Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions
Campaigns:

CCE IN THE NEWS

Source: Albany Times Union

Environmental groups press GOP lawmakers over EPA cuts

BY BRIAN NEARING

Posted: June 28, 2017
Originally Published: June 28, 2017

Albany

Environmental groups vowed Wednesday to turn up the political heat on the state's Congressional Republicans to oppose President Trump's proposal to slash funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

One opponent, Environmental Advocates of New York Executive Director Peter Iwanowicz — a former state Environmental Conservation commissioner — said Trump's plan to cut EPA funding by more than 30 percent will mean $100 million less federal aid to DEC, the Health Department and Department of State, and other state agencies, which could force state job cuts.

EPA would bear the largest percentage cut under the Trump budget proposal, which would dramatically increase military spending. Trump appointed a climate science denier, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, to head the agency. This month, the Trump administration purged half of an 18-member EPA scientific advisory board.

William Cooke. director of government relations for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the proposed EPA cuts are "not based on any analysis, but rather an ideological view that our environment, our natural resources, and public health are not a concern of the federal government."

Cooke said the cuts would mean a $72 million loss in current federal funding to DEC, and could endanger hundreds of jobs at the agency.


DEC spokesman Sean Mahar confirmed the $72 million figure on Wednesday and said the agency would comment later about the potential impact on jobs and programs if Congress were to adopt the budget unchanged. Under current law, DEC exercises authority to enforce both the federal Clean Water and Clean Air acts.

Currently, there are about 3,000 workers in DEC, down about from about 3,800 in 2008. The state imposed layoffs there in 2010 in response to the budget crunch caused by the Great Recession. Those layoffs led to the firing of then-Commissioner Pete Grannis, who warned the agency was already being stretched dangerously thin.

Iwanowicz, Cooke and several other environmental group leaders at a press conference in the Capitol said their groups will spend this summer organizing public events to "engage" six GOP members of Congress to oppose the EPA cuts.

That group includes John Faso, of Columbia County; Elise Stefanik, of Essex County; Claudia Tenney, of Utica; Lee Zeldin, of Long Island; Chris Collins, of Erie County; and John Katko of Syracuse.

Faso said he opposes the proposed EPA budget cuts. "While there is certainly room for improvement at the EPA, I understand the importance of the agency's role in protecting our environment and ensuring that we all have access to clean air and water," said Faso.

Cooke said the fate of the cuts rests with GOP lawmakers, adding, "They need to protect us, not industry."

The effort sounds similar to the town hall events on health care held in Congressional districts earlier this year, where lawmakers supporting Trump's proposals to weaken Obamacare were met by crowds of angry constituents.

"If not for the EPA, we'd still be drinking poisoned water," said Hoosick Falls resident Kathy Dawson. EPA alerted the public to the contamination of the village's drinking water supply by the chemical PFOA, a suspected carcinogen.

"Hoosick Falls sees the EPA as our heroes," said Dawson. "These Trump budget cuts threaten my community directly."