What Trump’s Proposed Budget Means for New York’s Environment

President Trump’s recently released budget would have devastating effects on the environment and people of New York State. Significant cuts across several departments would severely hinder environmental conservation and public health protection efforts.

Most notably, the proposal includes a drastically slashed EPA budget, reflecting a 31% reduction in funding: from $8.2 billion to $5.7 billion. In New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation relies on federal funding for almost 20% of its operating budget. The biggest impacts for New York’s environment would be the 30% cut to the Superfund program (responsible for cleaning up toxic waste sites and responding to environmental emergencies) and the elimination of “geographic programs,” such as Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay program, and the Long Island Sound Restoration program. Over 50 other EPA programs will be eliminated as well, including Energy Star, Targeted Airshed Grants, and the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, and there would be a 45% reduction in Categorical grants, through which states receive funds to implement their own water, air, waste, pesticides, and toxic substances programs.

Cuts to the Department of Commerce include the elimination of $250 million in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants for coastal and marine initiatives. These grants provide provide about 75% of the funding for the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, which protects 5,000 acres along the river. The Department of Agriculture’s Water and Waste Disposal program, which provides funding for the protection of drinking water systems and management of sanitary waste in rural areas, would be eliminated as well.

Not only would the resources for conservation be severely limited, but the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance — which conducts civil and criminal enforcement action for the most serious water, air and chemical hazards in the country — would face a 23% budget reduction, restricting its ability to hold polluters accountable. Additionally, the Office of Research and Development, which provides the scientific basis for the EPA’s actions on pollution, would see nearly half of its funding cut.

The proposed budget would also hamper federal action on climate change. The Clean Power Plan, which strengthens emissions regulations for coal power plants would be completely defunded, as would programs for domestic and international climate change research. The country’s Global Climate Change Initiative and its contributions to the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund and Climate Investment Funds would both be eliminated under cuts to the Department of State.

Development and implementation of energy solutions are at risk with this budget, too. The Department of Energy’s $1.7 billion proposed budget cut would largely impact renewable energy and energy efficiency programming, including the elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which advances developing energy technologies. This will have local effects: as 3,000 jobs at Brookhaven Lab in Long Island would be endangered if the ARPA-E is defunded. Other proposed budget cuts would specifically impact low-income populations. The elimination of the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides grants to improve the energy efficiency of the homes of low-income families, and of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps them pay their heating bills, would hurt the communities and individuals who most struggle with high energy costs. Also to be defunded would be the Department of Transportation’s $499 million worth of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, which fund capital projects that generate economic development and improve access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation for urban and rural communities.

Disaster protection and recovery funding is also threatened under the proposed budget: the Department of Homeland Security’s National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) Flood Hazard Mapping Program, which identifies flood risks and guides states in mitigation action, would be dissolved. FEMA funding for programs such as the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program would be reduced by $667 million. The Department of the Interior’s reduced budget also includes an ambiguous promise to “budget responsibly” for wildfire suppression and preparedness, a program that has already been seriously underfunded over the years. All of these funding cuts would put New Yorkers, and all Americans, in danger of the next superstorm or natural disaster caused by climate change.

If passed, the president’s proposed budget would have destructive impacts in New York and nationwide. Fortunately, the budget blueprint is a wish-list, and it is Congress that has the “power of the purse.” It is important that we engage our representatives throughout the budget and appropriations process to ensure that the budget that does pass includes environmental protections.

Author: Anne Tewksbury