How much do environmental protections cost taxpayers?

Colorado Senator Gardner called the EPA the “Everyone Pays A Lot” administration.1 So how much do we really pay for EPA?

EPA buddget slice

EPA’s current budget is $8.14 billion, 0.2 percent of the projected $4-trillion fiscal year 2017 federal budget.2 With the U.S. population at about 324 million, Trump’s proposed cuts would bring the EPA’s yearly costs down from $25 per American to $18.81 per American.3

Over 40% of EPA’s total budget is passed through to state, local and tribal governments as grants and low cost loans. The portion of EPA’s 2015 budget that actually went to EPA is $4.7 billion—a mere 0.12% of the total federal budget. Shielding state grants from budget cuts would mean that a “25% EPA budget cut” is actually a 43% cut to the core EPA budget remaining to carry out and enforce the nation’s health and environmental laws. This means the Trump administration budget cuts would reduce EPA’s core budget to $2.665 billion. That figure represents 0.067% of the total U.S. federal budget.4

In January 2014, the New York Times broke down the federal budget per person basis. Budget numbers have changed slightly since then, but the relative costs are still in the ballpark. Here’s how much we pay per person for EPA – with some other thrown in for comparison.5

National Weather Service $3 National Park Service $8 National Science Foundation $23

EPA $26

NASA $56
National Institutes of Health $94 Military $1802

+ Veterans Compensation $267

+ Veteran’s Health Care $174 Medicare $1591

Social Security $2672

Of course, not everyone pays $26 – that’s just a per capita average. Here’s a breakdown by taxable income category (the average cost to taxpayers in each IRS income tax bracket, based on the EPA % share of revenue for each income bracket) . These figures are based on EPA’s 2013 budget ($7.9 billion).6

• If your earnings were in the bottom half US taxpayers – less than $37,000/year, EPA cost you $13.

  • If your earnings were in the 50-75% range for US taxpayers – between $37k and $75k, EPA cost you $47.
  • If your earnings were in the 75-90% range for US taxpayers – between $75k and $127k, EPA cost you $85.
  • If your earnings were in the 90-95% range for US taxpayers – between $127k and $180k, EPA cost you $131.

• If your earnings are in the top 5% of US taxpayers – between $180k and $428k, EPA cost you $220.

For comparison, taxpayer contributions to US military spending are about 90x the cost for environmental protection. Those taxpayers in the lowest 50% of earnings pay pay about $1170/ yr.7

Total defense spending by the U.S. government is projected to be $853.6 billion in fiscal year 2017 – 182 times higher than the budget for EPA.8

What are we paying for?

EPA’s Strategic Plan for 2014-2018 breaks the EPA budget down into five strategic goals.9 Goal 1: Addressing Climate Change and Improving Air Quality
Goal 2: Protecting America’s Waters
Goal 3: Cleaning Up Communities and Advancing Sustainable Development

Goal 4: Ensuring the Safety of Chemicals and Preventing Pollution

Goal 5: Protecting Human Health and the Environment by Enforcing Laws and Assuring Compliance

EPA budget NG

EPA spends two thirds of its budget on keeping air and water clean. For instance, the agency provided “tools and training to operators of small water utilities to improve resilience in drinking water wastewater and stormwater systems,” according to the agency’s 2016 budget. In fact, the

demand for this training “far exceeded expectations so that the original two-year target of training 1,000 operators was increased to 5,000.”10

About half of this funding goes state and local government in the form of grants and contracts.11 For example, last year the agency gave $674,201 to the city of Charlestown, West Virginia, to fund fund protection measures for local groundwater and coastal salt ponds.12

About 22% of the EPA’s budget goes to paying its own employees.13

1 Gardner was a in the House at the time, representing Colorado’s 4th District. Polling in his congressional district showing two-thirds of his constituents feel “Congress should let the EPA do its job.”


3 xid=frommoney_soc_socialflow_twitter_money

4 Based on 2015 budget figures.


8 This figure uses only that portion of the EPA budget that goes to EPA as the point of comparison. utm_source=tw&utm_medium=tweet&utm_campaign=socialmedia

9; Figure from

11 For a detailed look at “What Proposed EPA Budget Cuts Mean to States,” go to

12 xid=frommoney_soc_socialflow_twitter_money


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