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Trump’s Vision for a More Dangerous and Polluted Future

Feb 13, 2020

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President Trump’s 2021 budget envisions a world where polluters have free rein, the government ignores the threats of climate-related disasters and financial instability, and public lands and parks are exploited by entrenched industries rather than used and enjoyed by the American people. Meanwhile, Americans are seeing the changing climate with their own eyes and are suffering the consequences of pollution where they live and work. Yet this Administration has no climate policy, no environmental policy beyond reckless deregulation, and no long-term plan for protecting our natural lands and resources – just a dangerous and willful ignorance of the consequences of inaction. This ignorance is reflected in the President’s budget and its failure to be pragmatic and clear-eyed about the environmental and economic challenges – and opportunities – we face.

Demonstrates a blatant disregard for clean air, clean water, and the health of Americans — The President’s budget cuts the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by $2.4 billion, or 26 percent, and threatens to drain the agency of its scientific, environmental, and economic expertise. It ignores the public health consequences of air and water pollution and abandons states and tribes in their efforts to protect people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, from PFAS contamination, asthma-inducing smog, and other toxic substances. Specific cuts include:

  • State Revolving Funds – A 28 percent cut (nearly $800 million) to funding that protects our nation’s water resources by partnering with states to build and improve safe drinking water and wastewater treatment infrastructure.
  • Categorical grants – A 44 percent cut ($471 million) to grants that help states and tribes meet clean water and pollution control requirements under federal law.
  • Geographic programs – The President eliminates nearly all activities to address environmental challenges in specific regions, except for the Great Lakes and South Florida.
  • Clean air programs – A 35 percent cut to activities that reduce hazardous air pollutants and improve air quality, hindering future regulatory development and eliminating voluntary climate-related partnership programs.
  • Air and Energy Research Program – A 65 percent cut to critical scientific research on how climate change, air quality, and the energy system are connected.
  • Hazardous Substance Superfund – A 9 percent cut to EPA’s program for cleaning up some of the nation’s most contaminated toxic waste sites and responding to environmental emergencies.

The Administration proposes these drastic cuts as it dismantles the protections that keep our air and water clean and safe – protections that have historically produced approximately $9 in benefits for every $1 in costs.

Abandons natural resource conservation and preservation — The President’s budget eliminates nearly all Land and Water Conservation Fund discretionary spending through the Interior Department and the Forest Service. This cut vividly illustrates the Administration’s contempt for conservation and preservation of natural resources for public use and future generations. It would cease nearly all federal land acquisition for parks and other protected land and eliminate the three major conservation partnership grants through the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service. While the budget does fund wildland fire management and proposes a new Public Lands Infrastructure Fund to help address deferred maintenance and recapitalization needs, it eliminates other programs such as the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund and the National Wildlife Refuge Fund. The President’s budget also cuts U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) ecosystem research and National Park Service natural and historic preservation partnerships. Further, the UDSA budget reduces conservation programs by $9 billion over ten years, hindering sustainability and long-term productivity on private agricultural lands.

Ignores the scientific facts of climate change — The President’s budget reduces total federal research and development (R&D) funding by $14 billion from the 2020 enacted level and targets environmental and earth science with debilitating cuts. Our changing climate poses an increasing threat to homes and infrastructure, public health and safety, economic and agricultural productivity, and our military assets and national security. But the President’s budget hamstrings efforts that would help us to not only better understand these changes, but prepare for the impacts we’re already experiencing. It reduces support for NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research by 40 percent. It cuts USGS funding by 24 percent overall, while cutting 64 percent from its Climate Adaptation Science Centers, which support climate-smart land-use decisions and adaptive management planning. It cuts NASA’s Earth Science program by 10 percent and terminates two NASA missions that would improve ocean and climate monitoring capabilities. And it reduces the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Biological and Environmental Research by 31 percent, including for advanced research and computational modeling of Earth’s interconnected systems.

Opposes clean energy innovation while favoring fossil fuel special interests — The budget cuts energy programs in half, exposing the Administration’s disdain for clean energy innovation. It dramatically reduces DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) by nearly three-quarters ($2.1 billion) – crippling U.S. innovation in solar, wind, electric vehicle, and other technologies that are driving economic competitiveness and job creation while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, EERE’s R&D investments to date have provided an estimated annual return on investment of more than 20 percent, compared to what the private sector would have done on its own.

The budget also eliminates the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), which supports high-risk, high-reward energy research. It eliminates DOE’s loan programs for innovative energy technologies and advanced vehicle manufacturing. And it proposes the repeal of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and electric vehicle tax credits worth $16 billion over 10 years. In contrast, the budget cuts fossil fuel R&D by just 3 percent and actually preserves tax expenditures for the oil, gas, and coal industries – established industries with the capital to invest on their own.

Fails to prepare for the impacts of climate change on communities and infrastructure — The budget does not consider climate change in its economic projections, an irrational miscalculation considering the cost of major weather and climate disasters alone has reached more than $150 billion annually. Investments in resilience and pre-disaster mitigation save the nation up to $11 for every $1 spent, depending on the type of program, but the budget underinvests in these programs. For example, despite last year’s extensive and severe flooding, the budget cuts non-fee funding for FEMA’s Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program by 62 percent, slowing efforts to map waterways, assess flood risks, and provide data for the National Flood Insurance Program. It cuts the Army Corps of Engineers by 22 percent, leading to fewer flood mitigation projects. And it completely eliminates USDA watershed and flood prevention programs.

Conclusion

To achieve its arbitrary reduction to non-defense discretionary funding, the President’s budget employs destructive and irrational cuts to programs that protect our air and water, conserve our natural resources, and treat climate change as the looming crisis that it is. These cuts would only lead to more pollution, unsafe drinking water, diminished national parks and public lands, and an ever more destructive climate. Congressional Democrats will not allow this budget – and the bleak and dangerous future it represents – to become reality.

Additional Reports on the President's Budget