ANN ARBOR—President Trump's budget proposal is expected to include deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the national Sea Grant program.
Some of the comments below are reactions to preliminary budget outlines and assume that similarly deep cuts will be included in the president's formal budget proposal.
Bradley Cardinale is director of the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research, a research institute jointly sponsored by U-M and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. CILER received nearly $5 million in research funding from NOAA last year, and more than 90 percent of those funds were provided through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. CILER was established in 1989 and currently has five research scientists and 22 research staff members, including technicians, programmers and postdoctoral researchers.
"If the budget cuts run as deep as proposed, we would have no choice but to close CILER, and I suspect that NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor would also be at risk of shutting down. Between the two, it would be more than 120 jobs lost, as well as the loss of major programs that protect the public, such as the harmful algal bloom warning system that protects public drinking water supplies," said Cardinale, an ecologist who is also a professor at U-M's School of Natural Resources and Environment.
Jennifer Read is director of the U-M Water Center. She is also the lead investigator of an ongoing project to build artificial spawning reefs in the Detroit and St. Clair rivers to restore populations of lake sturgeon and other native fish species. Since it began in 2004, the habitat-restoration project has received about $10 million from the U.S. government, much of it through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
"The president's budget proposes deep cuts to programs and organizations which employ science for restoring, protecting and managing the Great Lakes and support coastal-dependent businesses and industries. If passed as proposed, this loss of resources would be catastrophic for Great Lakes states, 30 million people, and the regional economy.
"While the president's budget proposal is just the first step in the federal budgeting process, his proposed cuts would mean a lack of critical resources that benefit individuals, communities, businesses and industries. If passed, these cuts show a disregard for science in support of sound decision-making to benefit the Great Lakes region, which contributes $62 billion in annual wages and generates nearly 30 percent of the nation's gross domestic product."
James Diana is director of Michigan Sea Grant and a professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment.
Michigan Sea Grant is a cooperative program of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of the Great Lakes and coastal resources. Established in 1969, it is part of a national network of 33 university-based Sea Grant programs administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Michigan Sea Grant received $1.8 million from NOAA for the 2016 fiscal year—along with matching funds from U-M and MSU—and employs 23 people across the state.
Examples of recent Michigan Sea Grant-funded projects include the Sustainable Small Harbors program that works with coastal communities to help them become economically, socially and environmentally sustainable; the Seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point program that helps Great Lakes fish processors comply with federal regulations regarding seafood safety; and the Dangerous Currents program that provides beach safety signage and outreach across the state and region.
"Michigan Sea Grant helps develop methods to sustain and restore the Great Lakes so they can be used today and thrive tomorrow, providing similar opportunities for future generations. Twenty percent of all jobs in Michigan, billions of dollars spent on boating, fishing and other recreation, as well as our quality of life all depend on the Great Lakes and their ecosystem," Diana said. "A small investment in Michigan Sea Grant is magnified many times by the wise decisions made by citizens with the aid of our education, outreach and research on the Great Lakes."
Don Scavia is an aquatic ecologist and environmental engineer who has worked on water quality issues in the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes for more than 45 years—30 of them for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He joined the faculty in U-M's School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2004. Between 2009 and 2016, he was director of the Graham Sustainability Institute and Special Counsel to the University of Michigan president.
"These proposed cuts to essential environmental programs at the EPA and NOAA are short-sighted. EPA's regulations are designed to protect the health of the nation, NOAA's services are the underpinning of much of the economy, and the research supported by both agencies ensures that regulations and services are based on the best science," Scavia said.
"The claimed rationale of making room for massive defense increases is actually a lightly veiled justification for gutting the programs that protect the health of the nation in favor of polluters' bottom line."
Barry Rabe is a professor at the Ford School of Public Policy and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was the first social scientist to receive a Climate Protection Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2006 and currently chairs the EPA's Assumable Waters Advisory Board.
Rabe can discuss any political, management or federalism issues related to the implementation of Pruitt's EPA agenda, including climate change, vehicle emissions and fuel economy, and water policy.
"Scott Pruitt routinely talks about 'cooperative federalism' as his mission," he said. "But what does that mean for states such as California that routinely want to go above and beyond federal standards?"
Rabe's blog post titled "What will Scott Pruitt do if he cannot sue EPA?" appeared Dec. 12 in Brookings Brief.
Joe Árvai is a member of the EPA's Science Advisory Board, which is tasked with providing scientific advice to the EPA administrator. He is director of U-M's Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise and the Max McGraw Professor of Global Sustainable Enterprise at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ross School of Business.
Árvai can discuss his expectations—as a member of the agency's Science Advisory Board and as a scientist working at the nexus of the environment and society—for the agency under EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
"As an SAB member, I hope that Mr. Pruitt will, like administrators before him, continue to seek advice and input from the SAB, which is comprised of scientists from both universities and the private sector, all of whom have been thoroughly vetted to guard against conflicts of interest," he said. "And as a scientist and citizen, I expect that the EPA will continue to treat science as secular and to follow the rule of law as it relates to environmental protection. A failure to do so would be a violation of the public trust and a betrayal of future generations."
Meghan Duffy is an ecologist and associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her research focuses on the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases, especially in aquatic ecosystems.
"When we remove environmental protections, we wind up paying for it later, at a much higher cost," she said. "Without environmental regulations in place, we'll watch lakes, streams and rivers go from vibrant resources valued for their beauty, recreational opportunities and ecosystems services to uninhabitable dead zones that are dangerous and unsightly."
Allen Burton is a professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
One hundred million unique chemicals have been produced in the past 60 years, according to Burton, an environmental toxicologist. Since the 1980s, there has been a steady decline in the amount of money available for external research grants at the EPA, which is primarily responsible for regulating chemical use. Any significant reduction in the agency's budget is likely to exacerbate this problem, said Burton, who discussed the topic in a recent opinion piece in Environmental Science & Technology.
"The EPA's mission is to protect human health and the environment," he said. "They cleaned up many of our polluted waters and saved many species from extinction through common-sense regulations. We cannot return to the polluting ways of the past—indicative of developing nations like China."
Richard Rood, professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the College of Engineering, can discuss the intersections of weather and climate, and climate and society. He recently wrote about adaptive management in the Trump administration for the Climate Policy Blog, an American Meteorological Society project.
"Organization and discipline will be critical attributes for an effective response to the Trump administration's efforts to deconstruct not only President Obama's climate actions, but also to weaken a generation of environmental law," he said. "Critical in effective response is to depersonalize that which is dismissive, insulting and hurtful. The goal is to resist the emotional bait."
Peter Jacobson is a professor of health law and policy and director of the Center for Law, Ethics, and Health at the U-M School of Public Health. He can speak about the legal/public health aspects of the Flint water crisis and EPA regulatory policy during the Trump administration.
"Reducing EPA's powers, either through an arbitrary regulatory repeal process or the failure to update clean water regulations, will severely curtail the EPA's powers," he said. "Doing so will make it harder to protect clean and safe water and prevent another Flint water crisis."