EPA budget threatened by House Republicans

EPA funding, new director in spotlight

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency barely had time to enjoy the confirmation of its new administrator before seeing Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives propose a budget measure that would slash the agency's funding by a whopping 34 percent..

Members of the GOP brought out a budget bill on Monday, and the proposal allocates just $5.5 billion for the environmental agency. That budget figure would guide the agency for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, and it's $2.8 billion less than EPA's current annual allocation.

The bill is one of a dozen spending measures that, together, determine funding for day-to-day operations of federal agencies. The Interior Department and Forest Service were also targeted for spending reductions by the latest legislation. In total, the proposed budget for those two agencies and EPA is $24.3 billion, a 19 percent cut.

On the EPA front, the office of Gina McCarthy, the newly confirmed administrator, would see its budget reduced by 30 percent, and the agency's operating fund would drop by $921 million. In addition, its employee number would be capped at 1992 levels.

The legislation now moves to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, and House Democrats are, not surprisingly, gearing up to battle a number of the proposed spending reductions it contains.

Meanwhile, the recycling world continues to react to last week's news of McCarthy's confirmation as EPA's next chief. The Senate approval came months after she was nominated and was preceded by grueling debate and political wrangling over the agency's transparency and data collection methods.

Trade groups from around the country highlighted their hope that McCarthy will make good on her reputation as a science-driven government official.

"Ms. McCarthy has proven that she will consider the facts and review the data on issues before allowing the agency to proceed," said Donna Harman, president and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association. " We look forward to her forthright approach at the helm of this important agency.”

Matt Meenan, director of communications at the Aluminum Association, added: "The association has a long-standing and productive relationship with Administrator McCarthy working on clean air regulations impacting the aluminum industry during her tenure as head of the Office of Air and Radiation. We look forward to continuing and strengthening this working partnership in order to reach our mutual goals of increasing sustainability in the aluminum industry while mitigating environmental challenges.”

One industry player with a particularly keen understanding of McCarthy's leadership style and priorities is Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) founder Scott Cassel. McCarthy provided seed funding for the creation of PSI and served on its board for a time. Cassel says he expects product stewardship to be a focus within EPA in coming years.

"Gina is supportive of a strong role for producers in reducing the impacts of their products," Cassel said. "Since EPA’s own data show that 29 percent of greenhouse gas impacts result from product manufacture, transportation, use and disposal, we expect that product stewardship will gain greater traction under Gina’s leadership."

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