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EPA’s Budget Cut Shrinks Staff to Smallest Since 1989

As GOP intensifies oversight, agency vows to continue with mission.

The Environmental Protection Agency found itself among the losers in the massive fiscal 2015 spending bill signed last week by President Obama, absorbing a plan for heightened oversight and a $60 million cut that shrinks its staffing to the lowest levels since 1989. This continues five straight years of reductions.

EPA’s $2.2 billion budget is now 21 percent lower than it was in 2010, according to the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky. The bill excludes a White House proposal to spend $66 million on new or expanded EPA regulatory programs, Rogers noted in a statement.

“The agreement also includes several policy provisions to rein in regulatory overreach at the EPA,” he said. “These provisions will help prevent excessive bureaucratic red tape that unnecessarily burdens American businesses and industries and slows economic growth.”

EPA officials have acknowledged since Obama’s budget in March proposed its own cuts that it must live with zero growth and strategically target resources. “We will continue to do our job to protect public health and the environment,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia told Government Executive. ““Like all agencies, we’re operating under budget constraints, but it gives us a chance to think more strategically and we are confident we can continue to fulfill our mission.”

One nonprofit took a more critical view. “The legislation delivers big blows to critical public protections and the resources we need to make investments in infrastructure and public protections,” the Center for Effective Government stated.  Policy analyst Jessica Schieder added, “These funding cuts are not surprising, given that anti-regulatory forces in Congress have made clear their intent to use the budget process to block EPA’s work.”

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