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March Madness: Trump Proposes 31% Cut to EPA and Big Cuts to Climate Change Programs

By: Jeff Masters 4:01 PM GMT on March 16, 2017

President Trump’s first proposed budget was released on Thursday, and recommends maddening cuts to programs and agencies responsible for ensuring the health of Americans and for understanding and combating climate change. Among larger U.S. agencies, the biggest cuts come to the EPA, which would see its $8.1 billion budget slashed by over 31%, and layoffs hitting about 3,200 of the agency’s 15,000 workers. This would be the biggest cut in EPA since the 35% reduction that the agency endured in 1981, the first year of the Reagan presidency. The EPA’s budget peaked in 2010, at $10.3 billion. The proposed EPA budget eliminates funding for the Clean Power Plan—America’s chief effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement—and cuts international climate change programs, climate change research, and partnership programs, at a savings of over $100 million. Other cuts include:

$330 million to the Superfund toxic clean-up program (30% cut)
$129 million cut to enforcement efforts (24% cut)
$233 million cut to research and development (47% cut)
$300 million cut to Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (100% cut)
$73 million cut to Chesapeake Bay restoration (100% cut)
Energy Star energy efficiency program (100% cut)

Figure 1. The proposed cuts to the EPA do not reflect public sentiment; Americans support the EPA’s efforts to protect clean air, clean water, and the environment. A January 2017 poll by Reuters found that 39 percent of Americans would like to see the EPA "strengthened or expanded," 22 percent wanted it to "remain the same," and just 19 percent said they would like to see the agency "weakened or eliminated.” The rest said they "don't know." Image credit: John Mashey, desmogblog.com.

NASA climate science and education receive a major hit
NASA climate change and education programs have significant proposed cuts. Total elimination of the $115 million Office of Eduction was proposed, which includes camps and enrichment programs, internships and scholarships for young scientists, and support for women and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. NASA’s Earth-science budget received a $102 million cut—5 percent of the program’s annual budget, including money for four satellites intended to study climate change:

PACE, intended to better understand how aerosol particles and clouds influence climate change
Orbiting Carbon ­Observatory (OCO-3)
Deep Space Climate Observatory, which will no longer use its Earth-facing cameras to monitor ozone, deforestation, and weather
CLARREO Pathfinder, which measures heat in Earth’s atmosphere

State Department cuts target Paris Climate Agreement promises
A significant commitment was made by the U.S. as part of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord: a $3 billion contribution to the Green Climate Fund, which assists developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change. Obama already sent $1 billion of this promised amount, but Trump’s budget cuts the other $2 billion. Other nations may significantly scale back their commitments to cut greenhouse gas emission after seeing the U.S. renege on its Paris Climate Agreement promises.

Department of Energy sees clean energy cuts
Trump is proposing a 5.6 percent cut to the Department of Energy, including a sharp 17.9 percent cut to core energy and science programs intended to accelerate the transition to new clean energy technologies.

NOAA weather programs escape the ax
The proposed budget for NOAA does not have major cuts to weather programs, although grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education—including Sea Grant, which helps coastal communities adapt to a climate change—are entirely eliminated. Here is what the proposed budget had to say about NOAA:

• Zeroes out over $250 million in targeted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant, which primarily benefit industry and state and local stakeholders. These programs are a lower priority than core functions maintained in the budget such as surveys, charting, and fisheries management.

• Maintains the development of NOAA’s current generation of polar orbiting and geostationary weather satellites, allowing the Joint Polar Satellite System and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite programs to remain on schedule in order to provide forecasters with critical weather data to help protect life and property.

• Achieves annual savings from NOAA’s Polar Follow On satellite program from the current program of record by better rejecting [sic.] the actual risk of a gap in polar satellite coverage, and provides additional opportunities to improve robustness of the low earth orbit satellite architecture by expanding the utilization of commercially provided data to improve weather models.

• Maintains National Weather Service forecasting capabilities by investing more than $1 billion while continuing to promote efficient and effective operations.

Trump to drop climate change from environmental reviews, source says, March 14 Bloomberg article

The EPA Used to Tweet About the Environment. Now It Just Tweets About Scott Pruitt, March 14 article from Mother Jones, that says “The EPA hasn't mentioned climate change once since Trump became president.”

Group of 17 Republicans sign US House resolution to fight climate change, March 14 Reuters article

Trump’s war on EPA regulations will kill jobs and a lot of people: Clean air and water standards create jobs, spur innovation, and save lives (January 25 post by Joe Romm of ThinkProgress.)

A Lesson Trump and the E.P.A. Should Heed, March 7, 2017 editorial by Reagan’s head of the EPA, William D. Ruckelshaus.

Take action!
At at time when we should be dramatically increasing our funding and commitment to combating and researching climate change, President Trump’s proposed budget moves us sharply in the opposite direction. In May, the White House will provide more specific line-by-line detail on the proposed cuts, and then it will be up to Congress to decide the final numbers. If you’re not in the 19% of Americans who believe EPA should have their budget cut, I encourage you to contact your House Representative and Senators to let them know that you want to see EPA’s budget held the same or increased.

Contact your House Representative
Contact your Senator

Jeff Masters

Climate Change Politics

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.