The Trump Budget: A Significant Cut to Nevada’s Environmental Protection Resources

The south portal of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump is shown near Mercury, Nevada, in April 2015.

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 Nevadans, while benefiting wealthy and powerful corporations.

In particular, the Trump budget guts programs that help ensure that people in Nevada 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 Nevada’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 Nevada’s environmental defenses

The Trump budget would cut the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, by 31 percent. It would also cut the U.S. Department of the Interior by 12 percent and 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 Nevada’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources depends on federal funding for 31 percent of its budget, budget cuts at EPA could mean $6.8 million less for Nevada’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 Nevada’s drinking water four 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 the toxic materials at the Anaconda Copper Mine and the mercury contamination at Carson River Mercury Site—at risk of not being cleaned up, exposing Nevadans to toxic chemicals.

Reductions to the Department of the Interior budget could also cut the National Park Service budget, which could in turn force seasonal closures or layoffs of park rangers at Death Valley National Park, weakening a major economic engine for the state.

The Trump budget also includes a significant addition: providing the Department of Energy with $120 million to restart the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility. This flies in the face of local residents, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), and the state’s congressional delegation, all of whom oppose storing nuclear waste at the site. At the same time, the Trump budget also attacks weatherization and state energy planning programs at the Department of Energy, eliminating $1.1 million directed to Nevada 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.

Conclusion

Major funding reductions for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Energy would put Nevadans at risk of exposure to environmental hazards and dent Nevada’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 Nevadans depend on. Elected officials representing Nevadans in Washington must take notice of the impact that the Trump budget would have on Nevada families.

Ryan Erickson is the Associate Director for Economic Campaigns at the Center for American Progress. Harry Stein is Director of Fiscal Policy at the Center. The authors would like to thank Erin Auel and Kate Kelly for their assistance with this column.