News Feature | March 27, 2014

Water Funding Slashed In Obama's Proposed Budget

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

white house

President Obama's proposed budget for next year cuts government funding for water projects. 

The document, released this month, includes deep cuts to the entire EPA budget. Obama proposed $7.89 billion in funding for the agency, "a cut of approximately $310 million, or 3.8 percent, compared to the agency's current funding level of $8.2 billion," Bloomberg BNA reported

Most of the funding cuts would target money currently allocated to water policy. The budget includes targeted reductions "to the state clean water and drinking water revolving funds. Those funds, which provide capital for water infrastructure projects, would receive a combined total of $1.8 billion under the budget proposal, a decrease of $581 million compared to the fiscal 2014 enacted level," the report said. 

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy pledged that water policy will not fall by the wayside. "[She] said the proposed budget would support priority work to address climate change and air quality, clean water, toxics, and chemical safety and EPA work with communities," according to Bloomberg.

The White House prioritized drought relief in its proposal. Obama requested "the establishment of a $1 billion climate resilience fund that would address severe weather events—including drought— that are related to climate change" Bloomberg said. 

Obama's proposal included an increase in funding for categorical grants to states, which often cover water pollution projects. These grants "would be funded at a level of $1.1 billion in fiscal 2015 under the president's budget, an increase of $76 million above the fiscal 2014 enacted level," the report said. 

Bloomberg reported: "That total includes $249.2 million in funding for water pollution control grants awarded under section 106 of the Clean Water Act, an increase of approximately $18.4 million compared to the fiscal 2014 enacted level.

The report continued: "The administration also proposed $164.9 million in funding for the nonpoint source program grants awarded under section 319 of the Clean Water Act, an increase of $5.7 million compared to the fiscal 2014 enacted level. The budget request also proposes to eliminate a statutory cap on section 319 grants that may be awarded to tribes, which will allow the EPA to provide funding in accordance with tribal needs."

Obama's budget proposal made cuts to funding for Great Lakes restoration, according to Cleveland's Plain Dealer

McCarthy "said the $25 million cut was a result of belt-tightening imposed by a two-year congressional spending agreement in December," according to the report. 

Still, McCarthy pledged that the EPA will "do everything we can to work with [Great Lakes advocates], no matter what this funding level is, to make sure that we are making the most of the resources that we have available to it." 

Environmentalists were disappointed with the proposed EPA budget cuts. A blog post published by the Natural Resources Defense Council said that "the bottom line is that if the President’s proposal were adopted, EPA’s efforts to protect the nation’s waterways would be cut by a little more than half a billion bucks."  

"That decision is hard to square with the administration’s acknowledgement that 'America’s waters remain imperiled,'" the post said. 

For more on policy news, check out Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "White House," © 2009 Tom Lohdan, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

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