03 • 27 • 2018

Congress Approves 2018 Budget that Protects Key Funding for our Coasts

By Mara DiasPete StaufferStefanie Sekich-Quinn

With its budget deal for FY 2018, Congress rejects massive cuts to environmental, coastal management, and climate change programs proposed by the Trump administration.

It seemed like it might not ever happen. It took five continuing resolutions and a brief government shutdown, but Congress finally approved a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending deal to keep the government running until the end of September 2018. The President signed the bill just in time to avert yet another government shut down last Friday, March 23rd.

Overall the budget is good news for those of us who care about clean water and healthy coasts. Congress rejected the massive cuts proposed by the administration in the President’s FY 2018 budget for both the EPA and NOAA, allocating very similar funding levels for both agencies in 2018 as they received in 2017.  

Soon after coming into office last spring, President Trump released a budget proposal that included a debilitating 31% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency, to effectively eliminate over 50 environmental programs! The EPA BEACH Act Grants program that funds beach water quality monitoring programs in coastal states around the country was one of these programs on the chopping block.  Surfrider is very pleased to see that the final spending bill for 2018 instead includes level funding for the BEACH Act, so beachgoers nationwide will continue to have the information they need to avoid getting sick at the beach. Other important programs that support clean water were also saved including the National Estuaries Program, the Non-Point Source Pollution Control Grants, and a funding source established to deal with sewage infrastructure needs at the U.S./ Mexico Border. All of the regional restoration programs that support habitat and water quality improvement in nationally significant waterways, such as the Puget Sound, Great Lakes, Long Island Sound and the Chesapeake Bay will also receive at least level funding in 2018.  

The President’s Budget for FY 2018 also proposed major cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the lead federal agency responsible for managing our nation’s ocean and coasts, as well monitoring weather and climate. Specific programs that were targeted for elimination included coastal zone management, coastal resilience, national estuarine reserves, and Sea Grant. Thankfully, the final approved FY 2018 budget rejects these cuts and instead includes slight increases for the National Ocean Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. These offices are fundamental to protecting our nation's coastal and ocean resources, as well as the businesses and communities that depend upon them. With this spending deal, Congress has certainly shown its support for clean water and healthy beaches. 

Climate research and programs fared relatively well considering the Trump administration’s clear lack of support for climate change programs. In fact, NOAA funding for climate research remained the same with no cuts, which is particularly positive considering the administration had proposed massive cuts in the past. Additionally, research for ocean acidification was bolstered and a rider that would have eliminated the Clean Power Plan was removed from the budget. 

An additional win to celebrate with the passage of this spending bill, is that the final language did not include the over 80 anti-environmental riders that were proposed to keep federal agencies from doing their job and protecting our environment and public health.  Read more about the impacts of the approved spending bill on the environment here. 

Over the past year, Surfrider's network worked hard to protect this funding for clean water, coastal management and climate change programs. Following the release of the Presidents budget last spring, we launched a national campaign to defend EPA and NOAA from these drastic budget cuts. We urged our grassroots network to contact their federal representatives through emails and phone calls. We conducted outreach in communities to raise awareness of the value of these agencies to ocean and coastal resources. Finally, during the Blue Vision Summit and Ocean Recreation Hill Day events in Washington D.C., Surfrider members participated in over 150 visits with congressional offices in support of EPA and NOAA funding. 

While we take a moment to appreciate this victory, we should not forget that the risk is still near. The President’s Budget for FY 2019 released earlier this year, proposes similar funding cuts, and Congress has just started working on the appropriation bills that will ultimately decide our federal budget next year.  Surfrider and our amazing grassroots network has already been communicating with Congress to let them know that the work is not done to protect clean water and healthy coasts.  You can join us by participating in this action alert here and asking your representatives in Congress to once again reject the administration's cuts for both the EPA and NOAA.

Long Live Clean Water and Healthy Beaches!