With the end of the United States government’s fiscal year approaching on Sept. 30, many Americans are turning their heads toward the latest budget propositions. Most notable, perhaps, is President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut government funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31 percent to $5.65 billion, according to a report from the Washington Post. Such a massive cut to the EPA budget would greatly reduce the agency’s ability to ensure the safety of Americans and the environment in all areas of the nation, and Connecticut is no exception.
If the EPA does face a budget cut of this magnitude, several programs will likely be lost, including programs to restore the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound. The agency’s lead risk reduction program might have to be cut, as well as about half of the grants they give to states and towns to help improve air and water quality and reduce pesticide exposure. The Superfund cleanup program, a program designed to restore polluted areas and clean up chemical spills, will also experience cuts. In addition, the agency would lose 3,800 jobs.
Some of the most significant effects of this proposal will be seen in a reduction of the federal enforcement office, which Trump plans to cut by 40 percent, according to the Atlantic. This would make it extremely difficult for EPA officials to monitor all sites that might produce environmental waste and ensure that they meet regulations. Not only would they be understaffed to ensure that everyone meets the regulations, but they would also be understaffed in the offices that set regulations. It is under circumstances such as these that federal institutions as well as private companies evade regulation and cause accidental oil spills, air pollution and other environmental disasters.
These nationwide changes would strike without discrimination, affecting all states including Connecticut. In an interview on WSHU’s All Things Considered, Robert Klee, the commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, stated that 25 percent of his agency’s funds are from the federal government, and of these, 60 percent are the result of EPA funding. The Brownfields program, which is working to clean up old industrial sites, would likely be shut down. Old factories and mills that would otherwise have been restored for practical use would go to waste. The Long Island Sound fund would also be affected by the EPA budget cut. This cleanup and habitat and ecology restoration program could lose the means to protect wildlife and maintain water quality off the south shore of Connecticut, according to the Greenwich Time.
Even a small state like Connecticut, which does not have an abundance of national parks to preserve or mass oil production to keep an eye on, will be drastically affected by these EPA budget cuts. From an economic standpoint, a 31 percent budget cut can lead to a reduced labor force in the environmental sector. This means less people will be hired to audit companies that dispose of waste in the ecosystem, and less people will be monitoring the safety of drinking water. Environmental disasters will be more difficult to clean up, and conservations will be more difficult to protect.
Of course, it must be said that some form of budget reform is necessary for the next fiscal year. But this budget reform should not fall in such large lump sums onto one particular sector, especially one that contributes so much to our health and safety. This 31 percent reduction proposal is clearly accompanied by a foolish disregard for the importance of the environment, and it would be better designed if it were divided between the environmental sector and other federal programs. Otherwise, Connecticut and the rest of the nation will suffer from the loss of EPA programs and services.
Alex Oliveira is a staff columnist for the Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.