EPA’s water funding programs maintain current levels amid Trump budget cuts

The FY18 budget plan released by President Donald Trump in May would reduce EPA funding by 31 percent across the board by slashing programs and cutting staff, but the plan would maintain current funding levels for the agency’s water infrastructure financing programs. The proposal marks just one step in a long budget process where Congress will make the final programmatic funding decisions.

The White House’s budget proposal for EPA builds on the initial budget blueprint released in March. The plan focuses EPA on the agency’s “core statutory requirements and water infrastructure” and to that end proposes elimination of dozens of programs the administration labels as duplicative or low-priority.

Under the plan, EPA would receive a total of $5.7 billion in funding next year, approximately 31 percent below the agency’s current level.

But funding for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) would remain virtually unchanged at $863 million and $1.394 billion, respectively. The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program would receive $20 million ($17 million for loan subsidies and $3 million for administrative support), which could be leveraged into as much as $2 billion worth of water infrastructure loans.

The Trump administration’s plan is only the first step in the FY18 budget process, and there is little chance that Congress will go along with many of the cuts and policy changes the White House has proposed. While many Democrats on Capitol Hill quickly criticized the overall budget plan, even statements from the respective Republican leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees suggested lawmakers will largely set aside Trump’s proposal.

The Trump administration’s plan is only the first step in the FY18 budget process, and there is little chance that Congress will go along with many of the cuts and policy changes the White House has proposed.

At the same time, the Trump administration’s FY18 budget cuts millions from water research and assistance programs, such as EPA initiatives to protect water infrastructure, carry out contaminant research and help states implement and enforce federal environmental laws.

Among the water-related programs targeted for cuts or elimination in EPA’s budget are:

  • The water security program, which helps protect water infrastructure against terrorist threats and other intentional acts.  Under Trump’s plan, $11.5 million of critical infrastructure protection funds that support the program would be cut.
  • WaterSense, the voluntary product-labeling program aimed at boosting water efficiency.  The budget would eliminate the program’s $3 million budget.

RELATED — Water sector to Pruitt: Continue funding for WaterSense

  • Categorical grant funding that helps states implement federal environmental laws would be cut by $482 million to “substantially reduce Federal investment in State environmental activities that go beyond EPA’s statutory requirements.” The reduction includes a $30 million cut to the Public Water System Supervision program and elimination of the entire $165 million budget of Section 319 Nonpoint Source programs.
  • The Safe and Sustainable Water Resources research program, which supports scientific research and technology to protect human health and the nation’s water supplies.  The program would be cut by $38 million (36 percent).
  • Water quality research and support grants, which develop water quality criteria and technologies to restore and protect water bodies. The program’s entire $26.8 million budget would be eliminated.
  • The Global Change Research program, which conducts scientific research on global climate change. The program and its $19.4 million budget would be eliminated.
  • EPA’s geographic programs, which include environmental protection and restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico. All geographic program funding, which totaled nearly $427 million last year, would be eliminated.

EPA was not unique in seeing funding for dozens of programs cut or zeroed-out. The White House released a separate “Major Savings and Reforms” document as part of the budget that details proposed program eliminations across the federal government. But like the rest of Trump’s budget plan, Congress will have the final say on where money is spent, and many of the programs targeted for elimination in the budget are ultimately expected to receive dollars from lawmakers.

Some information included in this news update appeared in the May 29 edition of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies’ (AMWA) Monday Morning Briefing.

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