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Trump’s proposed science budget tackles the opioid epidemic but shuns the environment

Trump’s proposed science budget tackles the opioid epidemic but shuns the environment

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It proposes slashing the EPA budget yet again

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President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 is once again trying to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, while pouring billions of dollars to combat the opioid epidemic.

The budget proposal would allocate $13 billion to combat an opioid crisis that’s sweeping the US. (It’s a serious crisis; opioids are killing so many people that life expectancy is going down in the US.) But overall, the Department of Health and Human Services is getting a 21 percent cut from 2017 levels. The budget also offers more funding for combating infectious diseases, though it cuts $236 billion in Medicare spending.

In many ways, it’s a stronger science budget than last year, according to Matt Hourihan, who runs the Budget and Policy Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Environmental research is being hit the hardest, but the big agencies like the National Institutes of Health and NASA are protected.

Today’s request isn’t set in stone. “A lot of presidents’ budgets are ignored. But I would expect this one to be completely irrelevant and totally ignored,” Jason Furman, a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, told The Associated Press. “In fact, Congress passed a law last week that basically undid the budget before it was even submitted.”

That said, the budget serves as a look into the president’s priorities. Here are highlights for how Trump’s proposed budget would affect health and the environment:

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

The budget suggests allocating $13 billion in new spending to fight opioid abuse, meaning $3 billion in 2018 and $10 billion the next year. It’s an acknowledgment of the opioid epidemic that Trump declared a public health emergency back in October. This money will go toward expanding coverage of medication-assisted treatment and helping states monitor and track clinics that prescribe a high number of opioids.

The budget also proposes spending $40 million on a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiative to eliminate infectious diseases. However, it proposes eliminating $451 million in health training programs that “lack evidence” that they improve the health workforce, as well as cuts of $236 billion in Medicare spending.

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

The proposal suggests a budget of $29 billion for the Department of Energy, about 3 percent lower than 2017 levels. It also proposes reducing funding for a loan program that supports clean energy projects, and research programs that support creating high-tech vehicles and more efficient vehicles.

The budget suggests entirely eliminating the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E), a well-known agency that funds energy-related research projects that focus on, among other things, efficient heating and plant-based fuels.

“completely irrelevant and totally ignored”

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

The Trump administration is requesting $5.4 billion for the EPAa 34 percent cut from the 2017 enacted budget. That includes steep cuts to the grants the EPA provides to states to help implement environmental regulations like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The administration also wants to cut the funds used by the EPA to clean toxic Superfund sites by 30 percentto “encourage private investment in cleanup activities.” The budget request also calls for the elimination of climate change and marine pollution programs, which the administration calls “lower priority.” 

NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION

The budget suggests eliminating “lower priority” NOAA programs such as the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund dedicated to saving salmon; the Coastal Zone Management Grants, which addresses issues like climate change and ocean planning; the Office of Education; and the Sea Grant, which supports research into lakes and oceans.

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Despite a record hurricane season in 2017, the budget proposes cutting funding for the National Flood Insurance Program’s Flood Hazard Mapping Program. The program, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, maintains flood maps and communicates flood risks to local residents.

NASA

Trump’s budget plans to end direct funding for the International Space Station by 2025, while instructing NASA to focus on sending astronauts back to the Moon by the mid-2020s. Although NASA’s budget would increase to $19.892 billion, from $19.519 billion in 2018, very little money is provided for all of the hardware needed for a lunar mission. The budget request also slashes Earth Science research, and eliminates NASA’s Education program, which funds grants and scholarship programs for students. The budget would also eliminate the WFIRST mission, which includes the development of a new space-based telescope to study dark energy and planets that reside outside our Solar System.

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