agriculture, Environment, Trump Administration

Sad! Leaked Trump budget shows huge cuts to coastal protection, farm programs and renewable energy

Republican Lieutenant Gov. Dan Forest, in a speech to Duplin County farmers last fall, proclaimed that “Donald Trump knows agriculture.”

That statement seemed to puzzle even the conservative crowd, considering Trump is from New York City and likely wouldn’t know a hay baler from a manure spreader.

The president’s proposed budget, due out tomorrow but leaked in advance, not only cuts EPA staff and services, but also zeroes out several line items, including many of particular relevance to North Carolina, according to the document, released by the Third Way, a centrist think tank, and verified by various federal officials.

Funding would be eliminated for watershed and flood prevention operations and the agricultural disaster relief fund, key to hurricane recovery in North Carolina.

Also gone: the Grassroots Source Water Protection Program, which prevents pollution of surface- and groundwater that can contaminate rural residents’ drinking water wells. And the Emergency Conservation Program, which assists farmers and ranchers repair their land after natural disasters — vanished.

Energy efficiency and environmental protection fare even worse. The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would receive $636 million — down by 70 percent from $2.1 billion currently appropriated. In 2011, the EERE office funded nine Wind for Schools projects in North Carolina.

In addition to EPA staffing cuts, the Greenhouse Gas Reporting program would be reduced from $8 million to zero, according to analysis by Inside Climate News. Under this program, industrial facilities report their greenhouse gas emissions. In North Carolina, 138 emitters report to the database. From 2011 to 2015, the amount of greenhouse gases in the state fell from 71.5 million metric tons to 62.9 — 13 percent.

The $27 million National Estuary Program, which protects coastal waterways is also gone, as is the $7 million for environmental justice. The absence of that program could stall North Carolina residents’ Title VI complaint against NC DEQ over its roles in alleged intimidation by the hog industry.

The EPA’s Indoor Radon Program is eliminated. This is important for the North Carolina because of the prevalence of the naturally occurring — but cancer-causing — gas in areas of the state. Eight counties in western NC have a high potential for elevated indoor radon levels; another 31 in the foothills have moderate potential. Exposure to radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the US.

Funding for the EPA’s lead risk reduction program is zeroed out under Trump. Exposure to lead can cause permanent developmental disabilities  State health department figures from 2014 show that more than 1,600 children ages 1 and 2 had elevated lead levels in their blood. That’s equivalent to a state average of 1.3 percent of the 122,481 toddlers tested.

More than half the counties had rates higher than the state average; McDowell and Chowan counties, 4.7 and 4.8 percent of toddlers tested high.

As for adults, 12.3 percent of 5,329 people 16 and older had elevated blood levels, according to the state health department.

The budget is expected to be officially released Tuesday, while Trump is on his overseas trip.

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