White House FY20 budget proposes cuts for EPA, Army Corps

Funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would be cut by nearly a third next year under an FY20 budget proposal released by the Trump administration last week. The spending cuts, which would reduce EPA appropriations from their FY19 level of just over $8.8 billion to $6.1 billion next year, would also affect the agency’s State Revolving Fund (SRF) and Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) programs.

Under the administration’s request for EPA, the agency would receive $863 million for the Drinking Water SRF next year, $301 million below the program’s FY19 appropriation. The Clean Water SRF would suffer an even larger cut of $574 million, leaving the program with just under $1.12 billion next year. The WIFIA program would receive $25 million, well below its FY19 funding of $68 million.

Despite the cuts, the administration’s budget documents attempt to put a positive spin on the proposal, explaining that in 2020, “EPA will focus resources on supporting the modernization of outdated drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure; creating incentives for new water technologies and innovation; and funding the core requirements of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).” It also notes that the $25 million request for WIFIA could be leveraged into roughly $2 billion worth of loans to communities.

Army Corps

President Donald Trump’s FY20 budget request proposes to cut the budget of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) by more than 30 percent. If approved, the reduction would leave USACE with just $4.8 billion next year. USACE received about $7 billion for FY19.

The president’s request officially kicks off the FY20 budget season, but Congress is expected to largely reject the broad funding cuts to EPA and other agencies sought by the administration. President Trump proposed similarly dramatic reductions to EPA ahead of the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years – each of which Congress denied.

In recent years it has become commonplace for presidential administrations to propose significant cuts to USACE in their budget documents, as administration officials seek to contain the overall cost of their spending plans. Given the popularity of USACE and its mission on Capitol Hill, there is often an expectation that Congress will ultimately restore the funding when it gets around to enacting the spending bills for the fiscal year. For example, this year, before Congress eventually funded USACE at $7 billion, President Trump proposed providing it with just $4.6 billion.

The FY19 budget request also repeats previous proposals by the Trump administration to sell the Washington Aqueduct, which provides wholesale water service for the District of Columbia and parts of Northern Virginia. The budget plan argues the sale would net $123 million for the federal government, but Congress has ignored this request when the president proposed it in previous years.

Sources: AMWA, NACWA

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