Pruitt: We'll focus research on EPA 'priorities' -- not necessarily climate change

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At issue is whether Trump will follow through on campaign commitments to limit the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to dismantle new and existing environmental initiatives, or if a more moderate approach to realign environmental priorities will emerge.

The EPA had until Wednesday to report back to the White House. Multiple individuals briefed on the plan confirmed the request by the Office of Management and Budget, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

State and tribal assistance grants accounted for 40 percent of the EPAs total budget.

Through this decision to zero out funding for the EPA's environmental justice programs, the president and the administrator have sent a shameful message: The health of poor Americans is less important than that of the wealthy. Fourteen separate EPA partnership programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could also be on the chopping block.

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The proposal would cut funding for the brownfields industrial site cleanup program by 42 percent to $14.7 million. Preserving state programs while cutting almost a quarter of the overall budget would equate to slashing almost half of the money for the EPA's own activities. It is still unclear whether or not congressional Republicans will approve such strong cuts.

Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA, told US mayors on Thursday he would make a priority of cleanups of industrial and hazardous waste sites and improving water infrastructure, even as the White House proposed severe proposed cuts to those programs.

Enck said that in her final speech to her staff at EPA, before she resigned to become the visiting scholar at Pace University Law school, she urged them to be respectful - but to "fight back internally" if they are asked to not enforce environmental laws or "turn a blind eye" to evidence of drinking water pollution, and then decide what they should do if their efforts don't succeed.

A state air pollution expert said the program cuts, if enacted, would harm some of the people most at risk from particulate and lead contamination.

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