Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: New Interior rule would limit scientific studies agency can consider | Panel battles over tree-planting bill | Trump to resume coal leases on public lands Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic Overnight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on ‘forever chemical’ manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan MORE appeared before lawmakers Thursday to defend a budget that would bring the agency to its lowest funding level in years.
As with previous Trump administration budgets, lawmakers are expected to ignore the proposed 26 percent cut to the agency, one of the steepest in the budget.
“We are focused on the core mission of our agency so we can continue to protect the land, the air, the water, and we believe we can do that with the budget we requested,” Wheeler told lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
But Democrats made clear they planned to reject those cuts, while hitting the agency for what they described as a history of shortchanging important public health programs and sidelining scientists who contradict their policy goals.
“Some of the most significant proposed rollbacks on environmental protections are at odds with the scientific record,” said Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoDemocrat: Lawmakers need to approach opioid crisis as ‘a chronic situation’ The Hill’s Morning Report – Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (D-N.Y.), highlighting critiques of EPA proposals from its independent Science Advisory Board.
“It is critical that our public health protections are grounded in robust science, and sadly I believe the administration continues to dismiss science and expertise whenever they conflict with their regulatory agenda.”
The White House budget would cut more than 50 EPA programs aimed at helping fight pollution, radon and lead as well as those that give clean water grants to small and disadvantaged communities.
It would also cut research and development funding at the agency nearly in half, lowering funding from $500 million to $281 million.
The budget would cut the Superfund program, tasked with cleaning up hazardous waste sites, by 10 percent, despite data showing the agency has the largest backlog of toxic waste cleanups in 15 years.
“Why are you proposing a cut of more than $112 million when you seem to imply you could use more money?” asked Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the chairman of the committee.
Wheeler said the agency would be able to recoup some costs from corporations but defended the agency’s record, saying it had been closing Superfund sites at a rapid pace.
This story is developing and will be updated.