President Trump signed a $1.1 trillion appropriations bill on Friday May 5th, just in time to avoid a government shutdown and to keep the federal government running through the end of September 2017. The spending bill, which passed easily through both the House and Senate, largely keeps federal spending even with 2016 appropriated levels, with some increases for the military and security. The massive cuts that have been proposed by the President for domestic environmental agencies and programs were not considered in this spending bill. Read more about how environmental programs fared in the approved 2017 budget here, or read the 1,665 pages of the bill here.
This is just a temporary reprieve however as Congress starts working on next year's appropriation bill for FY 2018, which the administration has proposed steep cuts for EPA, NOAA and many other domestic agencies and programs. Surfrider is working hard to build support in Congress to push back against these cuts which would effectively prevent the EPA and NOAA from meeting their missions of protecting public health, clean water and healthy, resilient coasts. Learn more about our campaigns to Save the EPA and NOAA's budget, or click here to join us in asking Congress to support level funding for both agencies.
Even with this short-term victory of keeping these agencies and their environmental programs funded for the rest of this year, the administration is pursuing other ways of preventing the EPA from continuing to enforce environmental protections, support research and plan for climate change. Last week the EPA's Office of Water held a public listening session to take public comment on the agency's assessment of existing regulations that could be repealed, replaced or modified to make them less burdensome to the regulated industries. What they got was an earful on how the EPA should be doing MORE to protect clean water, NOT LESS, and many spoke out against the false premise that environmental protections impede the economy and instead argued that healthy, clean environments - clean air and clean water - are in fact critical for successful and sustainable economies and jobs. More on public response to EPA's plan to rollback health and environmenal safeguards here.
This past week, Administrator Scott Pruitt also removed the climate change section on the EPA’s website and dismissed five members of one of its scientific advisory boards. As reported by The New York Times....
A spokesman for the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, said he would consider replacing the academic scientists with representatives from industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate, as part of the wide net it plans to cast. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” said the spokesman, J. P. Freire.
Full article here.
So while the environmental community does have something to celebrate with the passage of the federal budget deal for 2017, and here at Surfrider we are particularly heartened that coastal states will receive their federal grant through the BEACH Act this year to keep water quality monitoring programs running at beaches across the US, we know that we have our work cut out for us to make sure that the EPA is empowered to continue to protect clean water and healthy coasts for years to come.