Thursday, May 25, 2017

DEP: Trump Budget Proposal Threatens Safe Drinking Water, Clean Air And Job Creation

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell Thursday released a letter he sent to Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation warning that the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to environmental protection and clean energy programs will threaten Pennsylvania residents and businesses.
“The proposed cuts in the Trump administration’s budget, if enacted, would risk the safe drinking water of more than 10 million Pennsylvanians; and that’s just one program area,” said McDonnell. “The proposed budget also cuts funds for air quality monitoring, sewage treatment plant inspections, and land cleanup programs that put Pennsylvanians to work.”
In his letter addressed to the Pennsylvania congressional delegation, McDonnell warns that significantly reducing federal funding risks safe water, stifles job creation, and allows harmful pollutants to poison Pennsylvania air.
Cuts to key U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program areas, if enacted, would mean:
-- Risk Safe Water. The Trump budget proposal includes a 17 percent reduction in funding for EPA’s drinking water programs and a 30 percent cut to the Public Water System Supervision Grant – which is funding provided to DEP. In the Safe Drinking Water program, these cuts will mean at least 30 percent fewer inspections at the commonwealth’s 8,500 public water systems, hampering our ability to detect contaminants like lead, water-borne pathogens, and putting Pennsylvania’s 10.7 million public water customers at risk.
-- Diminish Local Water Quality. The proposed cut to the federally funded portion of the Clean Water Bureau budget will mean cutting at least 850 inspections from the 6,144 inspections that ensure that sewage plants, industrial wastewater discharges, and construction sites are not threatening the water quality of Pennsylvanians downstream. Reductions in federal funds will also lengthen permit issuance timelines, hampering important economic development projects in Pennsylvania.
-- Abandon Farmers. Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay program — which the President recently acknowledged as a model of federal/state partnerships, and is starting to show real results in curbing pollution to the Bay — will have its funding completely eliminated. This program will no longer be able to provide much-needed support to Pennsylvania’s small farmers and local governments to improve their local water quality.
-- Stifle Job Creation. Pennsylvania’s Brownfields program cleans up contaminated properties for redevelopment, directly promoting economic development and preserving green space. Since 1995, almost 5,000 brownfields have been cleaned up, leading to almost 100,000 jobs created or retained. The President’s budget proposes a 30 percent cut to the Brownfields Categorical Grant and another 30 percent cut to the Hazardous Substance Superfund program, which will inhibit contaminated sites from being returned to productive use for new and expanding business and industry in Pennsylvania.
-- Threatens Groundwater. This proposed budget includes a nearly 50 percent cut to the Leaking Underground Storage Tanks Program and zeros out the federal funding provided through categorical grants, which could pose risks to Pennsylvania’s valuable groundwater resources.
-- Allow Harmful Pollutants To Poison. The proposed 30 percent cut to the federal funding provided to DEP’s Bureau of Air Quality will limit air monitoring for harmful pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, mercury, and particulate matter, and have a negative impact on the timeline for review of air quality permits which companies need in order to start operations or expand.
-- Expose Children To Radon Gas And Other Toxics. This proposed budget includes the complete elimination of funding to help protect residents from radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Pennsylvania has one of the most serious radon problems in the country and the proposed cuts will result in the elimination of public education efforts and distribution of free radon test kits for new parents.
The proposed budget also provides for 29 percent less funding for toxics risk review and prevention, including the zeroing out of the Lead Risk Reduction Program. This valuable program certifies remediators to ensure they are following all safeguards from removing lead from buildings and educates citizens about limiting lead exposure in their home.
-- Suppress Environmental Justice. The President’s proposed budget will eliminate the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, which exists to ensure that Americans, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, have meaningful involvement in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws and policies. Closing this program shows a startling disrespect for minority and economically disadvantaged Americans.
The letter continues--
Similarly, there will be serious impacts from the proposed cuts to the Department of Energy on the families and businesses of Pennsylvania.
