by Ronald White, 2/3/2014
Despite an attempt by some to portray the $299 million increase in EPA’s overall fiscal year 2014 budget as a positive compromise, those in Congress who oppose developing and enforcing public health and environmental safeguards have much to celebrate. Of particular concern, the budget includes major cuts to EPA’s operations that develop and enforce public health and environmental protections.
EPA’s FY 14 budget of $8.2 billion, though minimally higher than the FY 14 requested amount, represents a $144 million drop from the president’s FY 13 requested budget, a $249 million reduction from the FY 12 funding amount, and a staggering $1.8 billion below EPA’s FY 11 budget of $10 billion. While $8.2 billion may still seem like a huge budget, more than $3.5 billion (43 percent) is directly passed through to states, localities, and tribes in assistance grants to support their environmental protection programs.
Support for EPA’s program efforts to improve air quality and address climate change was slashed by almost $31 million, or about 10 percent from the agency’s FY 14 request. Funding for the agency’s compliance and enforcement efforts under the environmental program and management program, which supports inspections and enforcement to ensure compliance with major environmental laws, were particularly hit hard. The agency’s compliance budget was cut by more than $23 million, an 18 percent drop from the president’s FY 14 request and more than $7 million less than EPA’s FY 11 budget for this important activity. Enforcement resources were reduced by $23 million from the president’s FY 14 request, a drop of nine percent, and are more than $12 million less than EPA’s FY 11 programmatic enforcement budget. Funding for EPA’s program that provides specialized scientific and technical support for the nation’s most complex civil and criminal enforcement cases, as well as technical expertise for the agency’s compliance efforts, was reduced by almost $1.8 million (11 percent) from the president’s FY’14 request and is 14 percent less than EPA’s FY 11 budget. In addition, resources for enforcing EPA’s programs that address hazardous substances were cut by almost $10 million, or five percent.
These are major cuts to essential programs that ensure that polluters meet their emission limits and that companies and facilities that violate the law are held accountable. It’s likely that EPA had the prospect of these substantial funding cuts in mind when developing its draft FY 2014 -2018 Strategic Plan that calls for reducing its projected number of inspections and enforcement cases over the next five years by 40-50 percent.
Perhaps less obvious but equally critical to ensuring a healthy environment is the role of state and tribal agencies that are on the front lines of implementing and enforcing our nation’s pollution control laws. With our increasing understanding of the nature and scope of the effect of pollutants on our nation’s health and environment, states and localities have been given increasing responsibility for implementing and enforcing programs to address these needed protections. The FY 14 budget cuts resources for these agencies – which already are strained to meet their current workload – to address air and water pollution by more than $29 million and almost $28 million, respectively, or about 11 percent each from the FY 14 requested amounts. The FY 14 allocations to states for air and water pollution control programs represent a reduction of $74 million and more than $34 million, respectively, from the president’s FY 13 budget request, and about $22 million less than these agencies received for supporting these programs in FY 11.
The recent contamination of the Charleston, West Virginia water supply by chemicals for which little was known highlights a much larger problem, namely that even basic information on the health and environmental impacts of the more than 80,000 chemicals listed in EPA’s chemical inventory is limited to less than two percent of these substances. It’s in the context of this situation that EPA faces a $10 million drop in FY 14 requested funds, representing a nine percent decrease, to review and prevent the risks from such substances and a $4 million reduction (about three percent) in their budget for chemical safety and sustainability. The only bright spots in this area is a $662,000 (~10 percent) increase in FY 14 resources above EPA’s $6,891,000 request for screening the health impacts of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC), and a small $357,000 increase above EPA’s FY 14 request that now provides about $16 million for research on EDC.
In summary, while the FY 14 budget appropriation relieves some of the worst impacts of the FY 13 sequestration budget, such as requiring furloughs of EPA staff, the ability of EPA and states to effectively develop and enforce critically needed protections to tackle long-established as well as newly emerging health threats will be significantly hampered if this trend continues into the future.
|EPA FY 14 Approps||EPA FY 14 Request||EPA FY 12 Enacted||EPA FY 11 Actual|
|Total EPA Budget||$8,200,000,000||$8,153,000,000||$8,449,385,000||$10,025,996,700|
|Air Quality & Climate Change Program||$277,491,000||$308,268,000||$286,108,000||$313,442,800|
|Compliance (programs & management)||$103,297,000||$127,540,000||$106,707,000||$110,606,000|
|Enforcement (programs & management)||$244,499,000||$267,842,000||$249,559,000||$256,936,800|
|Enforcement (science & technology w/o Superfund)||$14,125,000||$15,874,000||$15,269,000||$16,354,300|
|State/Tribal Air Programs||$241,048,000||$270,481,000||$248,981,000||$263,427,200|
|State Water Programs (§106)||$230,806,000||$258,664,000||$238,403,000||$252,516,800|
|Toxics Risk Review & Prevention||$93,826,000||$103,494,000||$99,971,000||$106,380,900|