Blueprint for Balance, Part One – Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and Related Agencies

An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant

July 4, 2017

Reading the Heritage Foundation’s Blueprint for Balance, which proposed budget guidance for the Trump administration, was like reading a contemporary political thriller novel. There were unanticipated plot twists at every corner and the whole time I was increasingly hopeful someone accidentally placed it in the non-fiction section. Although many aspects of the budget seemed unrealistic, it’s very possible the Trump administration will choose to mirror a very similar budget. When focusing on factors that effect the environment (which is much easier said than done), I found too many proposals to fit into one blog post. For this reason, I’ve decided to dedicate a series of three blogs to the Blueprint for Balance.

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

  • Eliminate Nine Climate Programs – Page 66

The Heritage Foundation started their proposal by declaring its desire to halt or delay any climate progress. This proposal includes programs such as the program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, the Regulation of CO2 emissions from power plants and all other man-made sources, The Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, and the Climate Resilience Fund. These programs are not only essential aspects to protect our climate, but they are also programs that attempt to hold businesses that pollute accountable.

For example, the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) regulates greenhouse gas data and reports from “large GHG emission sources, fuel and industrial gas suppliers, and CO2 injection sites” (EPA 2016). This not only incentivizes companies to pollute less, but also provides guidance on how they could cut pollution without harming their businesses and how to save money by reducing emissions. Furthermore, the 8,000 facilities the GHGRP oversees are responsible for approximately 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US annually (EPA). Without the GHGRP, these facilities are basically left without being accountable for emissions produced. The Regulation of greenhouse gas emission from vehicles particularly concerns every citizen, as it was instated not just to protect the environment, but also our air quality and overall health.

 

EPA. “Learn About the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP).” EPA, 2016, www.epa.gov/ghgreporting/learn-about-greenhouse-gas-reporting-program-ghgrp.

 

  • Reduce Funding for Four Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Research Programs – Page 67

The Heritage Foundation’s proposal utilized the word ‘reduce’, however I questioned the meaning of ‘reduce’ when the budget proposed to eliminate two of the four EPA programs entirely. The three projects that the budget suggested to eliminate were the ‘Air, Climate, and Energy’ research program, the ‘Sustainable and Healthy Communities’ research program and, lastly, to reject the proposed increase of $3.7 million for finalizing the “study of Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking water Resources” (Heritage Foundation, 67).

Hydraulic Fracturing as an energy source and its potential impacts is a theme that has been widely debated in recent times. Incidents such as Flint Michigan where drinking water became so polluted it was harmful to the health of locals, highlight all of the adverse affects we have yet to understand. For this reason, research in these fields is crucial, as there could be potential disasters waiting to happen we are unaware of.

On the other hand, he ‘Air, Climate, and Energy’ research program is dedicated to studying the relationship between climate change and air pollution. Furthermore, this program researches innovative solutions, particularly regarding the sustainable energy sector. The ‘Sustainable and Healthy Communities’ is a research program that works directly with communities attempting to both educated citizens on local health risks and creating a more sustainable community. This includes an imperative study on the correlation between the health and well-being of Children and the interaction of chemicals and environmental stressors (EPA 2015).

 

EPA. “Sustainable and Healthy Communities – Strategic Research Action Plan 2016-2019.” EPA, Nov. 2015, www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-10/documents/strap_2016_shc_508.pdf.

 

 

  • Allow Development of Natural Resources – Page 82

This proposal states “Congress should open all federal waters and all non-wilderness, non-federal-monument lands to exploration and production of America’s natural resources” (Heritage Foundation, 82). In a nutshell the Heritage Foundation is suggesting via this blueprint a retreat from sustainable energy sources towards looking for unsustainable resources like coal. This is an upsetting notion for many reasons, including the degradation of wilderness, increased pollution, decreased environmental justice, and a halt on sustainable practices. By focusing on extracting natural resources while halting research for sustainable energies, we are essentially moving backwards until we reach the point where we’ve depleted our resources and are left with no viable alternatives.

