The former head of Trump's Environmental Protection Agency transition team is setting his sights on making sure proposed job cuts at the EPA stick as the agency's budget makes its way through the House Appropriations Committee.
The 3,000-person cut is one of the only areas where House appropriators agreed with President Trump's budget request.
"So, there will be a smaller EPA coming out of this, even though the budget cut was only about 6 or 7 percent, rather than 31 percent" that Trump requested, Myron Ebell told the Washington Examiner in an interview.
Ebell said the EPA-Interior budget bill that was voted out of the Approprations Committee's Interior subcommittee this week will be the focus of a coalition he is part of that includes the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, where he serves as environment and energy director, and other free-market think tanks and advocacy organizations.
"We are going to be pushing for larger cuts than Ken Calvert's subcommittee voted out," Ebell said.
Nevertheless, he is being more selective on which areas he will seek to be cut. The job cuts and the millions of dollars the House gives to EPA for employee buyouts are a primary focus, as well as reducing the size of the agency's regional offices.
Ebell said he is willing to leave alone other areas that Trump proposed to cut in his budget request because of entrenched special interests.
"The things we won't have any luck with is getting rid of the big pork barrel projects, particularly the Great Lakes restoration and the Chesapeake Bay" programs, he said. "Those are huge pork barrel projects, particularly the Great Lakes, which have large support from the special interests."
"We aren't going to mess with those. We are going to look at reducing the size of the program offices, particularly the regional offices budgets," he said.
"We aren't going to look at the pass-through grants to the states. We aren't as opposed to that as we are to the overmanning … [of the agency]."
"The great thing about getting rid of [3,200] EPA regulators is you'll have a lot less regulation, right? So, they won't have as much ability to regulate every damn thing."
Ebell discussed the road forward for cutting environmental spending after the coalition he is leading failed to persuade House lawmakers to include amendments to a major House defense spending bill that would gut the Pentagon's climate change directives.
The coalition argued that the Department of Defense's focus on climate change is a misallocation of resources that places service members in harm's way.
"They moved this bill very quickly, and we didn't really have time to do anything," he said. "We weren't very well prepared because of the very quick schedule, so on the Senate side, we'll have a little more time."
But other hurdles remain in the Senate. "The Senate [appropriations] committee, particularly the Interior subcommittee, is not particularly friendly; Lisa Murkowski [R-Alaska] is the chairman," he said.
"But she is friendly on some of these issues. So, we will have to see. Now that we know what's in the bill, I think we will have a more organized effort over a longer period of time."