I am specifically concerned about the proposed elimination of the State Energy Program (SEP), which has had broad bipartisan support for more than 20 years. SEP funds allow DEP’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Energy Assistance (Energy Office) to design and carry out energy programs tailored to the needs of our residents and businesses.
In recent years, $1.5 million has been provided annually to Pennsylvania in SEP funding (leveraged at least 4 to 1), which we have used to boost economic development, save businesses money through energy conservation, and fund new technology.
Complete elimination of this funding would limit our project partners’ ability to boost economic development within Pennsylvania as well as to lower energy bills and conserve resources.
Great energy-related work is being done in Pennsylvania. Elimination of these critical and valuable programs means we would no longer be able to conduct:
-- Nearly 100 energy efficiency assessments for small and mid-sized manufacturers with implemented energy saving measures resulting in 2.8 million kWh per year of electricity conserved and $700,000 in economic benefits. These measures also result in water conservation and reduction of air pollutants.
-- At least 60 energy assessments for small business owners of urban restaurants and corner stores in at-risk neighborhoods, which result in energy retrofits with estimated minimum annual energy savings of 878,000 kWh per year.
-- Energy efficiency training for building managers to operate schools, local government buildings, state government buildings at the highest efficiency. Energy savings implemented by those trainees will save estimated $3.5 million and 30 million kWh per year for schools and taxpayers.
-- Construction and demonstration of new energy security technology such as the microgrid project at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. This demonstration plans to show optimization of Marcellus shale natural gas through combined heat and power and integration of renewables in the most cost-effective manner.
-- Training of college students, who benefit from participating in the implementation of these programs to prepare them for tomorrow’s energy-related jobs in Pennsylvania.
-- Educational programs that help local governments to adopt energy-efficient street lighting technologies. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 LED street lights were installed in 2016, representing about 10 to 15 percent of leased street lights in Pennsylvania.
-- Development and use of tools that support our ability to respond appropriately to energy supply disruptions caused by weather, cyber security or other events.
The letter concludes--
The justification provided in the proposed federal budget for reducing funding to states is “to reduce federal intervention in State-level energy policy and implementation.”
In truth, the elimination of these programs does not reduce federal intervention, but instead cuts valuable resources that Pennsylvania families and businesses rely on to reduce energy use and implement an all-of-the-above energy policy.
This includes fossil, renewable, and energy efficiency programs designed to benefit families, businesses, schools and local governments.
This funding allows Pennsylvania to work in partnership with the Federal Government to plan for, respond to, and mitigate the impacts of energy supply emergencies.
These budget cuts do not reduce any of the responsibilities that EPA, DOE or DEP have to the people of Pennsylvania, but does decrease the resources available to fulfill those responsibilities. These cuts, if enacted, would harm businesses seeking permits, and harm residents’ clean water, air, and land.
Pennsylvania has benefited from a long partnership with the federal government to address environmental and energy concerns. The result has been great improvements to the health, quality of life, and economic prosperity of Pennsylvania residents.
In EPA’s nearly 50-year history, the agency has helped to save the bald eagle from extinction by regulating pesticides, reduced corrosive and toxic acid rain, helped to protect the ozone layer, and curtailed tailpipe emissions which contribute to smog.
Significantly reducing federal funding to the states is not cooperative federalism. It is asking states to continue to accept all the responsibility while eliminating the resources to carry them out.
We urge the Trump administration and the members of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation to not turn their backs on the very federal-state partnerships that have produced these many benefits.
We hope to continue to work with federal agencies to protect Pennsylvania’s public health and support economic prosperity. Thank you for your consideration of our joint responsibilities.
Click Here for the full text of the letter.  The same letter was sent to all members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation.
Secretary McDonnell sent a similar letter to EPA about the initial budget outline developed by the Trump Administration in March.
[Note: These federal cuts would come on top of state funding cuts to DEP’s budget which resulted in a 40 percent cut in state General Fund dollars to the agency and a 25 percent reduction in staff.
[DEP receives about 30 percent of its budget from the federal government, 20 percent from the state General Fund and 50 percent from permit review fees and penalty monies.]
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