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The cuts appear to follow the recommendations of a Koch brothers-funded think tank. (Photo: AP)

White House Aims to Slash Major EPA Programs, Fire 20 Percent of Staff

That's not all: Trump also to issue executive orders repealing Obama-era coal mining moratorium and carbon emissions limits

Nika Knight

The White House is aiming to cut dozens of major EPA programs and to slash one-fifth of all staff positions within the agency, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Many predicted massive EPA cuts would be required to fund President Donald Trump's enormous increase in military spending, and the White House plan reviewed by the Post apparently fulfills those fears: the EPA's budget will be slashed by $2 billion, the newspaper reports.

The Post described the plan:

As proposed, the EPA's staff would be slashed from its current level of 15,000 to 12,000. Grants to states, as well as its air and water programs, would be cut by 30 percent. The massive Chesapeake Bay cleanup project would receive only $5 million in the next fiscal year, down from its current $73 million.

In addition, 38 separate programs would be eliminated entirely. Grants to clean up brownfields, or abandoned industrial sites, would be gone. Also zeroed out: the radon program, climate change initiatives, and funding for Alaskan native villages.

The agency's Office of Research and Development could lose up to 42 percent of its budget, according to an individual apprised of the administration's plans. And the document eliminates funding altogether for the office's "contribution to the U.S. Global Change Research Program," a climate initiative that President George H.W. Bush launched in 1989.

In essence, the plan appears to follow a budgetary blueprint (pdf) published by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing, Koch brothers-funded think tank.

"The authors of the Heritage blueprint state upfront that they don't believe climate change is a problem—and hence recommend eliminating virtually everything the EPA does on the issue," observed Vox's Brad Plumer.

And Trump is not only poised to eviscerate the EPA. The climate-denying president is planning to issue executive orders repealing Obama-era regulations, including a federal ban on new coal mining leases and a statute that forces states to limit carbon emissions, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed White House official. The orders could come as soon as next week, the official said.

"Rescinding the federal coal leasing moratorium is part of that executive order, which has lots of different components, including the Clean Power Plan," the White House source told Reuters.

On Tuesday, Trump repealed the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, which extended Clean Water Act protections to streams and wetlands.

The Heritage Foundation blueprint suggests other devastating cuts to climate programs.

"Climate science itself would also be on the chopping block," Plumer noted. "The blueprint recommends eliminating the $10 million each year the U.S. sends to the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—an expert panel that produces the most far-reaching and authoritative syntheses on climate science around."

In fact, Secretary of State (and former Exxon CEO) Rex Tillerson is already giving the UN's top climate official the silent treatment.

The budget blueprint further "recommends eliminating various State Department programs dealing with climate change, including the agency's contributions to the Climate Investment Funds and the Global Environment Facility, two international programs meant to help low-income countries adapt to climate change. Those cuts could well be on Trump’s list too," Plumer wrote, adding that the think tank also suggests "zeroing out the Department of Energy's Biological and Environmental Research program, which funds some climate science as well as the EPA climate science cuts mentioned above."

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