Environment

President Donald Trump released a summary of his proposed budget early Thursday morning, and as expected, it includes deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump’s proposal includes cutting the agency’s overall funding by 31 percent. Instead, the budget invests heavily in national security and defense, changes Trump said are necessary.

On the chopping block are initiatives the president campaigned against, like funding for the Clean Power Plan and climate change programs. But also included are steep cuts to the Superfund program that cleans up hazardous waste sites, environmental enforcement and grants to states.

As is the case with any president, Trump’s budget proposal is unlikely to be enacted exactly as it’s written. It has to go through Congress first. But nevertheless, the proposal was greeted with alarm by environmental groups.

“I think there’s also a theme that runs through this whole budget process for this administration that sees devolving a lot of responsibility and authority back to states and local governments,” said environmental justice advocate Vernice Miller-Travis on a conference call hosted by environmental groups.

But the problem with this, she added, is the budget is simultaneously cutting federal funding that would normally be passed on to aid state environmental efforts.

“So, if EPA’s budget is being cut dramatically by 31 percent, then the amount of money they can then transfer in grants and loans and revolving loans to states to be able to implement those environmental programs is also going to be cut by at least 31 percent, if not more,” she said.

That goes for grants that do things like clean up Brownfields and help states implement water pollution reduction programs, but also extends to environmental enforcement. The budget cuts the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance to $419 million, which is a $129 million cut from 2017 levels.

“Essentially they’re saying they’re going to turn more authority over to the states and then cut the amount of money for the states to do it,” said Scott Slesinger of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

According to the EPA’s website, Kentucky agencies including the Energy and Environment Cabinet, the Department of Agriculture and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services have raked in more than $617 million since 2004 in EPA grants. Another $73 million has gone directly to Kentucky counties and municipalities.

About $700,000 in grant money went to the Louisville Air Pollution Control District last year to help support permitting and air monitoring programs.

“Basically, the EPA is like, ‘this is a federal program that you’re going to administer, so we’re going to help you do it,” said APCD spokesman Tom Nord.

Nord said the agency was remaining cautiously optimistic that the funding would remain intact, but they’re in communication with Metro budget employees.

“This money is important, but we feel like we can continue to do our job,” he said.

Now, President Trump’s proposal will go to Congress. Funding for the current fiscal year will run out at the end of April, and the 2018 budget needs to be approved by October.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Assignment Editor.