The White House has proposed slashing EPA’s budget by about a quarter and laying off 1 in 5 of the agency’s workers, according to sources familiar with the budget proposal sent to EPA on Monday.
That budget proposal would set EPA’s budget at $6.1 billion, down from its current level of $8.1 billion, according to two sources outside the agency. EPA’s budget hasn’t been that low since 1991, according to agency records. One of those sources also said that the White House has proposed reducing EPA’s 15,000-strong workforce to 12,000, a level not seen since the mid-1980s.
The White House declined to confirm the figures.
One source told POLITICO that the proposed cuts were “far more severe than anyone imagined.” And an EPA employee said staff were buzzing on Monday about the possibility of such a massive cut to the agency’s budget.
In a brief interview, a senior EPA official refused to confirm the proposed cuts, adding that he was “not in a position to discuss it publicly.” The official said the budget blueprint is part of a “deliberative process” between the White House and EPA, adding that the Office of Management and Budget is expecting a response from the agency by Wednesday afternoon.
The White House said Monday it is seeking to hike defense spending by $54 billion, a jump offset by shrinking spending at non-security agencies across the federal government.
Monday’s proposal is part of the initial stages of the Trump administration’s budget-crafting process. Agencies will return the proposals with comment in the coming days, and the Office of Management and Budget will release a “budget blueprint” on March 16, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said. A full, detailed budget plan will not be released until May.
It remains unclear whether congressional Republicans will be willing to make such drastic budget shifts, but Democrats and environmentalists are already blasting the Trump proposal’s domestic spending cuts.
“Reckless cuts to the EPA — the agency responsible for protecting public health and our environment — are not what Americans voted for in November,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).
“Here’s what cutting EPA’s budget means in the real world: more air pollution, more asthma attacks for kids, more health problems. This isn’t about budget savings. It is about giving big polluters a license to pollute without consequences,” said Elizabeth Thompson of the Environmental Defense Fund.
Andrew Restuccia and Esther Whieldon contributed to this report.