On March 11, President Trump released his budget for fiscal 2020 which includes a large cut in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff, as well as cuts in grants to EPA’s state and tribal environment agencies.
In recent years, however, Congress hasn’t matched steep cuts to the EPA, and it’s unlikely to do so this year. Additionally, the FY2020 budget is the first the Trump administration is putting forth before a divided Congress. Nonetheless, the numbers in the budget proposal matter because they show what the Trump administration isn’t prioritizing, critics of the administration and former EPA staff said. (Bloomberg BNA, 3/11/19)
Under the FY2020 request, many of the agency’s programs also would see similar or slightly steeper proposed cuts as years prior. However, while the president’s budget would slash water infrastructure programs, members of Congress who control federal spending often ignore these cuts because infrastructure projects are vital to the economy in their own districts.
The budget includes a combined $1.98 billion for the clean water (CWSRF) and drinking water state revolving funds (DWSRF), a 31 percent drop from 2019, when each set of revolving funds got a $300 million hike. Under the president’s proposal, the CWSRF will receive $1.1 billion – down from $1.7 billion in FY19 – and drinking water will receive $863 million – down from $1.2 billion. The Water Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (WIFIA) will be funded at $25 million in FY20 under the proposal, but it received $68 million in FY19.
The budget proposal also includes a more than 6 percent cut to the EPA’s various enforcement programs across the agency. The proposal would fund these programs at a total of about $397 million, compared to $424 million that Congress gave the EPA for enforcement in the current fiscal year.
The EPA budget proposal would again seek to eliminate the majority of the agency’s geographic environmental cleanup programs, maintaining only sharply reduced funding for the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay programs.
WEF and others in the water sector are actively seeking an increase in the FY2020 CWSRF to $2.8 billion and $1.3 billion for the DWSRF (the fully authorized amount), as well as funding for WIFIA at the fully authorized level of $50 million in FY2020. In addition, WEF is seeking $2.5 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Water and Wastewater Loans and Grants and $100 million for Title XVI-WIIN competitive grants, $20 million for the National Priorities Water Research Grant Program and at least level funding for the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, as well as other important programs.