By Denise Fort,
Chapter Energy chair
President Donald Trump’s budget represents an unprecedented attack on the agencies that protect our environment, and, perhaps more ominously, on science. We need to communicate to everyone — the media, elected officials, civic groups, friends in other states — the reasons a strong EPA is important to our health and the planet.
The facts: the proposed budget would slash spending at EPA by more than 30%. It would also slash spending at science-based organizations that provide critically important information about health risks, the effects of climate change, etc.
There are two great new groups founded by former EPA staff. Check out saveepa.wordpress.com for up-to-date information on what the cuts could mean. One example:
The Trump administration has proposed to cut EPA’s budget by 31%. Right now, the average taxpayer pays about $26 per year to fund EPA.
For comparison, the average taxpayer pays about $2,243 per year for our military (including veterans benefits).
An attack on the EPA is also an attack on our state’s capacity to protect the environment. The New Mexico Environment Department receives about 30% of its funding from EPA. In addition, EPA funding goes to pueblos, state universities, nonprofits, contractors and others who are part of the environmental-health mission.
The proposed budget is far from the only attack on EPA. More than 120 House members have signed onto legislation that would strip the EPA’s authority over carbon dioxide and methane, eviscerating climate regulation and regulation of methane from oil and gas. Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have committed to withdrawing regulations that require more fuel-efficient cars and trucks and the Clean Power Plan, which was the cornerstone of Obama’s Paris commitments for our CO2 reductions. Our national monuments may be delisted (no comment on whether that is legally possible).
Where do we go from here?
We need to keep in mind what we want to see in our country: a safe, healthy environment that protects us and future generations from health risks, public lands that are open for wildlife and recreation, environmental justice, so that no group bears environmental risks disproportionately, and a decarbonization of the economy so climate change doesn’t overtake a livable planet. To achieve this we need trustworthy federal agencies, where good science is valued and not mocked; we need guarantees of scientific integrity and openness in agency publications, and we need environmental laws that respond to the threats of the 21st century, such as climate change, loss of wildlife and of biodiversity, the use of harmful pesticides, and the health threats created by air and water pollution.
Much of the public takes for granted the protections that EPA provides. Pictures are circulating of New York City’s skyline in the 1960s, before the Clean Air Act: smog made it hard to see most of the city. When I was a kid in DC, canoeing on the Potomac, the water smelled, and a few drops on your arm would sting. Our charge is to educate about what our environmental agencies do among a broad range of communities, enlisting new voices in the fight for environmental protection.
We must protect EPA; we must also increase support among state legislators and elect a governor who is deeply committed to healthy, vigorous state programs. New Mexico has relied on federal programs, but that is not sufficient for our state. We need legislators who are willing to step up their scrutiny of oil and gas pollution and other longstanding environmental assaults. It will be campaign season before we know it. Let’s make sure that we increase the number of strong environmental legislators in two years and find candidates for office who understand what’s at stake.
Featured image from Wikimedia.