Final Countdown: 1 Day of Public Comment Before EPA Overhaul

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Some 56 programs at the Environmental Protection Agency are being targeted for funding cuts or elimination, according to a leaked internal agency memo published last week by the Washington Post.

Dated March 21, and signed by EPA Acting Chief Financial Officer David Bloom, the 64-page document describes how the nation’s most powerful clean air, clean water, and toxic pollution watchdog intends to meet the Trump administration’s goal of cutting its $5.7 billion budget by 31 percent.

Layoffs would hit 25 percent of the agency’s staff. Responsibility for funding regional projects — like the Chesapeake Bay or Puget Sound cleanups — would be turned wholly over to states. Funding for scientific review and advisory boards, pesticide-monitoring programs, and public health efforts vital to low-income communities, such as lead risk reduction and monitoring, would be reduced or eliminated. Even popular energy-saving programs like Energy Star and the Green Power Partnership would likely be shuttered.

In the memo, Bloom describes the cutbacks as prioritizing the agency’s “core legal requirements, federal-only and national efforts, providing support to states in implementing environmental laws, and easing regulatory burden.”

The agency has not commented on the memo since it was released by the Post, but it is asking the public to chime in on how the agency can right the “misaligned regulatory actions from the past administration,” which, according to agency chief Scott Pruitt in a recent statement, “abused the regulatory process to advance an ideological agenda that expanded the reach of the federal government.”

The agency has opened a 30-day comment period on its regulatory overhaul, giving the public until May 11 to register its opinions via web, email, or postal mail. It will also hold several public meetings in late April and early May.

Since taking over at EPA, Pruitt has made headlines for dismissing the key role of carbon dioxide in climate change, even though there is a broad global scientific consensus that CO2 pollution is a main driver of rising global temperatures — a finding that the EPA itself accepts.

Public health and environmental advocates say the cuts described in the March 21 memo would gut EPA’s power to protect the environment and human health in advising, monitoring, and regulating polluting industries, overseeing the cleanup of toxic substances, and curbing climate-altering carbon emissions.

“These personnel cuts would severely curtail research and protections for the clean water and clean air vital to our families and communities,” Nat Mund, the legislative director of the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a statement. “Thousands of local jobs throughout the Southeast safeguarding the health of our communities and families will take a direct hit, but everyone and all communities will be made more vulnerable to pollution of the water we drink and air we breathe.”

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