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A.G. Schneiderman Leads 13 States Calling On Congress To Reject “Deep And Damaging” EPA Cuts, Anti-Environmental Budget Riders

House and Senate Would Eliminate Over $150 Million in Critical Funds, Could Slash EPA Staff by One-Quarter

Proposed Budgets Would Mean More Polluted Air, Water, and Communities – Cutting Vital Programs like Enforcement, Scientific Research, and Environmental Justice, While Undermining Clean Water and Clean Air Acts and Limits on Climate Change Pollution

In New York, Cuts Ignore $74 Billion Shortfall in Water Treatment Needs; Could Block Standards for Toxic Chemicals in Drinking Water

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, leading a coalition of 13 states, called on the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to reject “deep and damaging” cuts in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and anti-environmental riders in federal budget bills. In a letter to Congressional leadership, the coalition charges that the EPA cuts and riders currently proposed by both houses “will lead to more pollution of our air, water, and communities, and an accompanying increase in damage to public health.” The coalition is urging Congress to pass a final budget that fully funds EPA and omits any anti-environmental riders.

Joining Attorney General Schneiderman in the letter are the Attorneys General of California, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

“As it stands, these budget bills would lead to untold – and perhaps irreparable – damage to clean water, air, and communities throughout New York,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The EPA budget already represents just two-tenths of one percent of federal spending – yet the agency plays an essential role in protecting our environment and our health. We will continue to fight back against these dangerous cuts, and the very real threat they pose to the health and safety of New Yorkers.”

Congress is reported to be negotiating with the Trump Administration on a final fiscal year 2018 budget for the EPA based on the House-passed Interior, Environmental, and Related Agencies FY 2018 appropriations bill (H.R. 3354) and the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman’s Mark for FY 2018 appropriations for these agencies. While not as draconian as the $2.4 billion in EPA cuts originally proposed by the Trump Administration, the House-passed budget bill would still cut the EPA’s budget by $650 million; the Senate bill would cut the EPA’s budget by $150 million. These budget cuts would leave EPA with its smallest budget since 1986, adjusting for inflation.

The bulk of the proposed cuts fall on central activities of EPA – environmental enforcement and compliance assurance, setting environmental standards, issuing permits, monitoring emissions, and providing technical and legal assistance to enforcement, compliance, and oversight. The House reduces funding for EPA’s core programs by 24 percent – an even deeper cut for these programs than proposed in the Trump Administration’s irresponsible budget – while the Senate shrinks this funding by 10 percent. The Senate budget provides funding to cut EPA’s workforce by one-quarter.

As the Trump Administration continues to retreat from enforcing federal environmental laws, the Senate and House are proposing cuts in the EPA’s enforcement budget of 10 percent and 15 percent, respectively. The EPA’s enforcement work, often in partnership with the New York Attorney General’s office, has been critical to protecting New Yorkers’ health and environment– from the 2016 action against Volkswagen for emissions cheating, to the 2015 action against Tonawanda Coke Corp for violating federal and state air, water, and waste pollution laws, to the 2013 consent decree with the Lafarge cement company in Ravena to resolve claims for air pollution violations, and much more.

In addition, both the Senate and House follow the Trump Administration’s lead in targeting EPA programs that protect the health of disadvantaged communities, proposing a 10 percent and 15 percent cut, respectively, in funding for the EPA Office of Environmental Justice.

The coalition’s letter highlights concerns about the Senate’s proposal to eliminate EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program, which, among other things, plays a fundamental role in the setting of national drinking water standards. The coalition letter notes that drinking water supplies across the country – including in Hoosick Falls, New York – are now contaminated with the toxic industrial chemicals perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). PFOA and PFOS are currently unregulated under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, with no national monitoring or enforcement mechanism in place to address their risk to the public. The coalition letter states, “the elimination or reduction of the IRIS program will likely delay, if not end, progress toward effective, science-based regulation of these dangerous chemicals, and toward ensuring the health and safety of the water Americans drink”.

The letter also flags several troubling policy riders added to the EPA funding bills, including those that would:

  • Create a dangerous precedent by allowing EPA to by-pass federal law and allow the Trump Administration to shut the public out of its planned repeal and replacement of the “Waters of the United States” rule – regulations that define which waters will received protection under the federal Clean Water Act.
  • Delay the implementation of health-based standards for smog pollution for 10 years – even though 115 million Americans, including at least 1 in 3 New Yorkers, currently breathe air with harmful levels of smog.
  • Block common-sense regulations for controlling emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane from the oil and natural gas industry. Controlling methane – which saves the industry money from the recovery of valuable natural gas – also reduces emissions of smog-forming pollutants, and hazardous air pollutants, including benzene and formaldehyde.

Finally, the coalition letter argues that there is a strong argument that more – not less – funding for EPA is needed. For example, it is clear that funding that the EPA provides to states and municipalities has not been sufficient for them to keep pace with the burgeoning challenge of providing safe drinking water and properly treating wastewater. In New York alone, over the next 20 years, it is estimated that over $38 billion will be needed to repair, replace, and update the state’s drinking water infrastructure and over $36 billion is to repair, replace, and update its wastewater infrastructure.

This matter is being handled for the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau by Senior Counsel for Air Pollution and Climate Change Litigation Michael J. Myers and Policy Advisor Peter C. Washburn, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic. The Environmental Protection Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General of Social Justice Alvin Bragg.