The High Cost of Cutting Environmental Regulations

Donald Trump’s administration is planning on drastically cutting funds to the Environmental Protection Agency. Recently leaked documents show across the board reductions of 25%, with some programs and funds being eliminated completely. This move backs up promises Trump made along the campaign trail to reduce government spending and push more of the financial responsibility towards the states. Despite protests and concerns from the environmental and scientific communities the Trump administration will scale back the EPA to levels it hasn’t seen since 1985.

It is concerning that the EPA should find itself in the Trump administration’s crosshairs so quickly. Trump’s presidential campaign made numerous promises to create and retain jobs for Americans, yet according to The Oregonian this budget cut would immediately end 3,000 careers, many of which are high level positions that have been with the agency for decades. On the campaign trail Trump called environmental regulations “job killers,” with no evidence to support those claims. Backed by the coal and gas industries, Trump has already undone much of the work of the Obama administration, claiming regulations that protected waterways and air quality were stifling jobs and shutting down mining communities. These claims are largely unsubstantiated, as much of the downward trend of these energy sectors can be more closely tied with global market movements and the increasing availability of alternative fuel sources.

In 2015 the EPA’s operating budget was just over $8 billion, making up less than one percent of the country’s discretionary spending budget. Compare that to other programs and funding avenues – from NASA’s $18 billion budget to the whopping $598 billion spent on the United States Military – and the EPA clocks in very modestly in terms of tax dollars. Benefits of EPA regulations are clearly evident to the people and communities surrounding natural resources. The Puget Sound restoration project in Washington State is looking at a 93% reduction in funds – much to the alarm of local fishing and shellfish industries. A failure to invest in protection and cleanup now is seen from these communities as a recipe for future disasters, and an expensive one at that.

The push towards burdening states with environmental cleanup and protection ignores the underlying issue at hand – that environmental issues are national issues. By gutting these programs and grants, states will be left holding the bill for environmental disasters that impact Americans wherever they may call home. At such a relatively low cost to American taxpayers, especially considering the potential benefits from environmental protection, this move seems more like partisan pandering than a common-sense measure to reduce superficial government spending.

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