Trump's Disastrous Budget Will Worsen Future Hurricane Damage

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Burlington County Times (New Jersey)

Trump's Disastrous Budget Will Worsen Future Hurricane Damage

By denying climate change, Trump is denying our future.

Hurricane Irma, ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, as it churned across the Atlantic Ocean earlier this week. "The problem is that we haven't learned the lessons from Katrina and Sandy," write Tittel. And with Trump's prposed budget outline, we are seeing the administration attempt to dismantle almost 50 years of environmental progress.  (Photo: NASA/NOAA)

When President Trump first went down to Texas, he was criticized for showing no empathy for the people who experienced devastating impacts from Hurricane Harvey. When it comes to his budget, it actually shows contempt for people dealing with natural disasters and climate impacts. Not only is the president’s budget going after programs to reduce climate impacts, he is even cutting funding for the National Weather Service to predict future storms. By denying climate change, Trump is denying our future. What he is doing is slashing the budget as part of his attack on the environment and the people of the United States.

By cutting the Environmental Protection Agency budget by almost a third, the Trump administration is actually putting us at risk from the next storm. There will be $5 billion cut from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants, which will end projects that protect us from storm surges and sea level rise. At the same time, the budget would eliminate $250 million in additional funding for coastal research, which helps identify areas at risk to flooding and storm surges. Cutting the Sea Grant Consortium by $73 million will stop funding for adaptation and mitigation. The budget would also eliminate $667 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $3 billion from the Housing and Urban Development program for emergency grants.

Instead of restoring natural features like stream buffers, having regional storm water planning, and developing new flood storage areas, Trump is doing the opposite. His funding cuts will have major impacts on New Jersey because there won’t be money to restore wetlands and stream corridors, plant dunes or buy people’s property in flood plains. There will be more flood-prone areas because he plans to get rid of the Waters of the United States rule. Instead of a border wall, Texas may need to build a dyke.

We will also lose funding to address storm water that will cause more flooding and pollution. The EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund could be cut. It deals with water quality infrastructure projects to improve our clean drinking water. This fund could also be used to rebuild areas after storms. There will also be rollbacks to grants through the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, which allows sewer plants to become more resilient. By cutting $1.8 million for the Coastal Water Quality Monitoring program, states won’t have funding to make sure there isn’t sewage released in flood waters during a storm or that drinking water is tested after storms.

All of these actions will have serious consequences because we see more devastation from storms like Harvey and Irma and Sandy. Getting rid of the National Estuaries Program will stop programs to build artificial islands off coastal areas like Galveston, Texas, while eliminating efforts to protect barrier islands in New Jersey and restore coastal wetlands. This will cut funding for waterways like the Gulf of Mexico and Barnegat Bay.

The administration is even working in lock step with corporate polluters to increase climate impacts. The 31-percent budget cut to the EPA includes a 45-percent drop in funding for states and a 23-percent drop in enforcement. By cutting the budget and enforcement, the president is getting rid of thousands of staff, while create a polluters' holiday. It will mean there will be no one to make sure polluters aren’t violating the law. He even wants to reduce funding for enforcing pollution laws by 11 percent, to $153 million, cut the Office of Science by 50 percent, and eliminate the Office of Environmental Justice that was created to protect communities overburdened by pollution.

A chemical plant released hazardous chemicals because of impacts from Hurricane Harvey. This is even more dangerous, because Trump is eliminating the Chemical Safety Board, which was created after a deadly explosion in Bergen County. There are dozens of chemical plants in New Jersey, so during the next storm, we could see a witch’s brew of toxins in our air and water.

The President has ignored the threat of climate change and pushed fossil fuels over renewable energy. He has cut $1.59 billion from the Green Climate Fund and Global Climate Change Initiative and will eliminate these programs. His budget even eliminates the tax credit for renewable energy, while he has signed an executive order to stop the Clean Power Plan.

It is hypocritical for Trump to tour the damage from Harvey, when his budget will be a disaster for Houston and New Jersey. The problem is that we haven’t learned the lessons from Katrina and Sandy. With this budget, we will see the administration attempt to dismantle almost 50 years of environmental progress. Since Congress will be voting on this budget in the fall, we must work together and lead the fight for clean air, clean water and action on climate change. It will be up to us to protect our planet from Trump’s rollbacks. We fought 45 years ago for Congress to create the EPA and now we will fight all over again to stop the President from dismantling it.

Jeff Tittel

Jeff Tittel is executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.

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