This year the White House has proposed large cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency in the federal budget. Sources have indicated that up to one fifth of the agency’s employees could be dismissed. Further, programs that focus on climate change, water safety, and air quality could see significant budget cuts. In total, cuts could reduce the EPA’s funding by up to 25%. It would be a gross understatement to suggest that such cuts would have a significant impact on New York.
With the proposed budget cuts for the EPA, water quality monitoring and clean up programs are left facing difficult challenges ahead. Fears of water contamination for communities such as Hoosick Falls could return if congress approved the proposed EPA budget cuts. In 2015 the Hoosick Falls community had already dealt with water contamination problems when perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical toxin, was found in their water system. Following the incident the EPA continued to monitor the water to ensure its safety, however, if the budget cuts occur the EPA may no longer be able to monitor the water and perform a basic function of its job.
Clean up efforts in places like the Long Island Sound and the Gowanus Canal will face daunting obstacles as well following major EPA cuts. Restoration efforts in the Long Island Sound would experience major setbacks while the Gowanus Canal would confront the possible return of major pollutants. The Gowanus Canal has been used as a major transportation route with large amounts of commercial pollution and overflow from local sewer systems. Funding for Superfund cleanup efforts such as the Gowanus Canal would face significant setbacks.
Regional cleanup efforts in the Great Lakes are also being challenged by budget cuts. Under the current Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, both the United States and Canada are devoted to the Lake Wide Action and Management Plan to restore and protect the Great Lakes. If the EPA budget cuts occur, EPA funding could be slashed by up to 97%, abolishing the United State’s role in the Great Lakes clean up effort.
The Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership for the protection and conservation of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, will also be significantly affected by the proposed cuts to the EPA. The program is facing a 93% reduction in its EPA funding: from $73 million to $5 million for the next fiscal year. Pollution from agriculture, stormwater runoff, and waste water treatment plants threaten water quality in the region, and the proposed budget cuts would severely hinder the Chesapeake Bay Program’s ability to monitor and clean up the watershed.
The recently passed Delaware River Basin Conservation Act allots $5 million of federal funding annually in the form of grants and technical assistance to local governments, nonprofit organizations, and universities that are working to protect the watershed. This funding will be managed through the Basin Restoration Program at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Now, as conservation programs are slashed across the country, voters in must hold the government accountable for providing these essential resources for protection of the Delaware River Watershed.
The White House’s proposed budget cuts for 2018 bring forward a major challenge not only for the state of New York, but also for the entire country. It is essential that voters continue to make an effort to ensure their federal legislators make prudent decisions that will ensure we protect public health and the health of our environment.