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Would EPA Funding Cuts Assault Public Health in MN?

The EPA budget affects Minnesota's ability to monitor water quality at its swimming beaches. (Steve Moses/Flickr)
The EPA budget affects Minnesota's ability to monitor water quality at its swimming beaches. (Steve Moses/Flickr)
October 19, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Bipartisan criticism over the Trump administration's ideas for the Environmental Protection Agency has forced several crucial committee hearings to be postponed this week.

President Donald Trump has proposed a 30 percent cut to the EPA's budget, steeper cuts than any other agency.

Aaron Klemz, communications director at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Action, says the state enforces a lot of its clean air and water standards because of the EPA.

"Minnesota gets funding from the EPA to test swimming beaches for harmful levels of bacteria,” he points out. “And if we don't have that funding, that means that when you take your kids swimming at the beach, you know, you maybe submit them to something it's really harmful or dangerous to them, without even knowing it."

Klemz says while environmental groups are worried about the impact of cuts, they are cautiously optimistic about funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which helps clean up the Great Lakes.

Trump proposed cutting it, but the House voted to restore the funding and an upcoming Senate vote will determine its fate.

Other environmental groups warn that the EPA under Administrator Scott Pruitt is appointing industry lobbyists to loosen regulations on air and water pollution.

Elgie Holstein, senior director for strategic planning at the Environmental Defense Fund, says by replacing scientists with politicians and cutting the budget, the Trump EPA poses a threat to public health.

"If enacted, the cuts would reverse decades of progress cleaning up pollution, including toxic substances that foul our drinking water, our air and our soil,” he stresses. “We will see higher cancer rates. We will see more asthma attacks. We will see more heart attacks and stroke."

The Environmental Defense Fund details its criticism in a new publication it calls "The Pruitt Playbook," on its website.

Holstein adds some states will want to address these problems on their own.

"What both the Trump budget and the House version would do is essentially put every state in the country in the position of making a Hobson's choice,” he states. “Do less to protect the public health, or bill the taxpayers more to keep up their current efforts."

But Holstein says even if states decide to pick up the EPA's slack, they likely don't have all the necessary legal and scientific know how to do it.

Laurie Stern, Public News Service - MN