Safety Agencies May See Big Cuts In New Budget

The Administration’s released its budget plan this morning.  It is called a blueprint and gives an overview rather than a detailed view.  The full budget request will come out in the next month or so,  then it is up to Congress to decide on the actual numbers.

The short message is no surprise – Increases for defense and border security with cuts in domestic programs to offset the increases.  Some of those domestic programs are closely tied to agencies that have a strong safety mission.  While the blueprint does not say exactly what will happen for most programs, it gives some picture of what may be coming when the full budget request is released.  Here’s what it looks like:

OSHA – Funding for OSHA comes under the Department of Labor.  The administration would cut $11 million that went for training grants at OSHA, calling the grants, saying they are “unproven.”  It appears this would eliminate the Susan B. Harwood training grants.  Among other things, those grants go to help small businesses and workers who are illiterate or have limited English proficiency.  The budget would include money for state apprenticeship programs, although it doesn’t say how much.  Other than that, the budget does not mention further cuts for OSHA, but would cut the overall Labor Department budget by 21% or $2.5 billion.  The $11 million savings from cutting grants doesn’t go far to make up that kind of cut, so OSHA will probably have to absorb some pretty big reductions in staff.

Coast Guard – The good news for the Coast Guard is that the budget doesn’t make it part of the the Navy, which was an early trial balloon the White House floated.  The bad news may be that the budget doesn’t mention the Coast Guard at all.   Clearly, the Coast Guard’s mission in protecting our marine borders is not a priority for the new administration.  The Administration wants to increase the overall Homeland Security budget by $2.8 billion, but it also wants to add $4.5 billion for new security programs and additional customs and ICE agents.   That likely means that the rest of the agency, including the Coast Guard would be asked to tighten their belts to come up with the additional $1.7 billion in new programs.   The Coast Guard’s powerful supporters in Congress are already up in arms over potential cuts.

Update:  The Department of Homeland Security issued its own news release saying the budget proposal “Sustains current funding levels for the U.S. Coast Guard, which allows for the continuation of day-to-day operations and investments in the Acquisition, Construction, & Improvements account.”  It seems to say that the additional shortfall would be made up from reducing FEMA grants and increasing fees on some FEMA programs and on flyers, but that may be a tough sell in Congress.

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement – This is a question mark in the budget proposal.  BSEE is under the Department of Interior, which would take an overall reduction of $1.5 billion or 12%.   The proposal doesn’t mention BSEE by name, but does say it would increase funds that encourage development:

“Combined with administrative reforms already in progress, this would allow DOI to streamline permitting processes and provide industry with access to the energy resources America needs…”

All of which sounds like less money for enforcement and maybe less regulation to enforce.

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration – PHMSA is not mentioned in the budget.      Overall, the Department of Transportation would take a hit of  $2.4 billion or 13%, so PHMSA would have to absorb its share of the pain.  It saw a 60% budget increase in last year’s budget, but even then, one environmental group pointed out that each inspector had to cover 5000 miles of pipe.

Federal Aviation Administration –  The big news for the FAA is that the Administration proposes to privatize the air traffic control system.

Chemical Safety Board – Gone.  The CSB has already come in for a great deal of criticism and the budget proposal would eliminate the office.

It is important to stress that every new president’s budget proposal comes in for a hard time in Congress and rarely emerges looking anything like the President’s original wish list.  However, the deep cuts in this proposal make it likely that a compromise includes cuts, less deep, but cuts all the same.

Leave a Reply