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Sophie Austin
By Sophie Austin July 17, 2020

Trump rolls back EPA rules, but the agency is far from gone

During his 2016 bid for the presidency, Donald Trump promised to "get rid of" the Environmental Protection Agency "in almost every form." 

Since taking office, Trump has rolled back over a dozen EPA regulations, but his proposed budget cuts to the agency haven't been enacted by Congress. Some experts say Trump's promise was unrealistic from the start.

"Everything EPA does is empowered by laws Congress has passed that require the EPA to take actions, like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act," said Sean Hecht, co-executive director of UCLA's Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. "Rolling back regulations is not the same as stripping power away from the agency."

In Trump's proposed budget for fiscal year 2021, he's requesting $6.7 billion for the EPA, which would be a $2.4 billion, or 26%, decline from the fiscal year 2020 budget.

That 2021 proposal would include a $600 million cut from 50 EPA programs, but it's still a work in progress. Congress has yet to finalize the federal budget.

Although the Trump administration has proposed cuts to the EPA budget every year since the president took office, the enacted EPA budget stayed the same at $8.8 billion in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, and the estimated budget is $9.1 billion for fiscal year 2020, according to the EPA.

Since September 2017, the Trump administration has rolled back 17 EPA rules and is in the process of rolling back 17 more as of early July, according to a tracker by a Harvard Law School program. 

Among the completed rollbacks are adjusting emissions limits for coal-fired power plants; refusing to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to health problems in children; and withdrawing a proposed rule for groundwater protections at uranium mines. 

Multiple rollbacks have resulted in legal battles, including a rule loosening Obama-era mileage standards aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In February 2020, Andrew Wheeler, the agency's administrator and a former coal lobbyist, finalized a rollback of a rule aimed at reducing leaks of hydrofluorocarbons, which are chemicals used in air conditioning that contribute to climate change.

Hannah Blatt, the communications manager for EDF Action, an advocacy partner of the Environmental Defense Fund, said in an email that the Trump administration has "attacked more than 100 environmental and health policies." Those include completed and ongoing rollbacks of EPA rules along with other policies.

Hecht said that the Trump administration has also undermined the EPA's staff and committees.

"Once Trump is out of office, any president who wants to protect the environment will have their hands full trying to rebuild the agency's capacity to do its job effectively," he said.

The EPA is far from gone, but the Trump administration continues to roll back environmental rules and propose funding cuts for the agency in yearly budgets. 

We rate this promise Compromise.


Our Sources

PolitiFact, Budget proposal would cut EPA by 31% in one year, March 29, 2017

Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Budget in Brief, February 2020

Email interview with Hannah Blatt, EDF Action spokesperson, June 24, 2020

The White House, An American Budget, February 2018

The White House, A Budget for a Better America, March 2019

The White House, A Budget for America's Future, February 2020

Harvard Law School Environmental & Energy Law Program, Regulatory Rollback Tracker, accessed June 25, 2020

National Center for Biotechnology Information, Chlorpyrifos, accessed June 25, 2020

Email exchange with Sean Hecht, co-executive director of UCLA's Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, June 25, 2020

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson March 29, 2017

Budget proposal would cut EPA by 31% in one year

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to take an ax to the Environmental Protection Agency. He is proposing to do precisely that in the White House's fiscal year 2018 budget proposal.

Overall, agency funding would be cut by $2.6 billion, or 31 percent below the previous year's level. Employment would be reduced by approximately 3,200 positions. Among the cuts:

• End the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts. (Budgetary reduction: $100 million)

• Reduce the Superfund program, which cleans up hazardous-waste sites. ($330 million)

• Reduce funding for federal enforcement of environmental protection violations. ($129 million)

• Eliminate funding for restoration of the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs. ($427 million)

• Eliminate more than 50 other programs, including Energy Star, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, and infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages and the Mexico Border. ($347 million)

The Sierra Club, a leading environmental group, said the cuts "would effectively disable the Environmental Protection Agency."

Presidential budget proposals are always opening volleys in the debate between the administration and Congress over how much executive branch agencies should be funded, so we'll have to see whether these cuts are actually enacted before giving this promise a final rating. Still, Trump's proposal squares with his pledge to "take a tremendous amount out" of EPA, so we rate it In the Works.

Our Sources

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