Federal budget proposal would cut EPA funding and potentially change federal brownfields program funding

By Aaron Clapper, GOPC Project Manager

**UPDATE March 22, 2018: The omnibus spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the President keeps federal funding for the EPA at $8.1 billion, which is the same funding level as 2017. The omnibus package funds the federal brownfields program at $200 million per year until 2023.

The White House released the proposed FY19 budget earlier this month, which intends to make cuts to several agencies and programs. The proposed budget would reduce the EPA’s budget by nearly 25%. The United States EPA currently oversees the brownfields program that administers state funding. Though the budget proposal does highlight the necessary work of brownfield remediation by stating a 2017 study that highlights the increased housing values of sites near remediated brownfields, the funding structure for the brownfields program could potentially change if enacted.  The proposed budget sets a goal to make 1,368 brownfields sites ready for use by September 30, 2019. Specific information for the changes to the EPA in the FY19 budget proposal can be accessed through the EPA’s Budget in Brief.  

In 2017, the EPA’s Brownfields Program received $25 million; the proposed FY19 budget would cut the program to $16 million. The funding for the Superfund Program will remain at $1.1 billion. Though both brownfields and superfunds focus on contamination cleanup, superfund sites are generally taken on by the federal government due to an uncontrolled or abandoned site requiring pressing action.(1) The proposed superfund funding is generally in line with President Obama’s last EPA budget proposal.

The White House’s FY19 budget proposal does include a proposal for infrastructure funding. Under this proposal, superfund and brownfields sites would gain access to financing under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). The projects that fall under the Brownfields program could potentially include superfunds projects – which would allow superfunds to pull grant money from brownfields. A $50 billion Rural Infrastructure Program would allocate the EPA $10 billion, which would provide grants to brownfields work.

In a challenging state funding environment, the federal proposal further threatens Ohio's ability to turn brownfields into new job sites and residences. GOPC has quantified the economic benefits of brownfield remediation, and our calls for a 'Clean Ohio 2.0' are all the more important in the face of potential federal cuts.

(1) As defined by the EPA.