Monday Morning Briefing

Monday Morning Briefing

Trump budget plan would slash EPA, water infrastructure funding

A $4.8 trillion budget blueprint for the 2021 fiscal year released by the White House last week would slash EPA spending by 26 percent while also steeply reducing funds for the agency’s State Revolving Fund (SRF) and Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) programs. But the plan, which would cut overall EPA spending from $9.1 billion this year to $6.7 billion in 2021, is dead-on-arrival on Capitol Hill and will be largely ignored as lawmakers develop their own FY21 spending plan in the months ahead.

A White House summary of the budget plan pledges to “support EPA’s core work to ensure clean air, water, land, and safer chemicals,” while “reigning in unnecessary spending.” The document goes on to claim that “almost 50 wasteful programs that are outside of EPA’s core mission or duplicative of other efforts” would be eliminated.

Highlights of the budget plan include:

  • $863 million for the Drinking Water SRF, reduced from $1.126 billion this year;
  • Just under $1.12 billion for the Clean Water SRF, down from $1.639 billion in FY20;
  • $25 million for WIFIA, compared to $60 million this year. Of the total, $5 million would be reserved for administrative expenses at EPA, and the remaining $20 million could be leveraged into an estimated $2 billion worth of water infrastructure loans; and
  • An additional $6 million to carry out EPA’s PFAS Action Plan.

A detailed explanation of the EPA portion of the budget notes that the plan would deliver $117 million to fund various other water infrastructure programs established by Congress in recent years, including:

  • $2 million for Drinking Water Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability grants, down from $3 million last year;
  • $20 million for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water grants, an increase of about $500,000;
  • $15 million for voluntary lead testing in schools (down from $26 million), and $10 million for the first-ever funding of a new program to replace outdated drinking water fountains in schools; and
  • $1 million for water workforce investment, equal to its FY20 level.

The White House has proposed significant cuts to EPA spending in each year of the Trump administration, so this latest request is not surprising. Each of the Trump administration’s earlier calls for broad EPA cuts have been rejected by Congress, and that trend is expected to continue this year. In the coming months, appropriators in the House and Senate will begin to put together their own spending plans that will become the basis of the slate of FY21 appropriations bills.