Obama Cuts Water Spending

May 2014, Vol. 69 No. 5

The White House wants to reduce funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), submitting a fiscal year 2015 budget request to Congress in March at $300 million below the level that lawmakers approved for the EPA for 2014.

President Obama has proposed $7.89 billion for the EPA, a cut of approximately $310 million, or 3.8 percent, compared to the agency’s current funding level of $8.2 billion, in a budget that provides additional money for the agency’s air quality efforts while lowering funds for clean water and drinking water programs.

Climate resiliency is included in the budget as well, with $10 million set aside for protecting and improving coastal wetlands and $4 million for “urban forest enhancement and protection,” according to the EPA.

The EPA is also directing $8 million and 10 staff members to work on clean water initiatives, including providing technical expertise to states for implementing federal hydraulic fracturing guidance.

Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, which provide capital for water infrastructure projects, took a hit in the budget proposal, however, as the president asked for $581 million less for the programs compared to the fiscal 2014 enacted level.

Obama’s budget proposal also made cuts to funding for Great Lakes restoration. The fiscal 2015 proposal slashes $25 million from the current funding level for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has supported dozens of projects in Minnesota aimed at controlling and monitoring pollutants and preserving and restoring fish and wildlife habitats in Lake Superior.

The president’s budget cuts another $430 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which helps communities repair wastewater infrastructure to prevent sewage runoff into the Great Lakes and the rivers and streams that lead into them.

The Obama administration said in the budget that it “maintains strong support” for the Restoration Initiative with proposed funding of $275 million in fiscal 2015. That’s down from $300 million in 2014. The administration said the cuts to the clean water fund are part of “targeted reductions” to focus on communities most in need and noted that it still provides $1.8 billion for the fund.