Trump and his aides announced a budget blueprint Monday that boosted defense spending by $54 billion while slashing non-defense programs by the same amount. While details on how the cuts would be made were scarce, sources inside the administration made clear that the EPA's budget would be a prime target.
The White House sent the budget proposal to the various government agencies on Monday with suggested cuts. Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters that the White House would work with agencies to work through how they plan to make the cuts.
While White House aides cast the cuts as "belt tightening" when they were announced, there is widespread concern within the EPA that the changes will dramatically alter the function of an agency that was created under Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970.
A current EPA employee, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, said the cuts will weaken the agency to the point where it can only do its most basic functions.
The cuts resemble the adversarial stance Scott Pruitt, now the head of the EPA, took while he was Oklahoma's attorney general. Pruitt, whose nomination and subsequent confirmation were protested by several current and former EPA employees, sued the agency he now leads more than a dozen times in his previous role.
John O'Grady, the president of the union that represents the EPA's employees nationwide, said Monday that staffers are currently grappling with the likely possibility of layoffs.
"It is clear that big changes are on their way," O'Grady said. "It is going to have to mean layoffs or closing facilities or a combination of the two."
He added: "I think there are still some people at EPA that can't believe they can possibly do this. ... Technically, they have the authority to do it, but do they have the right to do it? I think that moves into the realm of morality."
A source with knowledge of the discussions between the EPA and the Trump White House told CNN that the cuts are not expected to impact capital investment for programs related to the EPA's mission.
"You're not going to see cuts to programs that require us to build things like: building waste water facilities, building facilities for clean water. We are committed to capital investments," said the source, who did not have clearance to speak publicly on specifics of the budget negotiations.
The source added that funding for these sorts of building projects are likely to remain the same or increase, while the non-capital investment portion of the agency's budget will bear the brunt of the impact.