White House Budget Cuts: ‘Environmental Racism in Action’

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Photo: Reuters

According to the Huffington Post, the White House has proposed a one-quarter cut in funding to the EPA and the elimination of 1 in 5 of the agency’s employees.

Three sources with knowledge of the proposed budget confirmed the news, while also saying that the 2018 budget includes cuts to programs that assist low-income individuals, minorities, and indigenous groups.

Travis Nichols, spokesman for Greenpeace USA, said in a statement:

“While this ‘zero out’ strategy would impact nearly every community in the United States, a close examination shows the burden of these cuts will fall hardest on the health of low-income Americans and people of color. This is environmental racism in action.”

The cuts reportedly target the Clean Power Plan — a regulation put in place by former President Barack Obama to slash carbon emissions from the utility sector and ultimately curb climate change as a result. Doing away with this initiative directly undermines America’s commitments in the 2015 Paris climate agreement — the first global deal between some of the world’s greatest polluters, including China and the United States.

Last year, the budget for the EPA was roughly $8.2 billion. However high this may seem, it actually only accounts for 0.22 percent of federal spending. In total, the agency employs about 15,300 people. Again, while this may seem like a large group, it is actually the smallest group to be employed by the EPA since 1989. According to Stan Meiburg, a former acting deputy EPA administrator, a cut to employment of the size proposed by the White House would be “unprecedented.”

He explained,

“No cut like this has been proposed for the EPA since the early 1980s, in the first phase of the Reagan administration. That didn’t ever get implemented, but it created a lot of chaos.”

As the Huffington Post reports, “the EPA has a brief window to appeal the budget cuts, after which time the proposal goes to Congress for approval. The OMB routinely puts some programs on the chopping block ― including the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, which helps pay for repairs to outmoded diesel engines, and a different program aimed at reducing exposure to lung cancer-causing radon gas ― but Congress typically amends the budget to reinstate the funding.”

Additionally, many public health programs have also been put on the chopping block, including grants that pay for screening for some chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system. It’s unfortunately no surprise that many of the programs where significant cuts have been proposed are programs that benefit communities of color and low-income communities. Grants to improve water and living standards in Alaska Native villages, for instance, are among them, as well as a program that supports small businesses owned by minorities, among others.

Executive director of People for Community Recovery, Cheryl  Johnson, said that,

“It’s almost like I might as well just kill myself because I will have no protection. I won’t have the resources to be able to go and educate my community or educate even just my family about the environmental hazards in our community.”

The many cuts proposed by the White House should come as no surprise considering the fact that the President has assembled one of the most “openly polluter-friendly” Cabinets in recent history. For example, Trump’s head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has a long history of working to dismantle the EPA and even recently said in his CPAC speech that audience members were justified in wanting to see that happen.

Read more about the proposed budget cuts here.

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