White House cuts to EPA budget strip health and safety protections for Southeasterners

Reports show that the White House budget calls for cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overall budget by 25 percent, threatening thousands of jobs and health and safety protections for millions of Southeastern families. These cuts reportedly include 20 percent staff cuts and would deeply impact EPA programs like climate protection, clean air and water, and enforcement.

“Instead of working to protect American families, President Trump’s plans put the interest of big-money special interests over people. The President may claim to support clean air and clean water for all Americans, but his budget says otherwise,” said Nat Mund, SELC Legislative Director. “These proposed budget cuts would cripple the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to enforce basic protections, threatening the health and safety of all Americans, especially in our region where many state protections have already been gutted.

“This is a job-killing action that hits close to home. The Environmental Protection Agency supports local jobs safeguarding the health of our communities and families, and the businesses that depend on the quality of life they protect. While the Trump Administration attempts to yank this vital cop off the beat, we will continue fighting on the frontlines for our families and communities' right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and enjoy what makes our region so special for generations to come.”

Across the Southeast, the EPA has upheld our nation’s most critical and longstanding environmental protections and played a vital role in our communities, but these reported cuts would threaten important work including:

  • Cleanup: EPA has coordinated and funded the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, an economic boon for the region and a beautiful and special place for residents and visitors alike. Reports indicate that funding for this program would be slashed by more than 90 percent.
  • Enforcement: When North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality was under criminal investigation for its cozy relations with Duke Energy and not enforcing the law, the Environmental Protection Agency conducted the criminal investigation which resulted in Duke Energy pleading guilty 18 times to nine Clean Water Act crimes at its leaking, unlined coal ash sites across the state.
  • Oversight: After substantial systemic failures of Alabama’s water pollution permitting program and the agency’s abysmal enforcement record, the EPA stepped in and worked closely with the Alabama Department of Environment Management over years to make improvements to protect human health and the environment for the citizens of Alabama.
  • Grants: The Diesel Emission Reduction Program, which helps communities purchase cleaner school buses, may be completely defunded.

While the Trump Administration has said it wants to strip longstanding federal environmental protections and turn them over to the states, the recent trajectory of Southeastern states’ budgets and staffing show that the states are not positioned to take on these critical roles. In North Carolina, the state environmental agency’s budget decreased 40% from 2011 to 2013; Virginia’s environmental budget went down 20% from 2009 to 2017. In Tennessee, from 2010 to 2014, the state legislature slashed the base budget of the state Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) by $20 million and cut nearly 500 jobs.

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