By Elgie Holstein
Here in chaotic Washington, DC, Congress has given itself three more months to pass a budget for fiscal year 2018. And in this case, dysfunction is good news for families and communities across the country: it gives them a last opportunity to persuade their elected representatives to stand up against the Trump Administration and Congress’ efforts to make deep cuts to public health programs and even the disaster response-related work of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Fortunately, hundreds of state and local government officials and former officials have joined together to send a simple but urgent plea to Congress: NO cuts to EPA’s already-strained budget.
The proposed Trump FY18 budget would cut EPA by 30 percent, reducing the agency’s real budget to levels not seen since the 1970s. This has many state and local leaders reeling, because they are on the front lines protecting the health of families and communities, and they depend on a strong partnership with the federal EPA. That partnership involves federal funding, legal support and scientific expertise.
In an open letter to Congress, released today, those officials insisted that further cuts to EPA funding would fracture the state-federal partnership and undermine their ability to protect the public.
As the signatories warn, “To the extent that states cannot make up for the loss of EPA grant funds, public health will be put at risk.” The letter provides a sample of major funding cuts that President Trump and Administrator Pruitt are trying to ram through Congress this fall. In the interim, the House has voted, taking a hatchet to the EPA budget, which the Senate must now consider.
The House-passed EPA budget would cut hundreds of millions in aid for states and communities facing public health threats. Highlights include:
- Dirty water: The House version would slash more than 300 million dollars from programs to keep water clean.
- Soft on polluters: Key efforts to enforce environmental safeguards and hold polluters accountable would be cut between 5-15 percent across multiple programs—including cleanup of Superfund hazardous waste sites—which could mean less support for legal and investigative staff who gather evidence and make companies pay for cleanups.
- Reckless on homeland security: A 15 percent cut in homeland security efforts that help identify vulnerable industrial facilities and water supplies, which can be critical in natural disasters.
- A retreat on science: The House budget would make deep cuts in research and development programs that help identify the most advanced, cost-effective means of preventing, detecting, and cleaning up pollution.
- EPA to the states —“It’s Your Problem”: The House-passed budget slashes and even eliminates targeted pollution-fighting programs that are essential to protecting public health in states like Florida and California.
The House-passed proposal would force states to do less to protect public health, or bill taxpayers more to keep up their current efforts.
The list goes on, but it adds up to a concerted effort to decimate EPA, one of the most critical public health agencies in the nation. EDF and EDF Action are working with state and local officials around the country to protect EPA’s budget. Now, state and local officials are speaking out with a clear voice, calling on Congress to do exactly that by rejecting President Trump’s and Administrator Pruitt’s reckless EPA budget request.