As of this writing, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts USEPA funding by 31% and staff by 20%, the largest proposed cut of any agency or department in the federal government. What would this mean to us in the environmental community? Fewer environmental regulations and reduced enforcement. If the proposed budget is approved (initial budgets are rarely approved as proposed), the USEPA budget would be cut to $5.7 billion, its lowest level in 40 years, adjusted for inflation.
The Trump Administration says the budget cuts would move the USEPA’s focus back to its “core legal requirements” of safeguarding air and water.
The proposed USEPA budget would eliminate over 50 programs, including Energy Star, the Chemical Safety Board, and regional programs that not only clean polluted areas, but also provide job training in under-served areas. There would be major cuts in enforcement of Superfund and the Clean Air Act, promoting greater emissions. A number of governors – even Republicans – seeing other benefits to these programs, have criticized the proposed cuts. Therefore, many believe that Congress will renew and fund some of these programs before the budget is approved.
Philosophically, the new administration wishes to transfer lawmaking and enforcement responsibilities to the states, with the USEPA retaining only a minor support role.
In addition, on March 13, President Trump gave all executive branch agencies, including the USEPA, 180 days to conduct an internal review and to propose reorganization plans to “improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of that agency.” The intention is to recommend and then institute the potential elimination or major paring down of agencies or divisions deemed unnecessary and to merge redundant functions. The criteria for change includes:
• whether some or all of the functions of an agency is even necessary or important to the public, or justified by the public benefits that it provides,
• whether some or all of the functions of an agency would be better left to state or local governments to administer or be unregulated and left to the private sector,
• whether some or all of the functions of one or multiple agencies are redundant,
• the costs of shutting down or merging agencies, components, programs, and terminating staff.
This presidential order includes receiving comment from the public and affected stakeholders through Federal Register Notice.
In addition, a subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee recently heard testimony on how to improve the USEPA’s Clean Air Act and Brownsfield program of CERCLA. The intent of the hearings, according to the Republicans who head the subcommittee, is to determine how updating these environmental rules can result in expanded economic opportunities, infrastructure, and manufacturing.
It is no secret that a broad goal of the new administration is to revise or eliminate environmental laws that are perceived to hurt business growth. A major initial target of this effort is the repeal of the Clean Power Plan of the Obama Administration, which is expected shortly. A simple majority of Congress can repeal rules passed in the waning days of the previous administration. The same may be true of federal rules finalized in January that would increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by model year 2025. Recent studies differ on the cost to auto manufacturers to comply. The new administration cited one study indicating a high cost, while a more recent study accused the first study of overstating the cost of compliance by industry by 40%. (https://www.theicct.org/us-2030-technology-cost-assessment)
Of course, critics and the environmental community have a lot to say about these various proposals, mainly that most environmental laws have public health benefits, such as reduced premature death, reduced hospitalizations, and improved worker productivity that is much greater than the costs of particular industries to pay for the environmental upgrades necessary to comply. For example, the Office of Management and Budget stated that between 2001 and 2011 that the benefits of USEPA regulations far exceeded the actual costs to implement and comply: $141 billion to $691 billion in benefits compared to $42 billion and $66 billion in costs. https://www.congress.gov/congressional-report/113th-congress/house-report/237/1
Also, by eliminating many USEPA programs, including scientific research, there will be less scientific data available to substantiate a need to modify or toughen a specific existing rule; yet the need may be there. If environmental management is left to the states, there will be less funds available to perform such research. This is part of an anti-science bias of the new administration alleged by critics.
CCES has the experts and experience to perform a comprehensive technical (not legal) review of your compliance status vis-à-vis air and other environmental regulations. We keep up to date on changes at the federal and state level. Contact us today to see how we can help you reduce compliance costs at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.