The Trump administration released its long-anticipated budget targets last week, providing more detail on exactly how President Donald Trump will meet his goal of cutting $54 billion in nondefense discretionary spending in order to boost defense spending by roughly the same amount. The budget details released by President Trump largely represent a hodgepodge of recycled ideas from previous conservative spending plans. These cuts would directly threaten the safety and economic security of ordinary Virginians, while benefiting wealthy and powerful corporations.
In particular, the Trump budget guts programs that help ensure that people in Virginia are breathing clean air and drinking clean water. By forcing heavy cuts on the agencies responsible for environmental protection and land management, the Trump budget would hamper Virginia’s ability to strengthen its outdoor recreation economy, recover from an environmental disaster, and address climate change impacts on local communities.
Trump’s cut to Virginia’s environmental defenses
The Trump budget would cut the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, by 31 percent. The budget would also cut the U.S. Department of the Interior by 12 percent, and the U.S. Department of Energy nonnuclear programs by 18 percent. The cuts would make it significantly more difficult for these agencies to carry out their roles in safeguarding the environment, protecting public lands and waters, and developing cutting edge technology and clean energy to slow the impacts of climate change.
Because Virginia’s Office of Natural Resources depends on federal funding for 19 percent of its budget, budget cuts at the EPA could mean $26.4 million less for Virginia’s environmental programs. These cuts would hinder the state’s ability to monitor and clean up contaminants, such as the elevated lead levels that have been found in Virginia’s drinking water 65 times since 2012.
Cuts to programs that discourage polluters and reduce pollution could also put Superfund sites—locations identified as containing significant amounts of hazardous waste that pose a danger to people and the environment, such as chemical waste at the Greenwood Chemical Co. site, lead contamination at the C&R Battery Company site, and toxic solvents at the Hidden Lane Landfill site—at risk of not being cleaned up, exposing Virginians to toxic chemicals.
The Trump budget also attacks weatherization and state energy planning programs at the Department of Energy, eliminating $4.6 million directed to Virginia alone. These programs increase residential energy efficiency for low-income families, who spend more than 16 percent of their income on energy costs, and help them save $283 per year on average on their utility bills. The state energy program planning funds help governors prepare for natural disasters and electricity or fuel disruptions, increase efficiency for consumers, and deploy clean and alternative energy, including at schools and other public buildings.
Major funding reductions for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Energy would put Virginians at risk of exposure to environmental hazards and dent Virginia’s economic growth. The cuts to environmental and energy programs in this budget are just one way that the budget would force major shortages across an array of programs that Virginians depend on. Elected officials representing Virginians in Washington must take notice of the impact that the Trump budget would have on Virginia families.
Ryan Erickson is the Associate Director for Economic Campaigns at American Progress. Harry Stein is Director of Fiscal Policy at American Progress. The authors would like to thank Erin Auel and Kate Kelly for their assistance with this column.