Trump’s EPA cuts threaten Colorado environment

USGS and EPA scientists take earth and water samples below the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine in Summit County, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

EDF report details risks to clean air, water programs

Staff Report

The Trump administration’s attempted dismantling of the EPA could have far-reaching consequences for Colorado, according to a new report issued by the Environmental Defense Fund.

The organization warns that the proposed 30 percent budget cut would affect public health and environmental cleanups by reducing the agency’s budget to levels last seen in the 1970s.

“The president seeks to roll back common-sense environmental safeguards that have protected the health and well-being of Colorado for decades,” said Elgie Holstein, EDF’s senior director of strategic planning, “This is not just an assault on an agency. It is an assault on public health and safety.”

The Trump Administration and its anti-environmental allies in Congress are working to push the cuts through in the next 30 days, before the federal fiscal year ends.

“Washington is so broken right now that the Trump road map could be enacted in a blink of an eye in a backroom deal when Congress returns in September,” said Holstein.

 According to the report EPA funding to combat non-source point pollution would be cut off completely under the proposed budget. The funding is critical to address water pollution from diffuse sources, including agricultural and urban runoff.

Air quality programs are also at risk, which could further threaten public health in cities polluted by ozone, including Denver and Aurora, which both rank in the 15 most ozone-polluted cities in the U.S. Ten of Colorado’s 23 counties got an “F” for high ozone days in 2012-2015. In addition, Denver received an “F” for particle pollution.

The Trump Administration’s proposed budget would cut grants to state and local governments help communities address harmful air pollution such as soot and smog by 30 percent.

It would also cut funding for brownfield projects, which help clean up polluted areas so they’re available for commercial development. Colorado also has a backlog of more than 500 underground storage tanks at risk of leaking harmful chemicals into both soil and water; the administration plan eliminates one of two EPA programs  to prevent and detect leaks and clean ground and groundwater – and cuts in half the second program.

Local Colorado officials decried the cuts at a news conference last week,

“This is the time for agencies that protect public health and safety to lean forward, not stagger back to funding levels that were inadequate 50 years ago,” said Adams County Board Chair Eva Henry. “These proposed cuts are counterintuitive during this time of tremendous growth in Adams County and across Colorado.”

“These cuts are real and will impact Colorado’s way of life,” said Faith Winter, Colorado State Representative for District 35. “We are likely to see more high pollution days . As a parent, I know that we all will worry more about things like sending our kids off to sports practice and wondering if the air quality will harm their still developing lungs.  Or whether the water we use to fill up their water bottles is clean. EPA cleanup funds affect our familes’ health.”

“I am deeply concerned about the defunding of EPA air pollution programs and the impact it will have on overall air quality, particularly for those most vulnerable like children and seniors living in my community,” said Christine Berg, Mayor of Lafayette.

Holstein, who formerly oversaw environment and science budgets for the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, said Colorado’s Congressional delegation will find in the new report hundreds of ways in which the EPA has been helping the state manage risk.

“Congress can and must stop the madness of these proposed cuts,” Holstein said.  “Anything less than full EPA funding for 2018 would hobble the environmental protections on which Coloradans and others across the United States rely as the foundation for building a better life.”

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