President Donald Trump sent out his budget blueprint to federal agencies Feb. 27, seeking to slash the budget for the EPA and other agencies while boosting defense spending by $54 billion.
With a baseline for the next fiscal year in hand—pending approval from Congress, which authorizes and appropriates funds to federal agencies—EPA leaders will have to ask themselves a difficult question: what will be the first programs to go? Chemical industry groups are hoping the incoming administration will saves its key programs at the Environmental Protection Agency that are essential to keep their businesses moving.
The pesticide industry, which depends on the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention to put its products on the market, has been particularly active in telling the White House’s advisers not to blindly take a hatchet to the agency’s budget.
Industries Lobby for Strengthening EPA Program
“This administration has made no big secret about cutting the EPA,” Ed Ruckert, an attorney in the Washington office of McDermott, Will and Emery who represents several agricultural and pest control organizations, told Bloomberg BNA. “I think you’re going to see industry say ‘this is an organization that needs to be maintained and strengthened’.”
Many industries—from the power plant sector to construction, to water utilities—depend on the EPA to issue the permits necessary to legally operate their businesses. Slowdowns or halts in permitting could constrain operations.
But pesticide manufacturers that make crop insecticides, household disinfectants and other such chemicals are unique because they pay fees to the Office of Pesticide Programs to ensure that work gets done. Congress is poised to reauthorize a bill later this year that would renew the business’s commitment to paying dues in exchange for certainty about the approvals they legally need to stay in business.
Under the latest iteration, the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act () will allow the EPA to raise up to $31 million—an increase from $27.8 million—to maintain the registrations of existing pesticides. At the same time, congressional appropriations since fiscal year 2010 have dropped from about $143 million per year to about $120 million. Congress has sidestepped this obligation by issuing waivers that allow the industry fees to fund pesticide licensing despite the low appropriations.
The PRIA Coalition—headed by agricultural pesticide association CropLife America and consumer trade group, the Consumer Specialty Products Association—have met with the EPA and with lawmakers to press their case to preserve the program.
Doug Ericksen, spokesman for the transition team at the EPA, did not respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment on the agency’s budget.
The agency’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt, made his name fighting the Obama administration in court over high-profile regulations on climate change and water. E-mails released to the public last week by the Center for Media and Democracy show that Pruitt worked closely with the oil and gas industry on policy issues as he served as Oklahoma’s attorney general. Backers of the agency under President Barack Obama fear that Pruitt will put a target on the agency’s climate change work, undoing much of the effort his predecessors Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy put forward.
The clampdown on the agency comes after a steady decline in the budget over the last seven years. The EPA’s spending allowance has declined from $10.3 billion in fiscal year 2010 to $8.1 billion in fiscal year 2016.