The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget suffered significant cuts during the last administration and a significant bounce up in 2010 when the first Obama budget increased EPA funding over 26% from $7.6 billion to $10.3 billion. The proposed 2011 budget is a small decrease but the cuts were in three programs, the Great Lakes Initiative, the revolving funds for sewers, and the revolving fund for drinking water that are discussed in detail by my colleague Jon Devine here. Other key items in the EPA budget include:
- An increase of $43 million to support EPA’s implementation of its endangerment finding that carbon dioxide is a pollutant
- A $1.9 million increase to $55 million for the Energy Star Program, a major tool in encouraging energy efficiency.
- A new $6 million effort to set GHG standards for mobile sources of which $4 million would be for EPA to respond to petitions to support analysis and potential development of standards for other mobile-source categories, such as trucks and buses.
- $215 million for brownfields, an increase of $41 million to pay for planning, clean up, and job training programs related to redevelopment.
- $1.3 billion for superfund cleanup equal to 2010. The President also recommended the reinstatement of the Superfund tax on the oil and chemical industry, a position long support by NRDC.
Some programs that got increases that were not as well publicized but are very important include increases in research and development. One program, the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) was increased from $61.4 million to $87million, a recognition of the need for strong defensible science. EPA plans to use this money for research in broad areas including hydraulic fracturing research (that deals with new technology for natural gas drilling) and increased efforts studying endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals substances that act like hormones in the endocrine system and disrupt the physiologic function of hormones.
A key part of the EPA budget that receives little publicity is the Environmental Programs and Management Budget (EPM). This is the key guts of the EPA budget that funds enforcement, regulatory programs and most of the EPA employees. This area is in need of additional resources to set the rules for industries and communities to comply with the laws that Congress has passed. The Green Budget discusses this in detail (2011 Green Budget). The President’s budget is essentially flat for EPM. NRDC will be urging the Congress and EPA to use those funds for enforcement and regulatory efforts rather than the many discredited “voluntary programs” which EPA’s own Inspector General determined that there is no evidence that these voluntary programs protected public health and the environment but instead gave industry a refuge from complying with up-to-date standards Government Accountability Office found were havens for polluters to avoid protecting the public health and environment.
Maybe the most important budget line is the funding of the states. Most of the enforcement of federal environmental laws is not done by EPA, but by their state “partners.” The President has increased grants to the states $200 million from $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion. This is a critical budget item, especially with almost all the states in some stage of fiscal crisis.
In the past, we have rarely been satisfied with any President’s budget for the environment. This year, under the difficult budget situation, our first look at the President’s budget for EPA is encouraging.