On Wednesday, US President Trump released a draft federal spending budget for 2018. It reads like a Mad Max: Fury Road prequel. The budget outline savagely guts the Environmental Protection Agency, reducing overall spending by 31 per cent and zeroing out key features of the agency, from climate change research to pollution control programs to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. If enacted, the proposed budget cuts would lead to an estimated 3200 jobs lost.
Released Wednesday, Trump’s 2018 discretionary budget outline, titled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again”, shaves off a staggering $US2.6 billion ($3.4 billion) in funds from the EPA’s budget. The proposed cuts are in line with EPA head Scott Pruitt’s promise to cripple the agency’s regulatory powers, but the New York Times reports that even Pruitt’s own budget request was not this harsh. Pruitt, an avowed climate denier, did not take things this far. Let that sink in.
One of the most prominent features of the budget outline is that it discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era set of regulations that sought to reduce power plant carbon pollution by a third by 2030. Pruitt sued to block the bill’s passage before he was brought on to lead the agency, and now seemingly has found a way to enact a “shadow repeal”. While going through the courts for a full repeal could take years, zeroing out the agency’s ability to enforce regulation has the same effect.
The CPP is instrumental in the US living up to its carbon emissions reduction promises under the Paris Agreement, an international accord between 197 countries to transition off fossil fuels this century. Trump is reportedly mulling pulling the US from the agreement entirely. The ones most benefited by abandoning America’s carbon reductions pledges are, no surprise, fossil fuel companies.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Office of Research and Development, where much of the agency’s climate change research is conducted, has its budget cut by $US233 million ($303.7 million). The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which monitors water quality and reduces pollution, is eliminated entirely, as are pollution cleanup programs in the Chesapeake Bay. Same for the Energy Star program, which rates home appliances for energy efficiency, and the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, which tests pesticides and environmental contaimants for carcinogens.
All told, the budget outline proposes that at least 50 programs be cut.
Trump isn’t just slashing the EPA’s budget, he’s organ harvesting it. It’s hard not to notice that the $US2.6 billion ($3.4 billion) in funds cleaved from the EPA’s bank account roughly matches the $US2.6 billion ($3.4 billion) proposed downpayment on Trump’s border wall. More explicitly, the across-the-board cuts outlined in the budget draft are part of his plan to “rebuild” the military, for which Trump is requesting a $US54 billion ($70.4 billion) spending increase.
The budget’s stated goal is “[easing] the burden of unnecessary Federal regulations that impose significant costs for workers and consumers without just able environmental benefits”. But almost no evidence supports Pruitt or Trump’s claims that slashing EPA regulations will save jobs. It’s true that the coal sector has been hit very hard with unemployment, but that’s largely because of automation and competition from other energy sources, namely natural gas. Trump has plans to increase fracking, which will make oil and gas even cheaper alternatives to coal.
The only winners here are the fossil fuel execs who donated thousands in funds to Pruitt.