Trump's Budget Plan: A Push for Even Greater Environmental Regression
By John R. Platt
Of course, the annual presidential budget is more spectacle than anything else. The real budget each year comes from Congress, which may or may not take up the president's suggestions.
But whether or not the White House budget proposal's recommendations go any further, it reveals the dark truth about the Trump administration's priorities, especially as they relate to environmental issues.
Here's what we see in this year's budget:
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) budget would be slashed 26.5%, including a 10% reduction in the Superfund hazardous-waste cleanup program, a nearly 50% reduction in research and development, a $376 million take from efforts to improve air quality, and the elimination of 50 programs that the administration perceives as outside the "core" of the EPA's mission (among them: clean-water grants for disadvantaged communities and the EnergyStar energy-conservation program). It would also reduce EPA staffing to its lowest levels in three decades, further hampering enforcement of existing regulations.
- The Department of the Interior would lose 8% of its budget, including $587 million from the National Park Service and $80 million from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That includes an $11 million reduction in the Endangered Species Act listing program (which evaluates species for their extinction risk).
- Federal land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund would be nearly eliminated through a 97% budget cut — after a long fight to reauthorize the program over the past two years.
- The Multinational Species Conservation Fund would be cut by $9 million.
- State and tribal wildlife grants would lose more than half of their funding.
- The Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy funding would be cut by 74% and the Advanced Research Project Agency–Energy efforts would be eliminated as part of a larger trend toward defunding research and development and basic science.
More backward logic from the Trump Administration: While our nation faces a looming climate crisis, the… https://t.co/U76bGb8xXI— House Budget Committee (@House Budget Committee)1581370041.0
- The U.S. Geological Survey would lose about half of its ecosystem funding, including a $36.6 million reduction for the Climate Adaptation Science Center and $37.2 million for the Species Management Research Program, which supports the recovery and conservation of hot-button species like the greater sage grouse and desert tortoise.
- NOAA would lose several programs, including the Sea Grant, Coastal Zone Management Grants, education grants and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.
- Also gone: the National Park Service's Save America's Treasures grants and the Highlands Conservation Act grant.
- The Centers for Disease Control, as part of Health and Human Services, could lose 9% of its budget, while the U.S. contribution to the World Health Organization would be cut in half — although the administration says it won't touch coronavirus-related funding.
- U.S. funding for United Nations peacekeeping efforts would be cut by $447 million — just as the threat from climate change makes certain conflicts more likely.
Oh, and let's not forget about the nearly $1 trillion in proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which came just two days after President Trump promised no changes to those programs.
Not even two days later, and Trump releases a budget that cuts $30 billion from Social Security and $850 billion fr… https://t.co/PDuCjLu7iF— Robert Reich (@Robert Reich)1581366036.0
Meanwhile the budget increases some funding in unexpected places:
- The border wall would get $2 billion in extra funding, with another $182 million devoted to hiring 750 new Border Patrol agents and 300 border processing coordinators and related support staff. That doesn't even include the $544 million earmarked to hire 6,000 ICE personnel.
- Infrastructure would get $1 trillion in funding, which is great, but development projects — notably pipelines and other energy-related projects — would also be subject to a sped-up permitting process designed to supersede pesky environmental regulations such as the National Environmental Policy Act.
- Nuclear energy will get $1.2 billion in research and development funding (although the budget eliminates the money to license the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository).
- The budget adds $188 million in funding to map the ocean floor — a precursor to coastal development and deep-sea mining.
- It also adds an unspecified amount of money for the promotion of coal, including support of "extracting critical minerals from coal and coal byproducts as one of many non-thermal, non-power uses of coal."
- And the budget promises continued support for and increases in U.S. oil and natural gas development.
The budget also takes a quiet jab at the media by promising to cut money spent on "subscriptions." This continues a trend the administration started last year when it cancelled White House subscriptions to The New York Times and The Washington Post and promised to repeat this version of "cancel culture" throughout the federal government. The president has infamously called journalists the "enemies of the people."
It's doubtful that much of this will make the final budget — Congress reinstated many of the Trump administration's proposed cuts when they wrote the official 2020 budget — but does that really matter? The administration has already shown its willingness to not spend congressionally allocated money on programs it doesn't like. Earlier this month congressional Democrats revealed that the Department of Energy has held onto $823 in funding for clean-energy research and development — a program whose funding the administration had originally proposed cutting by 86%.
No matter what happens in Congress, we can expect the same type of budgetary actions from this administration in the future.
"We're going to keep proposing these types of budgets and hope that at some point Congress will have some sense of fiscal sanity and join us in trying to tackle our debt and deficits," Russ Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said during a press briefing.
Speaking of that debt, the Congressional Budget Office last month projected that the federal budget deficit will reach $1.02 trillion this year due in large part to the Trump administration's tax cuts. The national debt, meanwhile, rose to a record $23 trillion this past November. Experts say White House budget will not be able to address either of those problems.
Does the Trump budget propose anything beneficial? Ironically, it promises to tackle wasteful federal spending on things like travel. Whether that includes the $650 a night that the Secret Service has been paying to house its agents at the president's luxury properties remains to be seen.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.
<div id="da98c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="478a197b7c59c92787c92bec92f1ac39"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1331662923710693376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5</div> — Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)<a href="https://twitter.com/SaveBristolBay/statuses/1331662923710693376">1606328156.0</a></blockquote></div>
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