Lead Poisoning, Oil-Spill Programs Targeted for Cuts at EPA

  • Trump’s plan to cut EPA funding is detailed in staff memo
  • Funding for superfund clean up, criminal enforcement slashed
Photographer: David McNew/Getty Images

The Trump administration is proposing to slash funding for grants to prevent lead poisoning, climate change research and criminal enforcement against polluters as part of its plan to reduce funding at the Environmental Protection Agency by nearly a third.

An internal budget memo released by the American Federation of Government Employees shows President Donald Trump’s plan to eliminate dozens of programs at the EPA and slash many more. The details go beyond what was released by the White House last month as part of its budget proposal, which set an overall 31 percent funding cut, to $5.7 billion.

"This budget puts America and Americans at risk," John J. O’Grady, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, said in a statement. It "threatens the lives and dignity of all Americans, particularly the most vulnerable in our society."

O’Grady emailed the 64-page memo, dated March 21, to reporters Monday.

John Konkus, an EPA spokesman, said the agency could both effectively serve taxpayers and protect the environment.

"While many in Washington insist on greater spending, EPA is focused on greater value and real results," Konkus said. "The EPA will partner with the states to ensure a thoughtful approach is used to maximize every dollar to protect our air, land, and water."

Resistance Seen

The budget plan, which is subject to approval by congressional appropriators, is certain to face bipartisan resistance.

“It’s simply shameful that President Trump continues to put the interests of corporate polluters ahead of the health and safety of New Jersey families,” Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement after attending a rally at an EPA building in his home state Monday.

The document shows how Trump is trying to make good on a promise to reduce the size and scope of the EPA and roll back Obama-era initiatives on climate and other environmental issues.

"The agency’s work will center on our core legal requirements, federal-only and national efforts, providing support to states in implementing environmental laws, and easing regulatory burden," said the memo, which was signed by David A. Bloom, the agency’s acting chief financial officer.

Bloom warned those who received it against leaks: “The untimely release of information is not productive and creates unintended consequences.”

Hundreds and Millions

The document includes a list of more than 200 programs that would face cuts or elimination. It includes a reduction of more than $100 million and more than 200 staff positions for research into climate change and climate protection. The agency also would eliminate programs on indoor radon, radiation protection, coastal waterways and leaking underground storage tanks.

The EPA’s criminal-enforcement program would lose $1.5 million and 34 staff. That move marks a shift toward "supporting states and tribes as the primary enforcers of environmental laws." Also facing budget reductions is the the EPA’s oil-spill prevention program.

"We understand the core missions of EPA are antipollution enforcement and regulation. They appear to be substantially cutting both," Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said in an interview. "How any of this benefits the environment or public health remains unclear."

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