As federal working people at the Environmental Protection Agency continue to face unnecessary budget cuts and reductions in staff, AFGE Council 238 held National Save the U.S. EPA Day on Wednesday, September 13 at the National Press Club.
Joined by Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, Mary Anne Hitt, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director, and Collin O’Mara, National Wildlife Federation President and CEO, Council 238 President John O’Grady and AFGE Chief of Staff Brian DeWyngaert spoke about the importance of the work done by the EPA, the importance of its work for future generations, and the dangers posed to citizens of the U.S. by the planned cuts.
President Trump’s proposed budget slashes EPA’s funding by 31 percent, or $2.6 billion, and would eliminate more than 25 percent of EPA’s workforce, from 15,396 jobs to 11,611. The House Appropriations Committee’s proposal of $528 million is still a 7 percent cut, and takes funding back to levels not seen since the Reagan Administration. Both come after the EPA has operated under flat or declining budgets while facing growing environmental needs, and under both the House and Administration’s proposal for the agency, much of EPA’s work would be shifted to cash-strapped states and local governments.
“The administration’s proposed cuts to EPA would create uncertainty, cost jobs and roll back critical gains we’ve made in protecting public health and the environment. They are ill-conceived and irresponsible,” said Rep. Dingell. “We simply cannot afford to halt the critical work taking place in these fields or cut jobs that are critical to human health, clean water, clean air and other vital areas. We will continue to fight these misguided cuts every step of the way,” she added.
“With environmental disasters and the growing threat of climate change, Congress and the Administration must allow the EPA to do its job protecting American lives,” said DeWyngaert. “More than 40 years ago President Richard Nixon created the EPA to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live on. Today’s summit is about protecting community health in this country, protecting the environment from climate change, and protecting the employees of the EPA from losing their jobs to political agenda.”
The proposed 2018 budget for the EPA, if passed, would result in the elimination of the Office of Environmental Justice, the Office of Public Engagement, and all 14 climate voluntary partnership programs. In addition, it also would slash state grants, cut geographic programs, and eliminate funding for science and technology programs by 14 percent.
“Anything short of an increase in budget and staffing for the EPA will endanger the agency’s ability to protect human health and the environment,” said O’Grady. “With the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)’s independent report on America’s Infrastructure giving the U.S. troubling grades—a ‘D’ in drinking water, ‘D+’ in hazardous waste and a ‘D+’ in wastewater—American public health simply cannot afford another cut to the budget or staffing levels of the EPA.”
ASCE estimates at least $271 billion is necessary to meet America’s needs for its 14,748 wastewater treatment plants over the next two decades. These facilities are essential infrastructure systems for protecting public health and the environment. The U.S. also has more than 18,000 hazardous waste sites involving 22 million acres, with more than one-half of the U.S. population living within three miles of a site.
For more information about National Save the U.S. EPA Day and the Save the U.S. EPA campaign, please visit www.savetheusepa.org.