Former EPA head Gina McCarthy clanged alarm bells Thursday over the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the EPA’s massive budget. That’s because the Trump administration wants to slash its $8.2 billion budget by at least 25 percent, a level not seen since 1991. The EPA employs about 15,000 people, with 40 state offices across the country and thousands of outside contractors.
The new EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, has already explained to a mayoral conference he wants to make sure budget cuts don’t affect the Brownfields program, water infrastructure plans, and Superfund projects. Pruitt told E&E News that after only being at EPA a week, it’s difficult for him to make the needed cuts as there are so many programs, grants, and contractors to evaluate.
But as is the case with all dealmakers, President Trump likes to negotiate high and then settle somewhere in the middle. And like all budget proposals, it’s simply that: a proposal. Once it’s submitted to Congress, it then goes through various committees before finally being voted on and passed. One area most experts agree on is that the EPA has ballooned far outside its original core mission: to protect human health and the environment.
A 2015 report by the non-partisan watchdog group Open The Books showed that since 2000, the EPA has doled out $72 billion in grants with much of it flowing toward various entities in local, state, and federal governments. The remaining grant money went to private entities, Native Americans, and universities. That’s twenty times more than what has been parceled out by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Significantly, EPA also sent $50 million in grants to 61 non-U.S. entities, including $1.2 million to China.
The EPA has so far spent $92 million on expensive, lavish furniture for its office needs, even as Superfund sites have remained contaminated for decades—including seven in Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma. EPA’s interior design work also included $813 for pencil drawers and $7,000 for Herman Miller desks. Since 2005, these furniture expenditures have cost taxpayers $48.4 million, with another $5 million on upscale Knoll furniture. The EPA also created a rehiring program for retired seniors costing taxpayers a whopping $1 billion since 2007.