Trump’s budget poses a major threat to the environment, public health

Critics are decrying the negative impacts it could have on clean air and clean water.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Josh Wood
CREDIT: AP Photo/Josh Wood

After months of promises, both on the campaign trail and since assuming office, to deliver deep cuts to the federal government, the Trump administration has finally released its proposed “skinny budget,” a top-line draft of the president’s proposals for 2018. And with deep cuts to science and environmental programs, critics are already decrying the budget’s potential impact on public health and access to clean air and water.

The budget is bad news for federal programs that deal with energy, the environment, or climate. There are six references to “climate” throughout the budget, and all of them refer to cuts. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that climate change is “a waste of your money,” and that “we’re not spending money on that anymore.”

The Environmental Protection Agency — the nation’s primary guardian of environmental laws and regulations — faces the deepest cuts of any agency, with a proposal to slash its budget 31 percent. The Department of Energy, while facing smaller cuts — just 5.6 percent — would also lose many of its programs focused on renewable energy innovation and energy efficiency.

Democratic lawmakers have already begun criticizing Trump’s proposed budget for doing little to help those — especially the rural poor — that he promised to lift up during his campaign.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, told ThinkProgress that the proposed budget would hit both Americans that work in the targeted agencies and those who don’t by placing the environment at risk.

“President Trump wants to spend more on defense and border security while making huge cuts to what they defend: our people, our health, and our environment.”

“Budgets reflect values,” Beyer said. “President Trump wants to spend more on defense and border security while making huge cuts to what they defend: our people, our health, and our environment. These extreme cuts will hit my constituents particularly hard, because so many work at agencies, such as the EPA, which he would cut by almost a third. But the pain from them will be felt across the entire country. I don’t believe that the American people want their health or environment to suffer from severe cuts, and I don’t believe that they will support this radical budget which cuts the agencies which protect them.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) also reiterated that proposed budgets reflect values — and criticized the values put forth by the Trump administration.

“This budget is an attack on our families’ most essential needs, from the clean air and water we breathe and drink, to the schools our kids attend, to the very investments that create American jobs,” Merkley said in a statement. “Trump ran on a promise to drain the swamp and put working families first. But this budget doubles down on the same failed, rigged system that rewards special interest lobbying over the needs of real people.”

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) — the newest member of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee — highlighted how the proposed budget could threaten American’s access to clean water and clean air.

“A budget is a reflection of our nation’s values and it’s clear from this proposal, President Trump does not value government’s essential functions of public health, public safety, and public education,” Harris said in a statement. “If you are a child, college student, or senior, live in a rural or urban area, are a worker in need of a safe workplace, or simply want to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and drive on good roads, this budget is a disaster for you and your family.”

And Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) — perhaps the Senate’s most famous climate hawk — said in a statement that “hollowing out the EPA will leave communities at the mercy of big polluters and signal surrender in the fight against catastrophic climate change.”

“How exactly does allowing industrial plants to pollute our air and drinking water put America first?”

“How exactly does allowing industrial plants to pollute our air and drinking water put America first? How does hamstringing our diplomatic corps put America first? How does pulling the rug out from scientific research and technological innovation put America first? How does kicking children out of early education or making the elderly and working families go without heat in the winter put America first?” Whitehouse continued. “I will oppose this senseless and irresponsible plan.”

Of the 17 House Republican that signed a Republican Climate Resolution earlier this week calling for “meaningful and responsible action” on climate change, only one responded to ThinkProgress’ request for comment on how the proposed budget impacts climate research and innovation in renewable energy.

“The President’s budget emphasizes national security and public safety without increases to the deficit,” Rep. Tom Reed (R-PA) said in a statement emailed to ThinkProgress. “While I support a leaner approach to spending, we must preserve programs that create good paying jobs across the region and continue innovating for a cleaner, more sustainable environment. This is a blueprint and I am confident that as the legislative process moves forward we will find a consensus. We look forward to working with the President.”

No other co-sponsors of the climate resolution have commented publicly on the budget.

Unsurprisingly, environmental groups were also united in their opposition to the proposed budget. Both Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters called the budget “rigged,” arguing that it prioritizes the profits of polluters over the welfare of the American public.

“Money talks, and Trump’s budget proposal screams that the only thing that matters in his America is corporate polluters’ profits and Wall Street billionaires,” Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune said in a statement. “If Trump refuses to be serious about protecting our health and climate, or our publicly owned lands, then Congress must act, do its job, and reject this rigged budget.”

League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski was equally critical, calling the budget a “polluter’s first” agenda.

“More mercury in our air and more lead in our water may help the bottom lines of corporate polluters, but they would cause enormous health problems for people all across this country, especially low income and communities of color,” Karpinski said. “We will fight tooth and nail to protect all people in this country from dirty drinking water, unhealthy air, and an unsafe climate that would result from Trump’s proposals being enacted.”

Conservation, recreation, and hunting groups were also displeased with the budget’s proposed cuts to conservation programs. Keith Curley, Trout Unlimited’s Vice President for Eastern Conservation, worried that cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative could damage resources critical to commercial and recreational fishing economies, while Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers, called the budget “a reckless proposal that threatens the health of American families and puts businesses and communities that rely on clean water and healthy rivers at risk.”

Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, worried that cuts “would be devastating for America’s outdoor economy,” and warned that American’s national parks and refuges could see “mass layoffs and perhaps even closures, sending shockwaves through the local communities that depend on these special places to support hotels, outdoor shops, and guide businesses.”