WASHINGTON - Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., led three dozen senators Thursday in pushing back on proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget that they said would threaten public health and the environment.
“The Trump Administration has made dismantling the EPA a core mission. We urge you to oppose any legislation that advances that goal by further cutting the EPA's already decimated funding levels,” the senators wrote in a letter to Senate leaders.
“Because of these endless attacks on both the career employees and regional programs, the EPA is badly underfunded, understaffed and struggling to perform its basic and legally required functions,” they continued. “We cannot tolerate efforts to cripple an agency that, with increased use of Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments, is operating with staffing levels not seen since the 1980s.”
As the senators pointed out in the letter, these cuts threaten the EPA’s core missions of protecting the environment and public health. If the EPA’s funding levels continue to be slashed, fewer polluters will be held accountable, and clean air and water projects across the United States will be threatened.
In addition to Merkley, the letter was signed by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Gary Peters (D-MI), Al Franken (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Angus King (I-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Jon Tester (D-MT).
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Chairman Cochran, and Vice Chairman Leahy:
We are deeply concerned that Senate Interior Appropriations bill includes yet another cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While the 2% total reduction in the Senate bill may seem small, it masks deep cuts into programs ensuring public health and enforcement, showing that this bill is another example of Republicans repeatedly pushing funding cuts that erode the EPA's core budget and capabilities. As a result of these sustained, partisan attacks, the EPA's overall budget is down 22% since 2010. Adjusted for inflation, the Senate's mark would be the smallest EPA operating budget since 1986. This trend cannot continue.
Moreover, this bill includes deep and harmful cuts in programs critical to protecting public health and the environment. For example, the Senate Interior Appropriations bill would make significant cuts to vital programs that protect clean air and water, and that hold polluters accountable, including reducing Enforcement by 10%, Compliance by 15%, human health protection in the water office by 9%, and clean air programs by 10%.
The Trump Administration has made dismantling the EPA a core mission. We urge you to oppose any legislation that advances that goal by further cutting the EPA's already decimated funding levels.
Because of these endless attacks on both the career employees and regional programs, the EPA is badly underfunded, understaffed and struggling to perform its basic and legally required functions. We cannot tolerate efforts to cripple an agency that, with increased use of Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments, is operating with staffing levels not seen since the 1980s.
The EPA provides critical technical assistance, grant funding, and support to state environmental agencies. With health crises across the country in the form of Superfund sites, lead contaminated water, and air pollution hotspots, we cannot afford to further erode the EPA's budget and dedicated workforce.
We must ensure that the EPA has the funding needed to carry out vital public health and environment protections. We urge you to oppose these insidious budget cuts, and oppose any reduction in funding for the EPA in the final Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations package.
Thank you for your attention to this issue.