Legislative Sneak Attack Would Cripple EPA, Increase Dangerous Pollution and Let Polluters Off the Hook

The New York Times and Politico report that the House Appropriations Committee is putting forward a budget proposal that would drain the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by $3 billion, or nearly 30% of its current budget. The proposal is wrapped up in what is considered a “must-pass” spending bill, because if Congress doesn’t pass it, the federal government shuts down.

Make no mistake: This proposal attacks the very programs Americans rely on for safe and clean drinking water and air. It will cripple the EPA’s ability to help states keep drinking water clean and allow increases in dangerous air pollutants while letting polluters off the hook. Why members of Congress would insist on going down a path the American public has said it opposes again and again, (with 77% of Americans saying Congress should let EPA do its job,) I don’t know.

Here’s a partial list of cuts the Appropriations Committee is asking the US House to approve: 

$1.410 billion from wastewater treatment and other water pollution prevention programs. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund grants money to states for investments in wastewater treatment systems and other pollution prevention improvements. In other words, this fund keeps what we flush down our toilets from going into our rivers and lakes.

$557 million from Clean Drinking water programs. The Clean Drinking Water State Revolving Fund grants money to states so they can keep our drinking water safe. Between this and the Clean Water Fund, it'll be harder to make sure what comes out our taps isn't what went down our toilets.  

$250 million from the Great Lakes Initiative. The initiative is the product of a comprehensive plan by EPA and Great Lakes States to reduce pollution in the planet’s largest group of freshwater lakes, which hold 21% of the Earth’s fresh water.

$172 million cut from programs to protect public health from the effects of carbon and other greenhouse gas pollution. A number of programs intended to address these pollutants are hit. Bottom line: As my colleague Dan Lashof notes, House leaders would prevent EPA from doing its job of protecting public health and would allow power plants and refineries to continue dumping unlimited amounts of carbon dioxide into the air.

$20 million cut from enforcement and compliance. The EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance division is how the EPA holds polluters accountable when they break the law. Cutting from this office means that polluters are more likely to try to cheat by dumping illegal pollution into the air and water, knowing that fewer cops on the beat means they are less likely to get caught.

$20 million from efforts to reduce deadly soot and smog pollution in the nation’s worst-polluted cities.

As I've mentioned, Newt Gingrich is calling for eliminating the EPA. By cutting 30% of the EPA's budget, the backers of this sneak attack are making an awfully good start on his vision.