WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Wednesday, Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, Mary Anne Hitt, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director, and Collin O'Mara, National Wildlife Federation President and CEO, joined American Federation of Government Employees Council 238 and Council President John O'Grady at National Save the U.S. EPA Day at the National Press Club.
Accompanied by AFGE Chief of Staff Brian DeWyngaert, the group spoke about the importance of the work done by the Environmental Protection Agency and the dangers posed to citizens of the U.S. by cuts proposed by the Administration and House Committee on Appropriations.
"The administration's proposed cuts to EPA would create uncertainty, cost jobs and roll back critical gains we've made in protecting public health and the environment. They are ill-conceived and irresponsible," said Rep. Dingell. "In Michigan, EPA employees do critical work every day to reduce vehicle emissions, respond to environmental hazards, and keep the U.S. at the forefront of innovation. The auto industry itself recognizes the importance of the Ann Arbor EPA lab and the work being done on vehicle emissions. The Great Lakes represent more than 20 percent of the freshwater in the world and must be protected as well. We simply cannot afford to halt the critical work taking place in these fields or cut jobs that are critical to human health, clean water, clean air and other vital areas. We will continue to fight these misguided cuts every step of the way," she added.
The EPA is slated for a minimum seven percent funding reduction which, when adjusted for inflation, would be the lowest funding for the agency since the Reagan Administration.
"With environmental disasters and the growing threat of climate change, Congress and the Administration must allow the EPA to do its job protecting American lives," said DeWyngaert. "More than 40 years ago President Richard Nixon created the EPA to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live on. Today's summit is about protecting community health in this country, protecting the environment from climate change, and protecting the employees of the EPA from losing their jobs to political agenda."
The proposed 2018 budget for the EPA, if passed, would result in the elimination of the Office of Environmental Justice, the Office of Public Engagement, and all 14 climate voluntary partnership programs. In addition, it also would slash state grants, cut geographic programs, and eliminate funding for science and technology programs by 14 percent.
"Now, more than ever before, as our country deals with the direct negative effects of climate change through Harvey and Irma, we cannot afford to cut back on a vital agency that has the power to keep some of our most vulnerable communities safe and spoken for," said Hitt. "We cannot turn our backs to those whose lives, jobs, and communities depend on the clean air, clean water, and public lands that we all have a right to. Americans count on the EPA for the health and safety of our families, and Sierra Club will do everything in our power to ensure the agency can do its job without political interference."
At National Save the U.S. EPA Day, it was noted that if the proposed cuts by either the Administration or House were to be enacted, communities would suffer as funding is cut for the recovery and relief from hurricanes and other natural disasters; the cleanup of superfund sites, geographical programs in Lake Champlain; Long Island Sound, San Francisco Bay and South Florida; and for the implementation of the Clean Power Plan, Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, Energy Star Program and Global Change Research.
"Anything short of an increase in budget and staffing for the EPA will endanger the agency's ability to protect human health and the environment," said O'Grady. "With the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)'s independent report on America's Infrastructure giving the U.S. troubling grades—a 'D' in drinking water, 'D+' in hazardous waste and a 'D+' in wastewater—American public health simply cannot afford another cut to the budget or staffing levels of the EPA."
ASCE estimates at least $271 billion is necessary to meet America's needs for its 14,748 wastewater treatment plants over the next two decades. These facilities are essential infrastructure systems for protecting public health and the environment. The U.S. also has more than 18,000 hazardous waste sites involving 22 million acres, with more than one-half of the U.S. population living within three miles of a site.
"We need the EPA now more than ever, as hurricanes slam the Gulf and wildfires ravage the northwest, leaving toxic pollution and soot in their wake. It has never been more important for EPA to be led by an Administrator who makes decisions guided by sound science to improve the air we breathe and the water we drink," said O'Mara. "Unfortunately, Scott Pruitt is continuing his ideological war on the EPA, rather than fulfilling the Agency's statutory and court mandated responsibilities. When the executive branch is derelict in its duty, Congress has the responsibility to keep key EPA programs funded and the Courts must hold the Agency accountable in following the law. We must save the EPA, so the EPA can fulfill its mission to protect public health, wildlife, and our environment."
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.
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SOURCE American Federation of Government Employees