The Obama administration will rein in its budget request for U.S. EPA but will propose an additional and separate $1.65 billion 10-year fund for climate infrastructure, according to the head of a national group that represents state and local air agencies.
The new climate infrastructure money would be apart from an overall $8.27 billion EPA budget that will be unveiled Tuesday for fiscal 2017, said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.
The funding would go toward programs to retrofit, replace or repower diesel equipment, like school buses, for example.
The topline $8.27 billion request would be more than the $8.1 billion lawmakers appropriated in fiscal 2016. But it would fall short of the $8.6 billion the president wanted last February.
Becker said he reviewed the numbers in advance of the Office of Management and Budget's release of the administration's proposal Tuesday. EPA officials did not return a request for comment.
Of the overall EPA budget, $268.2 million would go to state and local air pollution control agency grants, a $40 million increase above the fiscal 2016 spending level. Twenty-five million dollars would be set aside specifically for implementing the Clean Power Plan. Those figures match with what the administration requested last year.
The budget would not include two line items Congress appropriated in fiscal 2016: $20 million for the Targeted Air Shed Grant Program to address the five areas most polluted by ozone or average fine particulate matter and $21 million for a multipurpose grant program.
Becker lauded the president for recommending more funding for state and local agencies that implement EPA rules.
At a recent board meeting, he said he was surprised to learn that many state agencies are dedicating only about three full-time employees to drafting carbon-cutting blueprints for the power sector under the Clean Power Plan.
"That's largely because we have no federal resources to fund staff, and legislatures are loath to increase budgets for state programs," he said.
"What is essential," he added, "is that Congress follow through with this request, because otherwise the federal government will not have appropriated a single penny for implementation of the Clean Power Plan, which is a program that almost every state in this country has been trying to implement aggressively and tirelessly." He noted that even states challenging the rule in court are "almost all moving ahead putting together programs."
Becker said the money is also important for other core responsibilities, including air monitoring and enforcement. He said state and local agencies are observing that air monitoring infrastructure is "deteriorating because we have a lesser amount of resources to repair monitors to purchase new monitors to meet ongoing needs."
"States almost without exception are starting to express the serious nature of this network's [decline]," he said.