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Merkley, colleagues fight 'dangerous' cuts to EPA budget

Say it would devastate America's clean air, water

WASHINGTON - Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., led a group of 37 senators on Tuesday in opposing President Trump’s proposal to inflict a more than 30 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency budget.

Expressing “extreme concern” over the cuts, the senators wrote to appropriations leaders, “During the President’s February 28, 2017 address to Congress, he pledged to ‘promote clean air and water.’ Such a pledge is meaningless when the President follows it by proposing a 31 percent cut to the EPA’s budget and a 20 percent reduction in its staff. If enacted, this funding cut would effectively eliminate the EPA’s ability to execute its core mission to protect public health and ensure citizens have clean air, clean water, and are protected from hazardous waste and contaminants.”

The senators highlighted many areas of concern where the proposed cuts would significantly harm communities across America — from reducing clean air and clean water grants and cutting enforcement against polluters, to cutting funding for Superfund sites by 30 percent, to entirely eliminating efforts to combat climate change and clean up major regional bodies of water, like the Great Lakes and the Columbia River Basin.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has insisted that states should be the primary protectors of the environment. However, this proposed budget would drastically cut grants that are crucial for states to protect their clean water and clean air, monitor health impacts of pollution, and reclaim toxic-contaminated sites throughout the country.

“We urge you to oppose these drastic and dangerous cuts, and support continued funding for the EPA,” the senators concluded.

In addition to Merkley, the letter was signed by Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), and Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Al Franken (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

The full text of the letter follows below.

Dear Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairman Leahy:

We write to express our extreme concern over the drastic cuts President Trump proposed in FY2018 funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During the President’s February 28, 2017 address to Congress, he pledged to “promote clean air and water.” Such a pledge is meaningless when the President follows it by proposing a 31 percent cut to the EPA’s budget and a 20 percent reduction in its staff. If enacted, this funding cut would effectively eliminate the EPA’s ability to execute its core mission to protect public health and ensure citizens have clean air, clean water, and are protected from hazardous waste and contaminants.

As the Senate works to finalize FY2017 appropriations and develop legislation to fund the federal government in FY2018, we urge you to oppose these cuts.  The EPA must receive funding and staffing levels that ensure the agency can fulfill its mission to protect the environment, reduce pollution, and safeguard public health.    

Unfortunately, instead of maintaining environmental protections, President Trump’s FY2018 budget blueprint would simply eviscerate the EPA’s core functions and adversely impact state budgets that rely on EPA grants for environmental remediation. President Trump’s vision for the EPA includes:

·         reducing clean air and clean water grants programs and cutting enforcement against polluters by 23%,

·         instituting a 45% cut to core state grants programs which make up nearly 30% of state environmental agencies’ budgets and allow them to implement longstanding environmental laws,

·         eliminating the Energy Star program, which saved consumers over $34 billion in utility bills in 2015 alone, and over $430 billion since 1992,

·         cutting research funding by nearly 50%,

·         eliminating the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, which allows the EPA to evaluate impacts to human health from chemical exposure,

·         cutting funding for Superfund sites by 30 percent, making it harder to clean up and reclaim contaminated and polluted sites across the country

·         eliminating climate change research and partnership programs, international climate change programs, and defunding the Clean Power Plan,

·         eliminating geographic programs accounts that provide important resources to clean up iconic water bodies that provide millions of Americans with drinking water including the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, Puget Sound, the Columbia River Basin, the Long Island Sound, and the San Francisco Bay,

·         cutting all funding for the U.S.-Mexico border program that support cross-border drinking water and sanitations improvements in the southwest,

·         cutting all funding for Alaska Native villages and rural communities that helps provide critical drinking water and sewer systems, and

·         eliminating the Targeted Airshed Grants program, which provides tools for local states, governments and tribes to reduce hazardous air pollution.

This is not the vision of the EPA that Americans support. We must ensure that vital public health and environment protections are maintained and funded. We urge you to oppose these drastic and dangerous cuts, and support continued funding for the EPA in the FY2017 and FY2018 appropriations process.


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