Pruitt faces bipartisan criticism over White House plan to gut EPA

Dive Brief:

  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt got an earful this week at a Congressional hearing focused on proposed agency budget cuts, with a bipartisan group of lawmakers saying many of the funding reductions are too drastic and are unlikely to be approved.
  • The White House's budget proposal includes $54 billion more in defense spending, balanced by cuts to almost every other sector of the government. The EPA would be cut the deepest, reducing agency funding by $2.6 billion to $5.7 billion total — a cut of more than 31%.
  • Many of budget's critics at Thursdays hearings said they were not strong supporters of the EPA, but the proposed cuts would reduce funding for many state grants as well, which lawmakers want to protect.  

Dive Insight:

Pruitt was likely expecting to take heat from Democrats on the House Appropriations' subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, but he wound up being criticized by Republicans as well, who warned the stringent budget cuts are unlikely to survive.

Bloomberg reports Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told Pruitt, "you’re going to be the first EPA administrator that has come before this committee in eight years that actually gets more money than they ask for."

Some criticism focused on a proposed 31% cut to the EPA's Superfund Program. Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) in his opening statement said the proposed reductions to federal Superfund programs, which deal with hazardous waste sites, "will most certainly impact new cleanups and slow ongoing cleanups."

"These are all proposals that we are unlikely to entertain," he said.

The proposed budget would also eliminate or reduce some state grants, which are important to lawmakers. The Washington Post reports Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) spoke up in defense of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, aimed at cleaning up industrial pollution.

“Cleaning up the lakes isn’t about correcting mistakes from the past, but creating new opportunities," Joyce said. He added that the government should “clean up the Great Lakes and leverage them as an economic asset for the region.”

InsideClimate News reports Rep. Calvert also criticized a planned 83% cut to Diesel Emission Reduction grants, which California uses to target air pollution. "The budget proposes to significantly reduce, or terminate, programs that are vitally important to each member on this subcommittee," he said.

The White House's proposed budget would close down 50 programs and lay off about 20% of the EPA's 15,000 employees, and Pruitt has already proposed to reserve $12 million for voluntary buyouts and early retirements. 

In addition to EPA, President Trump has also proposed deep cuts to research at the Department of Energy.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see a 69% budget cut compared with 2016 levels; the Office of Fossil Energy budget would be reduced 44%; the Office of Nuclear Energy budget would decline by nearly 30%.

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Filed Under: Regulation & Policy
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