Trump Budget Slashes Environmental, Clean Energy Funding

Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Yesterday, President Trump released his FY2021 budget, and the proposed cuts to federal agencies and research programs were severe.

As Science Mag summarized, Trump’s budget proposes the following cuts:

  • National Institutes of Health: a cut of 7%, or $2.942 billion, to $36.965 billion
  • National Science Foundation (NSF): a cut of 6%, or $424 million, to $6.328 billion
  • Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science: a cut of 17%, or $1.164 billion, to $5.760 billion
  • NASA science: a cut of 11%, or $758 million, to $6.261 billion
  • DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): a cut of 173%, which would not only eliminate the $425 million agency, but also force it to return $311 million to the U.S. Department of the Treasury
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Research Service: a cut of 12%, or $190 million, to $1.435 billion
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology: a cut of 19%, or $154 million, to $653 million
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: a cut of 31%, or $300 million, to $678 million
  • Environmental Protection Agency science and technology: a cut of 37%, or $174 million, to $318 million
  • Department of Homeland Security science and technology: a cut of 15%, or $65 million, to $357 million
  • U.S. Geological Survey: a cut of 30%, or $200 million, to $460 million

Why This Matters: There’s a very slim chance that this budget will pass through a Democrat-controlled House, but that’s not really the issue here. In previous years, federal agencies have received their funding but in turn, haven’t used that money to hire for vacant positions or to carry out their missions to protect environmental and human health and safety. Instead, they’ve withheld federal funds from states they don’t like to try and get them to conform to the Trump deregulatory agenda.

From a political lens, Democrats running for office should use these proposed cuts as a message to voters: Trump is willing gut funding for agencies that ensure that Americans have clean drinking water and safe air to breathe. A staggering 100,000 Americans die from air pollution each year, if that’s not a healthcare issue then what is?

Why The Cuts: As the New York Times reported, President Trump was speaking to the nation’s governors at the White House, he said that his budget proposal would bring the deficit close to zero in “not that long a period of time” and that he was investing heavily in the military and America’s nuclear arsenal.

That’s a tough sell as Trump’s tax cuts saw the U.S. federal deficit for fiscal year 2019 hit $984 billion, a 26% increase from 2018. As Trump wants to maintain his tax cuts in an election year, this goes against conventional economic thinking which maintains that deficits will decrease when the economy is healthy as the government pulls back on spending and draws more tax money as a result of lower unemployment.

What IS Funded: As the Verge explained, the Trump FY2021 budget earmarks $1.2 billion for nuclear energy research and development and related programs. That’s significantly more than the $824 million Trump proposed in his budget the previous year. Additionally, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the source of most of the department’s competitive grants to academic research, which would get an 11%, or $95 million increase.

The Reaction: As expected, the environmental community and Democratic lawmakers responded with condemnation to cuts that limit our nation’s ability to regulate and grapple with the climate crisis.

From Gina McCarthy, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“Congress should toss this Trump budget into the dustbin of history like they’ve done with the other ones. This president is putting our families and communities at risk by taking direct aim at the environment, public health and energy innovation. It is unconscionable to take such drastic cuts to EPA, the Energy Department and other agencies that keep us safe, protect our kids and grow our clean energy economy. At a time when we’re only seeing greater risks from climate change, these agencies deserve to be fully funded by Congress.”

From Kathy Castor (D-FL) Chairwoman of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis: 

“By the looks of his proposed budget, President Trump wants to sideline American innovation while continuing to ignore the climate crisis. By discouraging investments in clean energy and eliminating necessary clean air and water protections.”


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