Washington, DC —The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing for a new even larger round of budget cuts for the 2008 Fiscal Year, according to an internal memo released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These new cuts are being readied even as Congress is still reviewing administration proposals to reduce EPA spending by a record $100 million in FY 2007.
The June 8, 2006 memo from the EPA Chief Financial Officer, Lyons Gray, to agency leadership, calls for pinpointing “larger savings” as part of a series of austerities spread over the next 5 years. Slated for presentation to the President’s Office of Management & Budget on September 11, 2006, the agency’s fiscal reduction package includes:
- Closure of Laboratories. The plan calls for closing 10% of EPA’s network of laboratories and research centers in which much of the agency’s basic and applied science concerning pollution monitoring, toxicological effects and other public health issues is conducted. By 2011, the laboratory network, comprised of approximately 2000 scientists, would shrink by 20%;
- Staff Buy-Outs. The plan gives EPA regions freer hands to carry out personnel reductions targeted at higher ranking (“GS 12 to GS 15”) scientists, analysts and managers. These cuts would be in addition to anticipated attrition which should be substantial, with 35% of EPA staff becoming eligible to retire during the next three years; and
- Reduced State and Tribal Oversight. Additional savings would accrue from reducing the “regulatory burden” on, and reporting requirements for, state and tribal environmental agencies.
The memo calls identified reductions “disinvestments” and concedes that they will undoubtedly have “long-term consequences.” Agency budget cuts now being debated in Congress for the fiscal year that begins this October 1 have raised concerns that EPA is already losing its ability to maintain coherent scientific, regulatory or enforcement programs.
“EPA planning is now driven entirely by external fiscal targets without regard to the effects upon public or environmental health,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “The Bush administration seeks to ‘disinvest’ in environmental science, pollution control and global sustainability.”
In his memo, Mr. Gray attempts to sugarcoat cuts by describing scaled-back operations as “centers of excellence.”
“The Bush administration is trying to spin this lobotomy as a diet plan for a trimmer, shapelier EPA,” Ruch added. “In fact, it is a plan to cut and run from historic standards of environmental protection under the guise of deficit management.”