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EPA Plans for Cuts Under Lower Budget

An internal memo between officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is providing a clearer picture of how the agency plans to handle a $2.6 billion cut in funding, which the Trump administration proposed last month.

Under President Trump's proposed $1.15 trillion budget, the EPA is to be allocated $5.7 billion, a 31% reduction from its current funding.

Five days after Trump unveiled his proposed budget, David Bloom, the EPA's acting chief financial officer, sent a memo to the agency's acting counsel, assistant administrators and others. In the memo -- a copy of which was posted online by E&E News -- Bloom said the agency will have about 11,547 full-time employees after the budget cut. The EPA currently employs about 15,000 people.

"This resource level will require taking a comprehensive look at our priorities and thinking differently about the best ways to accomplish our core statutory responsibilities," Bloom wrote. He later added that the EPA's work "will center on our core legal requirements, federal-only and national efforts, providing support to states in implementing environmental laws, and easing regulatory burden...

"These resource levels require us to think about the work we do and how we do it, the way we are organized and the geographic location and spaces we occupy. [EPA] will continue to seek opportunities to reduce further our facility footprint and/or implement planned and pending moves in an expedited and cost effective manner."

The memo appears to show that 43 programs at the EPA, including various grants, will be eliminated. Seven sub-programs also face elimination.

The elimination of the agency's Great Lakes Restoration program and its 71 full-time employees is expected to save more than $289 million, while the shedding of a grant program for nonpoint sources of pollution will save another $164.9 million. Meanwhile, the scuttling of the Climate Protection Program (CPP) is expected to save $69.7 million but will also eliminate of 224 full-time jobs.

Fourteen volunteer partnership programs under the CPP will also be eliminated, including Energy Star, the Green Power Partnership, the Combined Heat & Power Partnership, Natural Gas STAR, the Landfill Methane Outreach Program, and the Coalbed Methane Outreach Program.

Of interest to the oil and gas industry, the EPA's Underground Injection Control Grant will be cut from $10.5 million to $7.3 million, while the Toxics Substances Compliance Grant will be slashed from $4.9 million to $3.4 million -- both cuts of 30%. Meanwhile, the agency's Underground Storage Tanks Grant, totaling about $1.5 million, will be eliminated entirely.

The memo also touched on the controversial Clean Water Rule (CWR), which was designed by the Obama administration to clarify what constitutes Waters of the United States (WOTUS), thereby deserving protection under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

According to the memo, the EPA's Office of Water is being told that, for programs related to the CWA, "priority is to be given to functions required by statute and mirrors the overall goal of decreased federal involvement in local programs." The OW will be directed to "analyze future workload demands and capacity, including those required to implement changes to the CWR (WOTUS), at FY2018 funding levels."

Shortly before his confirmation as EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt vowed to quickly withdraw the CWR. Trump has also derided the rule as an example of federal regulatory overreach.

Bloom said a hiring freeze will remain in effect at EPA until the agency "develops a comprehensive workforce reshaping plan." He added that the White House's Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management would be involved with reshaping the EPA's workforce.

Lawmakers in Congress will ultimately decide how much funding the EPA receives.

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