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Trump’s 2018 Budget Would Whack EPA and DOE. Will it See the Light of Day?

The Trump administration is proposing to cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency more than 31% in the 2018 budget. The White House rationalizes that the cuts would reduce the regulatory burden, allowing businesses to expand and to invest in modern pollution controls.

To try and get bipartisan support, the president wants to throw in $1 trillion to rebuild the country’s infrastructure for such things as roads, bridges, ports, airports and water treatment facilities — things the Democrats have long pushed for and which they say add jobs. Beyond the cuts in EPA’s funding, this policy would streamline the regulatory process, which every administration across party lines has continually sought to achieve.

So, what are the odds that president could get his budget through Congress — one that also cuts the Department of Energy’s monies by 5.4%? It won’t happen but in presenting such positions, the president hopes to end up in a better spot than he did with his 2017 budget. Congress is the body that must pass the appropriations bills, which are then incorporated into budgets, generally. And lawmakers across the isle are concerned about cuts to such things as Superfund that cleans up despoiled areas in their districts where factories have come and gone.

“All of us care about the environment, and we care about all construction projects, and that they should be conducted in a way that is responsible. But as we examine the permitting part of construction projects, we find that … many times there are duplicative and redundant requirements which impede and slow down the approvals for a construction project,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said before a Senate congressional panel, as noted by the The Hill. 

Simplifying the regulatory process while also minimizing the number of rules would work to increase productivity and jobs, the administration reasons. But are the two things linked together or are they mutually exclusive?

Certainly, if rules are duplicative and costly, a bipartisan group of lawmakers can band together to try and streamline processes. But if certain rules protect lives and preserve the environment, lawmakers would need to think twice about wiping them off the books. For example, Trump’s budget would get rid of 50 programs at the EPA and most notably its climate change initiatives. It would also reportedly slash spending by 70% for the Energy Department’s renewables program.

For context, the president didn’t have much luck with the 2017 budget and given his current political status, the odds don’t look good for 2018 either: The 2017 Environmental Protection Agency was cut by less than 1%, or $81 million from its roughly $8 billion budget. This is a department that Trump had wanted to cut by 31%.  

Beyond the budget, there’s also the issues of whether the Trump administration will join the global climate talks and try to get rid of the “endangerment finding” that gives EPA the right to regulate CO2. On both counts, the White House has given signs that it will join the talks and won’t spend the political capital trying to legislatively defeat a policy that the US Supreme Court has upheld.

If existing laws are to be changed or thrown out, the process requires that it must either be done legislatively or through the judicial branch that would decide such rules to either be unconstitutional or outside the bounds of congressional intent.

We now know after four months of the Trump administration, no one person, not even a president, can stop the climate movement,” former Vice President Al Gore said at a news conference, as referenced in Reuters

“The courts have blocked parts of what President Trump has attempted and the Congress has refused to act on other parts of his agenda. The American people are determined to continue making progress and will do so,” he added.

Business ranging from Microsoft and Intel Corp. to DuPont and General Mills are leading the charge and are favoring clean air and clean waters rules, specifically those global efforts to curb CO2. Their position is that investments in the clean energy economy not only improve the ecology but also create newfound business opportunities. Moreover, it is what their customers want. 

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