On March 16, 2017, the Administration released its “Budget Blueprint” for FY 2018 containing general information about its proposed budget, which calls for cuts to EPA’s budget of 31 percent, reductions in EPA staff of 21 percent and a 45-percent cut to categorical grants (Section 103 and 105 air quality grants are under the categorical grant line item). The budget proposal, entitled, America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, is not detailed enough to ascertain the impact on state and local air quality grants specifically; however, it states that “[t]his funding level eliminates or substantially reduces Federal investment in State environmental activities that go beyond EPA’s statutory requirements.” Other significant reductions in the budget blueprint include a 25-percent cut to funding for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance and a 48-percent decrease to the Office of Research and Development. The blueprint also calls for discontinuation of funding for the “Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts;” elimination of funding for specific regional programs, such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay and other geographic programs (stating “[t]he budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to State and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities”); and elimination of over 50 EPA programs, including, among others, Energy Star; Targeted Airshed Grants; the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program; and infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages and the Mexico Border. In May 2017, the Administration is expected to propose a more specific budget, which will be submitted to Congress for consideration. Congress has the ultimate say in how much to appropriate to federal programs.
April 3, 2017 – An EPA memorandum (dated March 21, 2017) providing information about the Administration’s upcoming FY 2018 budget proposal has become public, providing specific details that have heretofore been unavailable about the implications of the Administration’s “Budget Blueprint” released on March 16, 2017. The latest information indicates that air grants (under Sections 103/105 of the Clean Air Act) would be reduced by 31 percent from FY 2016 levels (FY 2017 levels are currently very similar to FY 2016 levels, due to the Continuing Resolution under which the federal government is operating). This means that grants would go from $228.2 million in FY 2016 to $159.5 million in FY 2018. Previous information indicated cuts of 45 percent were being proposed for categorical grants (e.g., air, water, solid waste grants), but did not break down the information by media. This provides greater specificity related to individual media grants, including air. With respect to EPA’s overall budget, the agency would experience a 31-percent reduction in funding, to $5.7 billion, and a reduction of 24.9 percent in staffing levels, for a total of 11,548 full-time equivalents. Under the proposal, the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) grants would be reduced from $50 million in FY 2016 to $15 million, the Targeted Airshed grants would be eliminated ($20 million in FY 2016) and the Multipurpose Grants would be eliminated ($21 million in FY 2016). The figures in the memorandum differ in certain respects from preliminary data NACAA had obtained from an Office of Management and Budget document on February 28, 2017).
March 27, 2017 – NACAA sent a letter to the House and Senate leadership of the Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies expressing the association’s deep concern about the significant reductions to the FY 2018 budget for EPA that are proposed in the Administration’s Budget Blueprint that was released on March 16, 2017. The letter notes that the possible reductions of 45 percent to state and local air grants under Sections 103 and 105 of the Clean Air Act would be devastating to state and local air quality programs. State and local air quality agencies already struggle with insufficient resources and increased responsibilities. They rely on federal grants for a host of critical programs. Any cuts to those grants would be hard to accommodate, but the steep proposed cuts in the Budget Blueprint could result in significant adverse impacts to their programs and to public health and the environment. Additionally, NACAA’s letter discussed the fact that state and local agencies must rely on EPA to carry out its responsibilities in assisting state and local air programs. Therefore, it is vitally important that EPA be adequately funded as well. NACAA sent the letter to Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tom Udall (D-NM), Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies and Reps. Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the House Appropriations Committee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.