The Budget Against our Environment

By: Martha Molfetas

Last week, the White House officially released their 2018 Budget Proposal. Right now, that proposal is in the House of Representatives and will eventually hit the floor of the Senate. Many programs that aid Americans are on the chopping block, including programs like Meals on Wheels and after school programs, housing programs and PBS - just to name a few. These are all programs that quite literally save and enrich the lives of Americans. While these cuts are indeed stark, our environment may have the most to lose. At the heart of calls for environmental justice, is the idea of a shared ecosystem that should, with proper stewardship, support and sustain us for decades to come. 

The EPA, NOAA, FEMA, and other agencies all stand to lose funding for programs that protect Americans from environmental disasters and injustices; protect our air, water, and soil from dangerous pollution; and would make us less prepared for climate impacts. We all stand to lose when the environment we rely on becomes unsafe. In recent weeks, many have shared photos of what life was like before the EPA, sharing the health and environmental impacts of decades of pollution - what could be described as apocalyptic. In short, these cuts would make our government unable to adequately respond to environmental disasters, like chemical waste spills and pipeline bursts, or lead contamination in drinking water. The cuts would also steal away any opportunity for Americans to prepare for climate impacts by cutting research and removing preparedness programs.

No agency or government is perfect, but each serves an important role in our lives. Agencies like the EPA save lives by protecting our air and water. Agencies like NOAA save lives through storm preparedness and warning systems. Agencies like FEMA address the worst impacts of natural disasters. In turn, all of the following proposed cuts would wreak havoc on the lives and well-being of Americans:


Proposed Environmental Cuts (source)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • Cut overall budget by 31% ($2.6 billion)
    • The largest proposed cut to any department
  • Cut funding for the Office of Research and Development by 48% ($233 million)
  • Remove 2,600 jobs at the EPA
  • Completely eliminate all funding for 50 EPA programs by $347 million, including:
    • Clean Power Plan
    • International climate change programs
    • Climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts
    • Energy Star program
  • Cut funding for programs that clean up hazardous waste sites by $330 million

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Cut funding for climate impact research and preparedness by $250 million
    • Coastal research and grants that aid communities for sea level rise and increasing storm intensity

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

  • Cut Earth Science research by $102 million
    • Effectively removing climate research from NASA
  • Eliminate the following Earth science research programs on climatic and oceanic conditions: PACE, OCO-3, and CLARREO Pathfinder.

Department of Energy (DOE)

  • Cut overall operating budget by 5.6% ($1.7 billion)
  • Eliminate programs on clean energy and climate risk preparedness, including:
    • Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy
    • Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program
    • Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program
    • Weatherization Assistance Program
    • State Energy Program

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

  • Reduce local and state grant funding by $667 million
  • Eliminate the pre-Disaster Mitigation Program
    • Effectively a climate risk preparedness program

Department of Interior (DOI)

  • Cut overall operating budget by 12% ($11.6 billion)
  • Boost funding for fossil fuel energy programs
  • Cut funding for public lands acquisition by $120 million
  • Eliminate the following:
    • Abandoned Mine Grants
    • National Wildlife Fund - payments to states

Department of State

  • Cut funding over three years for multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, by $650 million.
    • This will be to the detriment of global financing of climate resilience, adaptation, and mitigation measures.
  • Remove entirely the Global Climate Change Initiative
  • End all payments to UN climate change programs, including the Green Climate Fund (GCF)
  • Eliminate the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance program
    • At a time when climate refugees are increasing


Photo by: Martha Molfetas, featured in 'Miami Sea Level Rise'