A government budget not only details a state or nation’s financial priorities, but also serves as a moral compass. It reflects the budget-writers’ vision of equity and justice, of a fiduciary duty to all residents, not merely those with political, social and economic power.
In the case of Trump administration, which last week released its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2021, the environmental message was clear: Those of you without safe drinking water and clean air, who live near hazardous waste sites, who reside in communities of color unfairly burdened by pollution — too bad.
Under Trump, who blamed energy-saving light bulbs for his tangerine-tinged complexion, the EPA’s budget would be cut by 27 percent, from $9 billion in fiscal year 2020, to $6.6 billion in FY 2021. Another 1,500-plus EPA employees would lose their jobs.
States would lose key grant money that helps them protect human health and the environment. These grants are especially crucial for states like North Carolina, whose legislatures slash and burn their environmental budgets each year.
Two notable increases were a $10 million request for lead testing at school drinking fountains and $15 million in grants for lead testing in schools and child cares — but that testing is voluntary.
The Trump administration also requested $22.4 million to address and reduce harmful algal blooms, which can be caused by nutrient pollution. But the sources of that pollution — septic systems, lawn fertilizers, agricultural runoff from homes and fields located too close to the waterways— continue to get a pass under Trump’s EPA. The budget would reduce by $15 million the enforcement budget under Environmental Programs and Management; it also would zero out the budget for restoring the Great Lakes, where there have been record algal blooms that have shut down beaches and, in 2014, left 500,000 Toledo residents without drinking water.
Among the 50 eliminated programs are grants that helped states and tribal nations on the health risks of with eating locally caught fish, shellfish and wildlife with excessive levels of contaminants. That federal money is important for North Carolina because of many contaminants in our lakes and streams: PFAS, PCBs, 1,4-Dioxane and mercury.
Congress will likely scale back the Trump administration’s budgetary dreams. But as we’ve seen over the past three years, the executive branch’s vision for a clean, safe and environmentally just America extends to a chosen few.
$9 billion — EPA budget for fiscal year 2020, enacted by Congress
$6.6 billion — President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2021
$2.4 billion — Trump’s proposed funding cuts, in dollars
27 — Percentage cut such a proposal represents
17,055 — Number of full-time equivalent EPA employees, 2012
14,172 — Number of FTE in 2020
12,610 — Proposed FTE for 2021
$106 million— Amount that would be cut from the Superfund program, equivalent to 9%
0 — Amount that would be appropriated for the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment,
0 — Amount that would be appropriated for enforcement related to environmental justice
0 — Amount that would be appropriated for state grants related to radon, an naturally occurring indoor air pollutant that can cause lung cancer
$25 million — Amount that would be cut for grants to help small and disadvantaged communities provide safe drinking water
$43 million — Amount of grant funding that would be eliminated for state environmental programs
$155 million — Amount that would be cut from air and radiation programs
$1.4 billion — Amount that would be cut from clean water programs
50 — Number of programs or subprograms that would eliminated, including EnergySTAR, endocrine disruptors research; Green Power Partnership to increase use of renewable electricity, Natural Gas STAR, a voluntary oil and gas industry program to reduce methane leaks
Source: EPA budget LINK (https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-02/documents/fy-2021-epa-bib.pdf)