President Obama’s budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would continue the downward trend of the agency’s budget. Spending at EPA would decline by nearly 4 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2015. The anticipated staffing level is 14 percent lower than a decade ago. Funding for science and technology programs, however, would increase by $4.6 million (+0.6 percent).

Within the Office of Research and Development, funding for research for sustainable and healthy communities—a program that includes some ecosystem research—would decline to $144.1 million (-7.0 percent). EPA proposes to repurpose $7.8 million in funding from ongoing, but unspecified, research to develop decision-support tools for communities on the issues of ecosystem services, contaminated sites, pollution and environmental justice, and beneficial use of sustainable materials. An additional $1.3 million is proposed for development of tools to examine the impacts of climate change adaptation on ecosystem goods and services in at-risk communities. A savings of $4.4 million is projected from workforce attrition and other programmatic efficiencies.

Research on safe and sustainable water resources would increase by 2.8 percent. Despite an overall increase in this programmatic area, some research programs would have less funding in FY 2015. One area targeted for reduction is water quality research on combined sewer overflows and wastewater systems. Additionally, $1.3 million would be saved by reducing ocean monitoring activities through “strategic targeting” of ocean dumpsites.

A proposed $4.3 million increase would allow the EPA to expand its work with the Department of Energy and United States Geological Survey to understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water quality and aquatic ecosystems. The agencies are currently studying the impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water.

Increased funding would be available for research addressing climate change and improving air quality (+$7.0 million), including an additional $1.0 million for research on the environmental and human health impacts of biofuels.

Within the area of chemical safety and sustainability, $2.5 million in new funding would be used to apply novel methods to monitor chemical stressors in the Great Lakes and to increase research on the environmental fate and transport of nanomaterials. A savings of $1.2 million would be achieved by delaying planned activities to develop biological systems to test the effects of chemicals on human health without using animal models.

The budget would be zeroed out for EPA’s Science to Achieve Results graduate fellowships and Greater Research Opportunities undergraduate fellowships. The proposed $11.1 million decrease would facilitate the Administration’s consolidation of STEM education programs.

The budget for environmental education would once again be eliminated, however, EPA asserts that it is not ending the program. Instead, the agency would pursue a decentralized approach “in order to focus limited resources on integrating environmental education activities into existing environmental programs.” The education program was funded at $8.7 million in FY 2014.

The EPA Science Advisory Board would receive an additional $1.0 million (+19.7 percent) to conduct peer reviews and host meetings.


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