The proposed plans by Scott Pruitt to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which he now heads, has managed to unite both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, who have criticized him for slashing its budget too deep and too hard.
Called to the Capitol to defend the budget proposal for the agency on Thursday, a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing has told Pruitt that the submission in many places goes too far. Members from both parties defended how the work carried out by the EPA is vital for their own states and districts, providing programs that are “vitally important to each member on this subcommittee,” according to Republican committee chairman Ken Calvert.
The cuts proposed tot up to a staggering $2.4 billion dollars a year, or around 31 percent of the entire department’s budget. This is the largest cut from any federal agency, and Pruitt's preparedness to go along with it is perhaps unsurprising considering he has been a longtime staunch opponent of the EPA, repeatedly suing the organization over its attempts to regulate pollution when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general. At times, however, even Pruitt himself seemed to find it difficult to defend some of the cuts proposed by the Trump administration.
Pruitt told the meeting that he believes “we can fulfill the mission of our agency with a trimmed budget, with proper leadership and management.” He said that it will continue to support the EPA’s highest priorities, while at the same time cutting redundancies and inefficiencies. This included reducing the agency's workforce by thousands and dismantling national and regional projects.
Projects on the chopping block include halving grants that help states address a range of environmental programs, from reducing pesticide exposure, to improving the quality of air and water, completely halting a program looking into the link between hormone-disrupting chemicals and their impacts on humans and animal health, as well as totally defunding another aimed at cleaning up the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and the Puget Sound.
On this last point, Representative David Joyce argued that the cleaning of the Great Lakes is not just an environmental issue, but will also help to revitalize communities, increasing tourism, stimulating jobs, and thus boosting the economy. “You’ve said it well,” replied Pruitt, according to the Washington Post. “We recognize the importance of the Great Lakes... to the citizens in that region. And we’re going to work with Congress to ensure that those objectives are obtained.” He didn't specify how they would do this with no funding.
It seems that the Trump administration will have a fight on their hands, and Pruitt faces resistance not only from the opposition but from within his own party. “You're going to be the first EPA administrator that has come before this committee in eight years that actually gets more money than they ask for,” said Republican Representative Tom Cole.