Monday, February 2, 2015

EPA Happy About Obama's FY 2016 Budget Proposal for the Agency

Posted By on Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 3:15 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Courtesy of Shutterstock

Today, President Obama sent Congress his nearly $4 trillion budget for fiscal year 2016. The budget suggests raising taxes for the wealthier folks and new tax credits and other initiatives for education, child care, paid leave, as well as breaks for the middle class.

In the midst of all of that money, Obama proposes $8.6 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is $452 million than they had asked for fiscal year 2015. The EPA says the president's proposal sends a strong message that he is committed to meeting EPA's mission to "protect public health and the environment."

How likely is it that Congress will accept the proposal? I don't have much hope, but let's not get ahead of ourselves? Trying to be positive over here.

From an EPA press release:
Fiscal Year 2016 budget highlights include:

Making a Visible Difference in Communities Across the Country
A key element of EPA’s FY 2016 efforts will be coordination with other federal agencies, states, tribes, and stakeholders. This coordination will help to focus the work of diverse programs across the agency at the community level. In response to feedback from across the country, this budget proposes a multifaceted effort to enable communities of all sizes, rural and urban, to find needed assistance and support for capacity building, planning, and implementation of environmental protection programs.

In addition to new cross-program efforts, including 20 full time equivalents for Community Resource Coordinators, $2 million for Circuit Riders, and $5 million to coordinate efforts at the local level in overburdened and vulnerable communities, the budget provides for targeted community efforts in each of the program areas. These efforts, highlighted in more detail in the subsequent sections, will include helping communities adopt green infrastructure, providing technical assistance for building resilience and adapting to climate change, and helping communities to reduce environmental impacts through advanced monitoring technology and decision making tools.

Addressing Climate Change and Improving Air Quality
The FY 2016 budget prioritizes actions to reduce the impacts of climate change, one of the most significant challenges for this and future generations, and supports the President’s Climate Action Plan. EPA’s FY 2016 Budget includes $239 million for efforts to cut carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases through commonsense standards, guidelines, and voluntary programs. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which establishes carbon pollution reduction standards for existing power plants, is a top priority for the EPA and will help spur innovation and economic growth while creating a clean energy economy. Finalizing and implementing these regulations will involve innovative approaches and flexibility for achieving solutions, as well as extensive and unprecedented work with states, tribes, and territories, which is why this budget includes additional funding for states. In addition to EPA’s discretionary budget, the President also proposes a $4 billion Clean Power State Incentive Fund, a mandatory account to be administered by the EPA that supports state efforts to go above and beyond their carbon pollution reduction goals in the power sector.

Working with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the EPA will also develop Phase 2 greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles. These standards will represent significant savings at the pump, reduce carbon pollution, and reduce fuel costs for businesses, which is anticipated to lower prices for consumers.

Protecting the Nation’s Waters
Protecting America’s water resources is critical to EPA’s mission, so the agency will continue to build upon decades of efforts to ensure our waterways are clean and our drinking water is safe because there are far reaching effects when rivers, lakes, and oceans becomes polluted. They can endanger wildlife, make our drinking water unsafe and threaten the waters where we swim and fish. Building on the strong funding level of $2.3 billion provided through the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, $50 million is included for technical assistance, training, and other efforts to enhance the capacity of communities and states to plan and finance drinking water and wastewater infrastructure improvements. In January 2015, the agency launched a key component of this expanded effort, the Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center. It will help communities across the country focus on financial planning for future public infrastructure investments, expanding work with states to identify financing opportunities for rural communities, and enhancing partnership and collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on training, technical assistance, and funding opportunities in rural areas. The Water Infrastructure and Resilience Finance center is part of the Build America investment initiative, a government-wide effort to increase infrastructure investment and promote economic growth by creating opportunities for state and local governments and the private sector to collaborate on infrastructure development.

Taking Steps to Improve Chemical Facility Safety
In support of the White House Executive Order to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security, the EPA is requesting $27.8 million for the State and Local Prevention and Preparedness program, an increase of $12 million above the FY 2015 enacted level. This increase will allow EPA to continue to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities and reduce the risks of hazardous chemicals to facility workers and operators, communities, and responders. These efforts represent a shared commitment among those with a stake in chemical facility safety and security: facility owners and operators; federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments; regional entities; nonprofit organizations; facility workers; first responders; environmental justice and local environmental organizations; and communities. In FY 2016, we are implementing actions to strengthen community planning and preparedness, enhance federal operational coordination, improve data management, modernize policies and regulation, and incorporate stakeholder feedback and best practices.

