Cuts to NOAA, EPA, and the environmental bureaucracy

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Two articles today outline some of the proposed cuts the Trump administration is considering for the EPA and NOAA and their generally bloated and politicized administrative bureaucracies.

The first article focuses on the proposed cuts to the EPA, which would reduce the overall budget to that agency by about 25%.

The Trump administration wants to cut spending by EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) by more than 40% from roughly $510 million to $290 million, according to sources that have seen preliminary directives from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The cuts target scientific work in fields including climate change, air and water quality, and chemical safety. EPA’s $50 million external grant program for environmental scientists at universities would disappear altogether. Such erasures represent just part of a larger plan to shrink EPA’s budget by 25% to $6.1 billion, and cut its workforce by 20% to 12,400 employees, in the 2018 fiscal year that begins 1 October.

The second article focuses on proposed cuts aimed at NOAA and within the Commerce Department, with cuts in specific departments ranging from 5% to 26%, with an overall cut to NOAA of 17%.

The biggest single cut proposed by the passback document comes from NOAA’s satellite division, known as the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, which includes a key repository of climate and environmental information, the National Centers for Environmental Information. Researchers there were behind a study suggesting that there has been no recent slowdown in the rate of climate change — research that drew the ire of Republicans in Congress. [emphasis mine]

It appears however that the Trump administration isn’t proposing an end to weather satellites. Instead, they want NOAA to do what NASA has begun doing, get the private sector to do it.

The OMB passback document said that the Commerce Department, like other agencies, should “buy and manage like a business.” It urged the department to explore greater use of privately owned commercial satellites and commercial cloud services while submitting to the OMB a plan to retire or replace “at least one high priority legacy IT system” beginning in 2018. [emphasis mine]

Both articles are examples of today’s bad journalism, with each lobbying hard against the cuts, giving ample quotes to liberal environmental activists and former political appointees from the Washington establishment without any contrasting views.

More important, neither gives much context to these cuts, which are not really very terrible. For example, the overall 17% cut at NOAA would reduce that agency’s budget from around $5.4 billion to about $4.4 billion, which is still about $400 million higher than NOAA’s budget in 2008, when Obama took office. Similarly, the 25% cut to EPA would still leave that agency with an annual budget of about $5.6 billion. Though that would be the EPA’S lowest budget since 1990, it is more than enough. The EPA’s most productive and useful work occurred in its early years, when had even less cash to work with. Since its budget has grown it has become an oppressive force in American society, accomplishing little to improve the environment while working hard to squelch American freedom. It is time to rein that agency in.



  • Garry

    My short answer to those who decry such cuts: if the science is so settled, why do we have to keep up so much research?

  • wodun

    Hopefully the satellites that take temperature measurements don’t get cut because those observations are critical to counter the altered terrestrial measurements.

  • Edward

    It is NOAA that is altering the measurements.

  • Edward: Actually both NOAA and NASA have been altering the surface data. The satellite data remains unchanged because the project scientists for those satellites are good scientists. The only adjustments they have made have been to make sure they have accounted for the differences between the sensors on different satellites over time.

  • Edward

    Robert Zimmerman wrote: “Edward: Actually both NOAA and NASA have been altering the surface data.

    Yeah, I phrased that very badly. (Serves me right for not writing a lengthy and detailed comment.)

    There are plenty of people who have copies of the original satellite data, as measured, but trusted organizations such as NOAA, NASA, and at least one European organization are distributing alternate, adjusted data — that is sourced from satellites, ground stations, oceanic measurements, etc. — to those who seek it, making it seem as though that adjusted data is accurate and trustworthy. Those with the original data are able to point out how much adjustment has happened to the modern data that is distributed.

    My point is that we can no longer trust NOAA with temperature data, whether or not it comes from their own satellites.

    On further reflection, I do not trust NOAA with any climate data, since they have become a political organization instead of a scientific one. Someone on another thread noted that Eisenhower warned us of the politicization of science.

    I am in favor of commercialization of weather data collection. Not only is it likely to be less expensive, the competitive nature of commercialization should result in better data from more advanced methods that is incorporated faster than NOAA or other government agencies can do. It also ensures the independent tracking of raw data by the good scientists that Robert mentioned, away from the “adjusting hands” of politicized, government agencies.

    By not informing everyone on the algorithms and reasoning used to adjust the data, NOAA, NASA, and others prevent anyone from verifying the logic and methods used. Peer review was bypassed. Scientific principles were violated.

    Not pointing out the fact that the adjustments were made is a violation of scientific principles so vile that the practice has a name in the scientific community: fudged data. Under normal conditions, such a practice would cause loss of reputation for the scientist(s) involved, but this does not happen to any politically correct (read: “politically corrupted”) climate scientists or PC government agencies — due to global warming, naturally.

  • D.K. Williams

    A good start.

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