A letter signed by 48 environmental secretaries and commissioners representing 29 states and Democrat, Republican and Independent governors sent a letter to Congress expressing their “profound concern” about proposed FY 2018 cuts to EPA and state grant funding.
Here is the text of their statement--
“We are former Commissioners, Secretaries and Directors of state environmental protection agencies. We have worked for both Republican and Democratic Governors.
“We’ve come together to express our profound concern with the President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“The White House Budget would reduce the EPA’s funding by 31 percent and cut state grant funding by almost 45 percent.
“The proposal includes cutting EPA staff by 3200, and would result in similar harsh employee reductions for states. These cuts go too far, and will imperil EPA and state efforts to protect human health and the environment.
“Federal environmental laws are based on the principle of cooperative federalism with both the EPA and the states having defined roles and responsibilities.
“In broad terms, the EPA is responsible for setting minimum, nationwide protection standards, conducting oversight of state agency activities in meeting these standards, and addressing matters that are uniquely national in scope and significance.
“The states are delegated the responsibility to operate the vast majority of federal environmental programs, to prepare plans and write rules to meet program requirements, and to issue pollution control permits to businesses and other regulated operations within their jurisdictions.
“To operate the federal environmental programs, the states are provided federal funds referred to as state “Categorical Grants.” These grants, on average, make up about 27 to 30 percent of state environmental agency budgets.
“The President’s proposed Budget would reduce state funding support to historically low levels.
“This would occur at the very same time that the Administration is looking to the states to assume greater responsibilities under the nation’s environmental laws. Yet, it is difficult to imagine how requiring the states to do more with substantially fewer dollars will achieve this goal.
“In fact, if the President’s Budget is approved, the following negative outcomes, among others, can be expected:
-- Lacking funds to meet payroll, many states may have little choice but to lay off significant numbers of staff;
-- Businesses will experience lengthy delays in obtaining permits, necessary approvals and regulatory interpretations required for jobs growth and economic development;
-- Voluntary cleanup efforts and redevelopment of contaminated properties will languish without necessary federal and state staff time to review cleanup plans, at the very time communities are striving to revitalize their economies;
-- State environmental agencies may discontinue operating certain environmental programs and return them to the EPA to administer;
-- A disruption in the continuity of federal and state environmental programs will lead to uncertainty which is detrimental to sound business planning;
-- States will not have the resources to timely respond to public complaints and emergencies,
and public health will be compromised;
-- States will lack the capacity to maintain air and water monitoring networks and data bases relied on by both the public and the business community; and
-- Third party litigation will increase as advocacy groups lose confidence in federal and state actions to protect the environment.
“As former state public officials, each one of us has had our differences and frustrations with the EPA. Despite our disagreements, however, we believe a balanced partnership between the EPA and state environmental agencies best serves the public’s interest.
“The national organization of state environmental agencies, the Environmental Council of States, continually strives to achieve a balanced federal-state relationship.
“The President’s Budget makes that balance unattainable.
“Both the EPA and the states have legitimate roles and responsibilities under the environmental laws of our nation.
“Congress has long recognized that the states are best situated to operate most federal environmental programs, while the EPA is best suited to monitoring state performance and assuring national pollution standards are applied fairly and consistently by all states with no one state gaining an economic advantage over another.
“In the following months, Congress will debate next year’s funding for the EPA and, by extension, the states.
“We urge Congress to reject the severe and unprecedented cuts included in the President’s FY’ 18 EPA Budget.
“If adopted by Congress, these cuts will undermine the ability of the EPA and the states to protect human health and the environment and will hamper business planning.
“We ask Congress to avoid this outcome and provide the EPA and the states with the funding essential to ensuring all Americans have access to and the enjoyment of clean air, clean water and clean land.
“The opinions contained in this Statement are personal opinions of the authors.”
Click Here for a copy of the statement and the signature pages (not all signatories actually attached their signatures).
From Pennsylvania, four past Secretaries of the Department of Environmental Protection signed the letter serving Republican and Democratic Governors, including: James Seif, David Hess, John Hanger and John Quigley.For more information on state/federal environmental issues, visit the Environmental Council of the States website.