Protecting Our Land
EPA strives to protect and restore land to create a safer environment for all Americans by cleaning up hazardous and non-hazardous wastes that can migrate to air, groundwater and surface water, contaminating drinking water supplies, causing acute illnesses and chronic diseases, and threatening healthy ecosystems. We preserve, restore, and protect our land, for both current and future generations by cleaning up contaminated sites and returning them to communities for reuse. Our funds will assist communities in using existing infrastructure and planning for more efficient and livable communities, and encouraging the minimization of environmental impacts throughout the full life cycle of materials. In FY 2016, we will increase the Superfund Remedial program by $34 million to accelerate the pace of cleanups, supporting states, local communities, and tribes in their efforts to assess and cleanup sites and return them to productive reuse, and encourage renewable energy development on formerly hazardous sites when appropriate. We will expand the successful Brownfields program, providing grants, and supporting area-wide planning and technical assistance to maximize the benefits to the communities. In FY 2016, the EPA is investing $110 million in funding for Brownfields Project grants to local communities, an additional $30 million over the FY 2015 Enacted Budget, increasing the number of grants for assessment and cleanup of contaminated sites. This investment builds on the program’s successful community-driven approach to revitalizing contaminated land and further supports the Agency’s efforts to make a visible difference in communities.

Ensuring the Safety of Chemicals and Preventing Pollution
EPA’s chemical safety programs are at the forefront of its efforts to advance a sustainable future. In FY 2016, we are requesting $667.9 million, an increase of $47.4 million over the FY 2015 Enacted Budget, to develop new computational tools, and expand and enhance the quality, accessibility, and usefulness of information about commercial chemicals and pesticides, thereby strengthening the capability of the EPA, other regulators, and the public to assess chemical hazards and potential exposures, identify potential risks to human health and the environment and take appropriate risk management action. The EPA will work aggressively to ensure sound science, complete additional risk assessments from the TSCA Work Plan list of existing chemicals and meet its requirement to review all current pesticide registrations by 2022. In FY 2016, the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs will continue the important work initiated by the Presidential Memorandum to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels. The EPA is committing $2 million towards this effort: $1.5 million to further the study of acute toxicity amongst honey bee populations and explore additional risk management options, and $500,000 to augment the work of States and Tribes to develop pollinator protection plans.

Continuing EPA’s Commitment to Innovative Research & Development
Environmental issues in the 21st century are complex because of the interplay between air quality, climate change, water quality, healthy communities, and chemical safety. They require different thinking and solutions than those used in the past. The EPA’s Office of Research and Development is strengthening the Agency’s ability to develop solutions by providing $528 million to evaluate and predict potential environmental and human health impacts for decision makers at all levels of government. Activities in the FY 2016 Budget include providing support tools for community health, investigating the unique properties of emerging materials, such as nanomaterials, and research to support the nation’s range of growing water-use and ecological requirements.

Supporting State and Tribal Partners
Effective environmental protection is a joint effort of EPA, states and our tribal partners. In FY 2016, we are requesting an increase of $108 million in funding for State and Tribal Assistance categorical grants and setting a high bar for continuing our partnership efforts with states and tribes. We are also including opportunities for closer collaboration and targeted joint planning and governance processes. One example is the commitment to work collaboratively to streamline, reform, and integrate our shared business processes and related systems through the E-Enterprise approach. State-EPA-Tribal joint governance serves to organize the E-Enterprise partnership to elevate its visibility, boost coordination capacity, and ensure the inclusiveness and effectiveness of shared process and management improvements. This will yield the benefits of increased transparency, efficiency, and burden reduction for communities, businesses, and government agencies when implemented.

Maintaining a Forward Looking and Adaptive EPA
The EPA has strategically evaluated its workforce and facility needs and will continue the comprehensive effort to optimize and update its physical footprint. In 2016, we will fast-track our efforts to save taxpayer dollars through space optimization and essential renovations, including the important laboratory buildings across the country, without sacrificing high quality of research. The agency will continue to improve our processes and the business enterprise of environmental protection for regulated companies and the public through the joint E-Enterprise effort with states to leverage technology and streamline workflow, data quality, data sharing and transparency.

Reducing and Eliminating Programs

The EPA continues to examine its programs to find those that have served their purpose and accomplished their mission. The FY 2016 President’s Budget also eliminates a number of programs totaling $44 million. Details are found in the EPA FY 2016 Congressional Justification. 

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