson ignites the water coming out of her kitchen faucet in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Her tap water is contaminated with methane from nearby fracking.

© Les Stone / Greenpeace

Earlier this week, Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to reverse or re-examine most of President Obama’s hallmark climate legislation. The order is nothing short of a gift to the fossil fuel CEOs who put Trump in office, one the American people will have to pay for.

From the growing climate movement to the unstoppable momentum behind clean energy markets, there are numerous obstacles in Trump’s path if he wants to keep the ailing fossil fuel industry alive. But there’s one particularly glaring challenge Trump created for himself — his own budget.

The White House’s budget proposal — yet to be approved by Congress — would cut the EPA’s funding by 31 percent, making it difficult for the agency to carry out the president’s own environmental orders. It would give the bulk of that money to the Defense Department to pay for “more warships and fighter jets.”

Beyond getting in the way of Trump’s own plans to destroy the climate, passing this budget would have devastating effects on environmental health for millions of Americans. Here’s what’s at stake if the Trump administration manages to gut the EPA.

1. The Air We Breathe

Ironically, the Trump administration claims it is “refocusing” the EPA on protecting on clean air and water when what it is actually doing is slashing funding for clean air and water programs.

Trump’s budget significantly undermines Clean Air Act programs that have been effective in reducing cases of heart and lung disease, asthma, and respiratory symptoms across the country. In the past 45 years, EPA efforts under the Clean Air Act have reduced emissions of six harmful air pollutants by 70 percent — Trump is slashing funding from nearly every one of these programs.

That will, quite literally, make America sick again and dramatically increase the costs of healthcare for millions of people. At least we still have the Affordable Care Act?

2. The Water We Drink

Trump’s budget reduces EPA funding to fight water pollution to levels not seen since multiple U.S. rivers caught fire and Lake Erie was declared “dead” due to pollution and toxic algal blooms.

It dramatically cuts Clean Water Act programs that combat drinking water pollution, and would make it virtually impossible for many states to meet health-based drinking water standards. That’s especially dangerous at a time when the best available science tells us those standards actually need to be stricter. Coupled with his decision to repeal an Obama-era rule that prevented coal companies from dumping waste into rivers and streams, it’s unclear who Trump had in mind when he vowed he would “promote clean air and water.”

At a time when the crisis in Flint, Michigan is finally waking people up to the challenges still in front of us to provide clean drinking water to all Americans, crippling the EPA’s clean water programs is the last thing we need.

3. Environmental Justice

The White House’s budget would completely eliminate the EPA’s environmental justice office. Plain and simple — that’s environmental racism. Low-income communities of color overwhelmingly bare the impacts of pollution and climate change and will be hit the hardest if we don’t accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.

In fact, the prejudice was so blatant it caused caused 24-year EPA veteran and head of the EPA’s environmental justice program Mustafa Ali to resign in protest. Ali’s parting words for Trump and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt were blunt (and on point):

“When I took a look at some of the proposals for rolling back regulations that have played a significant role in helping to protect the environment and public health of our most vulnerable communities, I just couldn’t be a part of that.”

4. Science and Scientists

Trump’s budget calls for the elimination of almost all of the EPA’s climate programs, including completely defunding federal climate research. It also cuts funding for the Office of Science and Development — which addresses climate change as well as broader environmental health — in half.

For those of you keeping score, that means the Trump administration is claiming current science is “too uncertain” to support climate action (reminder: it isn’t) and allowing taxpayer money to pay for charades like yesterday’s House “Science” Committee debate, all while cutting funding for climate science at the EPA.

The White House already has a tenuous relationship with facts; this might seal the break up.

Don’t Let Congress Gut the EPA

Trump’s budget would still have to be approved by Congress, and from the responses we’ve seen so far, that looks like it will be an uphill battle. But if we’ve learned anything in the last three months, it’s that Congress won’t act unless you do.

Fight back for clear air, clean water, and environmental justice — tell Congress to protect EPA funding today!

Ryan Schleeter

By Ryan Schleeter

Ryan Schleeter is a content editor with the communications team at Greenpeace International. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Grist, GreenBiz, EcoWatch, and more. Find him on Twitter @ryschlee.

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