What’s at Stake in Proposed Cuts to the EPA?


What is at stake as Congress considers the EPA budget? Far more than climate change. (New York Times)

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Waste rock from long-shuttered lead and zinc mines rises above an abandoned Little League field in Picher, Oklahoma. The EPA has called Picher, part of the Tar Creek Superfund site, one of the most toxic areas in the U.S.
Photograph by Fritz Hoffmann, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas


Illustration courtesy National Priorities Project
  • The Times article says the EPA faces proposed budget cuts, but the federal budget has not yet been signed into law. What is the process for finalizing the federal budget, and shouldn’t it get done quickly? It’s already April.
    • The government has until October 1 to pass the federal budget. It that doesn’t happen, the government can shut down until a budget is passed. This last happened in 2013.
    • The budgeting process is pretty complex, but can generally be broken down into five big steps. Those steps are nicely outlined here.
      • 1. The president submits a budget request. This request is what the NY Times is analyzing in the article. Sen. Lisa Murkowski “pointedly reminded Mr. Trump last month that his budget request was just ‘the first step in a long process.’
      • 2. The House and Senate pass budget resolutions. These resolutions, like the presidential request, are just proposals.
      • 3. Appropriations committees and subcommittees draft appropriations bills. Appropriations bills outline specific budgets for specific programs within the larger framework of the Congressional budget resolutions. There are 12 subcommittees in each house of Congress. For example, the EPA will be considered as part of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies subcommittee. In the House, the chair of that subcommittee is Rep. Ken Calvert (R-California). In the Senate, the chair is Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
      • 4. The House and Senate vote on appropriations bills. The full House and Senate discuss and debate the 12 appropriations bills drafted by their subcommittees.
        • 4a. A conference committee (made up of members of both the House and Senate) compare the House and Senate versions of the same appropriations bills, and reconcile the two.
      • 5. The president signs or vetoes each of the 12 appropriations bills submitted by Congress.




New York Times: What’s at Stake in Trump’s Proposed E.P.A. Cuts

Nat Geo: EPA Shares the Dirt on Pollution study guide

EPA: Our Mission and What We Do

National Priorities Project: Federal Budget 101

U.S. House of Representatives: Committee on Appropriations—Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

U.S. Senate: Committee on Appropriations—Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Nat Geo: What is Superfund?

Nat Geo: Climate Change Quick Quiz

Nat Geo: Choosing Energy-Efficient Appliances activity

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