 

  • Eliminate EPA Environmental Justice Programs – Page 78

In the description to eliminate EPA Environmental Justice Programs it was stated that these programs “funded projects completely unrelated to environmental justice, such as neighborhood litter cleanups; education on urban gardening, composting, and the negative effects of urban sprawl and automobile dependence”(Heritage Foundation, 78). This statement contradicts the truth of what the EPA’s Environmental Justice Programs actually provide. For example, the EPA previously released an action plan for 2020 outlining several goals. One of these goals involves hazardous waste sites and the EPA’s desire to “reduce human exposure to contamination” at these sites (EJ, 58). The EJ recognized “799 facilities and sites where human exposures to toxins are not yet under control” as of 2014. This means that a frightening number of citizens are exposed to hazardous pollutions and toxins – predominantly minorities who can’t afford the ability to do anything about it. Shutting these programs down would halt progress, leaving communities increasingly in harm’s way.

 

Secondly, these programs that the Heritage Foundation denounces do in fact deal directly with environmental justice. Take Greenaction for example. This project educated “over 230 truckers, more than 20 businesses, two schools and one daycare center and over 2,000 Kettleman City and Avenal residents about the impacts of diesel truck idling”(EPA 2017). This project additionally encouraged nine businesses to voluntarily abide by anti-idling laws (EPA 2017).

These programs are important to many individuals who are subject to polluted areas due to where they live and their income. Projects such as these are deemed justice programs, as they strive to bridge the gap between those who are privileged enough to live without the consequences of pollution and those who are not. The EJ 2020 Action Agenda began with a quote from Gina McCarthy who used to be the EPA Administrator:

“Clean water and clean air don’t just happen, especially in low-income and minority communities. These are essential resources that we have to invest in protecting and that starts with communities, cities, states and tribes. This problem isn’t easy. We won’t fix it overnight. It’s only when we work together that we will be able to deliver these basic rights to every American, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make. Everyone deserves to have their health protected from environmental exposures. “ (EJ 2016, 2).

By dismantling the EPA’s Environmental Justice programs, who are we really helping and what are the real consequences?

 

  1. “EJ 2020 Action Agenda.” EPA, www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-05/documents/052216_ej_2020_strategic_plan_final_0.pdf.

 

EPA. “EPA Region 9 Environmental Justice (EJ) Grant Successes.” EPA, www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/epa-region-9-environmental-justice-ej-grant-successes

 

  • Rein in the EPA’s Ozone Standard – Page 81

In 2015 the EPA created an ozone standard of 70 parts per billion.  Ground-level ozone pollution is created from the emission of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, commonly sourced from the burning of fossil fuels. Ground-level ozone pollution has many adverse health effects including severe asthma and reduced immune system functioning. The Heritage Foundation declared this reduced standard “premature action” (Heritage Foundation, 81). I believe this proposal mistook the idea of premature action with being proactive. Stepping in and stopping an uncontrollable amount of harmful pollutions is necessary, as once ozone is in the atmosphere it will continue to cause harm. Particularly with environmental degradation and pollution, being proactive is far more successful than being reactive. Once a species is extinct or the coral reefs have been destroyed there is no coming back. We need a budget and government who mirror this understanding and value an institution that acts to prevent such devastation.

 

Although I couldn’t delve into each proposed budget cut, others in this section included the Elimination of the National Clean Diesel Campaign, End the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Eliminate the EPA’s information Exchange and Outreach, Reduce the EPA’s Legal Advice Environment Program, and to Reduce the EPA’s Civil Enforcement Program. When reading this budget it’s easy to dismiss these proposals, as the Heritage Foundation has no control over our actual budget. It’s becoming increasingly evident, however, that perhaps President Trump and the Heritage Foundation’s values are not so divergent. When reviewing Trump’s skinny budget it was hard to grasp an understanding of quite what he intends to do as it was both vague, generalized and provided zero depth. What he did make clear though was a desire to radically change the EPA and the role it plays in American society. The skinny budget mentioned a $2.6 billion cut from the EPA – a 30% reduction – which would also amount to a loss of 3,200 jobs (Office of Management 2017, 41).  The budget additionally called for an elimination of over fifty EPA programs (neglecting to specify which ones) and an elimination of funds for specific regional efforts and grants (again failing to specify which ones) (Office of Management 2017, 41). After reading proposals such as these, the Heritage Foundation’s Blueprint and Trump’s skinny budget started to seem eerily similar.

 

 

References in order of appearance

Heritage Foundation. “Blueprint for Balance – A Federal Budget for 2017.” Heritage Foundation, 2017, thf-reports.s3.amazonaws.com/2016/BlueprintforBalance.pdf.

Office of Management and Budget. “America First – A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” The Whitehouse, 2017, www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/2018_blueprint.pdf.