At a time when this country faces major environmental challenges, including catching up with the rest of the developed world on global warming, the agency that would have to do the heavy lifting on environmental regulation ain’t getting the money to do diddley squat. A 25% cut in inflation adjusted terms over 4 years is huge, especially considering that the EPA was not a cushy agency even before that.
Support for research and development at EPA has declined by 25% in inflation-adjusted terms between the recent high point in 2004 and the proposed 2008 budget, according to figures from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“Morale has never been so low here since the days of Ann Gorsuch, and even then there was more money,” says one scientist, referring to the time during the early 1980s when former administrator Gorsuch, who resigned under a cloud, did her best to shrink the agency.
But George Gray, assistant administrator for the agency’s Office of Research and Development (ORD), says he fully supports the proposed budget. “This budget fulfills every presidential environmental commitment and maintains the goals laid out in the EPA’s strategic plan, while spending less,” he says. The budget cuts come on the heels of EPA’s program to cut $2 million from the agency’s fund for specialized libraries.
The scientists’ difficulties are likely to increase if the proposals in a June 2006 memo from Lyons Gray, EPA’s chief financial officer, are carried out. The memo, which was released by the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) directs ORD to reduce laboratory physical infrastructure costs by a minimum of 10% by 2009 and another 10% by 2011. The memo suggests that this will require closing, relocating, and consolidating EPA’s laboratory and field locations, as well as reducing or relocating staff. ORD chief George Gray told Congress that EPA does not intend to shut down any labs or get rid of any scientists during the current administrator’s tenure.
The U.S will pay the price for this deliberate destruction of government infrastructure. You won’t see it now, it will be a little more apparent in a few years.