Catalyst Spring 2018
First Principles

A Victory for Science

By Ken Kimmell

Photo: Associated Press/Susan Walsh

Photo: Richard Howard

The past year has been rocky, with many disappointments, so I am particularly pleased to report that Congress finally passed a budget in March, and science was a clear winner. I am proud of the work the Union of Concerned Scientists did to secure this victory.

As detailed in this issue, many federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, have already taken a beating through buyouts of senior talent, rollbacks of important health safeguards, and political appointees tampering with staff work. On top of that, the Trump administration had proposed severe cuts to the EPA and other agencies, focusing particularly on budget line items that fund vital scientific work. And many in Congress who favor a radical agenda to cut the safeguards we all rely upon added “riders” to the budget: poison-pill provisions that would limit the ability of these agencies to enforce laws such as the Endangered Species Act.

In partnership with many other groups, we at UCS rolled up our sleeves. Our scientists and advocates educated the press and the public on how important independent government science is to our future, and our outreach team mobilized our Science Network to speak directly to members of Congress about the harms these cuts would cause.

And we won! The final budget bill increases funding for clean energy research and development programs; sustainable agriculture research allocations will grow by 30 percent; and badly needed funds that will help communities take proactive steps to protect themselves against storms and other extreme weather related to climate change will see a 150 percent increase. The budget keeps the EPA’s funding at last year’s level—far preferable to the draconian cuts proposed by the president. Congress even eliminated all of the harmful riders from the budget bill (with one exception—a misguided provision to declare that burning trees for energy is “carbon neutral”). The lesson is clear: old-fashioned standing up and fighting still matters and, even in this political climate, we can still win.

Ken Kimmell is president of Union of Concerned Scientists