Enviros Brace for Trump Budget That Prioritizes Polluters Over People

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Enviros Brace for Trump Budget That Prioritizes Polluters Over People

Expected cuts could 'consign millions of Americans to unbreathable air and contaminated drinking water'

There are more than 1,300 Superfund sites, like this one in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, across the United States. (Photo: Dennis/flickr/cc)

Offering more evidence that President Donald Trump's budget is a multi-faceted blow to everyone but the one percent, the proposal to be unveiled Tuesday would reportedly slash funding for clean-ups at so-called Superfund sites—the vast majority of which are found in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

According to documents (pdf) obtained and released late last week by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, Trump's budget would reduce funding for those toxic clean-ups by nearly a third, while spending for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program to restore such sites would be cut by about 36 percent.

What's more, the Guardian pointed out Monday, "the EPA's environmental justice office, which champions the rights of communities burdened by pollution, would be closed down and the civil rights program would experience an 18 percent funding decrease."

These reductions would undermine pledges made by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, whom the New York Times noted "has vowed to prioritize the agency's cleanup of hazardous waste sites." Pruitt said just this month that he wanted Superfund clean-ups to be "restored to their rightful place at the center of the agency's core mission."

And the cuts would hit hardest in low-income and minority communities. Catherine Lhamon, chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, told the Guardian in response to Trump's proposal: "If this budget is implemented, it will be at best a backward step and at worst extremely harmful to communities of color nationwide."

As "Mother of the Superfund" Lois Marie Gibbs wrote in March, "I can tell you from first-hand experience that living in a toxic environment, with little hope of getting out, is a family's worst nightmare."

She continued:

Cuts in the EPA budget mean no one will be watching the polluters. No one will be there to ensure industrial facilities don't dump wastes into the sewer, air or rivers.

No one would hold polluters accountable to pay for cleaning up toxics or for the costs of sick children with asthma, cancer, with birth defects and so much more.

[...] Trump's cuts mean there will be no one to police the environment, and no enforcement. Think about that. What if there were no police in your neighborhood? People would speed down neighborhood streets where children walk to and from school. Someone could just walk into a bank and demand money, or someone could assault you or your loved ones with no fear of consequences.

Unsurprisingly, Trump's budget is expected to take a hatchet to other key EPA programs, as previewed in the "skinny budget" released in March.  If Trump gets his way, the agency could be cut by over 30 percent overall. InsideClimate News reported over the weekend that the budget would completely eliminate:

  • The $8 million Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, under which industrial facilities have been reporting their carbon emissions since 2010;
  • The $27 million national estuaries program for protection of coastal waterways;
  • $7 million for Environmental Justice;
  • $19.9 million in assistance to Alaska villages;
  • $427 million in geographic programs focused on environmental issues in the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, and other hot spots.

"Trump's first budget prioritizes polluters by robbing working Americans of vital protections for their health and environment," said Friends of the Earth senior political strategist Ben Schreiber on Monday, ahead of the budget's release. He said the document had been "designed by the corporate lobbyists Trump has brought into his administration to short circuit environmental protections to pad the profits of millionaires and billionaires."

"Slashing the budgets of agencies designed to protect the environment and public health will consign millions of Americans to unbreathable air and contaminated drinking water," Schreiber added. "Congress should ignore Trump's proposed budget and dedicate resources to the institutions like EPA that safeguard people and the planet."

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