Environmental programs face deep cuts under budget proposal

Environmental programs face deep cuts under budget proposal

March 3rd, 2017 by Associated Press in National Political

FILE - In this March 21, 2016 file photo, the Flint Water Plant water tower is seen in Flint, Mich. The Trump administration would slash programs aimed at slowing climate change and improving water safety and air quality, while eliminating thousands of jobs, according to a draft of the Environmental Protection Agency budget proposal obtained by the Associated Press. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Trump administration would slash programs aimed at slowing climate change and improving water safety and air quality, while eliminating thousands of jobs, according to a draft of the Environmental Protection Agency budget proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

Under the tentative plan from the Office of Management and Budget, the agency's funding would be cut by roughly 25 percent and about 3,000 jobs would be cut, about 19 percent of the agency's staff.

President Donald Trump has said he plans to pay for billions of dollars more for the military by cutting spending on domestic agencies and departments. Trump plans to submit his budget to Congress the week of March 13.

A spokesperson for the EPA declined to comment. The agency had the opportunity to respond to the initial proposal, and any final plan would be subject to congressional approval, which likely is months away at the earliest.

The EPA is now under the leadership of Scott Pruitt, a former state attorney general for Oklahoma, who has questioned the scientific consensus that human activities are contributing to global warming and joined lawsuits against the agency's emission curbs.

Proposed cuts include slashing the climate protection budget by nearly 70 percent to $29 million, cutting the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by 97 percent to $10 million and environmental justice programs by 79 percent to $1.5 million.

Environmental groups said the proposed cuts would threaten thousands of jobs and could harm health and safety protections for millions of Americans. The proposals would especially affect programs to address climate change and enforce clean air and water laws, they said.

"Instead of working to protect American families, President Trump's plans put the interest of big-money special interests over people," said Nat Mund, legislative director of the Southern Environmental Law Center, a Virginia-based advocacy group.

The proposal would all but eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a wide-ranging cleanup of the world's largest surface freshwater system that has deep bipartisan support across the eight states adjacent to the lakes, from Minnesota to New York. The program has received around $300 million annually from the federal budget during former President Barack Obama's tenure - more than $2.2 billion in all. Under the Trump proposal, it would get only $10 million.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, described the proposed cut as "outrageous."

"This initiative has been critical to cleaning up our Great Lakes and waterways, restoring fish and wildlife habitats, and fighting invasive species, like Asian carp," Stabenow said. "I call on President Trump to reverse course on these harmful decisions."

Congress in December authorized continuing the program through 2021 at $300 million a year, although separate annual votes are needed to provide the money. In a Feb. 8 letter to Trump, the 20-member Congressional Great Lakes Task Force called for maintaining current funding. Among House members signing it were Republicans Bill Huizenga of Michigan, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin and David Joyce of Ohio.