Congress returns from its summer recess this week, and one of its most pressing tasks is coming to an agreement on a federal budget. In the spring, the Trump administration revealed a proposed budget that would slash funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by a third. After the president proposes a budget, both houses of Congress are tasked with creating appropriations bills that will come together to form a federal budget for the new fiscal year.
This has been an arduous process as Members of Congress attempt to come to an agreement on funding levels for all aspects of the government, especially in recent years. To make matters more complicated, members of both parties attempt to include “riders” in budget bills – provisions that are added onto the appropriations bills, despite often having little to do with the subject matter of the bill. These riders can include anti-environment provisions and can be used to limit EPA’s authority or ability to take important action.
We are keeping an eye on the budget process in order to both protect funding for EPA and to prevent bad riders from being included. The House of Representatives has introduced an EPA funding bill, and while it is not nearly as bad as President Trump’s proposal, it still includes draconian cuts that would hurt waterways and communities around the United States. For example, it cuts money from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which helps states implement vital water pollution prevention projects like wastewater treatment plants and stormwater management. Other provisions could force EPA to reduce funds required to keep the agency running, such as paying employee salaries, buying supplies and keeping the lights on, in order to make up the gaps in funding to states.
Keeping our waterways clean and safe involves both implementing projects to remediate waterways and clean-up pollution and enforcing protective regulations to keep new sources of pollution from entering the water. We need EPA to be fully funded to fulfill both of these roles.
The destruction left in Hurricane Harvey’s wake illustrates the importance of these dual roles. It is estimated that chemical plants and refineries have released more than two million pounds of dangerous chemicals into the air and there are likely to be continuing releases into air, water and soil as floodwaters recede. Extensive EPA funding and expertise will be needed to assess and remediate the toxic discharges that will be revealed as floodwaters recede. It’s essential for EPA to enforce existing regulations and implement new ones to prevent disasters like the chemical plant explosion and fire from happening in the future. Simply cleaning up messes is not enough – we need a well-funded EPA that can take decisive, preventive action to keep the public safe.
Therefore, this week, we are asking you to call your Members of Congress and remind them that EPA funding is important to you:
“My name is [YOUR NAME] and I am a resident of ZIP code [ZIP CODE]. I am calling today because I am concerned about the federal budget process. I know that President Trump proposed a federal budget that would decrease the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by a third, and now it is up to Congress to protect us from such a dangerous proposal. Any cuts to EPA’s budget would hurt communities around the country. We need a strong, well-funded EPA to insure the uniform enforcement of laws around the nation, and need funds for projects that promote restoration, water monitoring, and clean drinking water. Therefore, I am asking you to push back on any cuts to EPA’s budget. Also, I also ask that you oppose any budget riders that would decrease or block environmental protections. Thank you.”