EPA Budget = OR DEQ Cuts of 45%

In the weeks following President Trump’s budget release we’ve all been scrambling to figure out how the cuts will impact Oregon – especially for our air, water and overall environmental health.  We know the projected 31% reduction to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would include drastic cuts to state and local programs, and now we have a better idea of what that really means for Oregon

Under the proposed budget, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality – the state agency responsible for restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water – could lose nearly half (45%) of its funding from the EPA, as Oregon Public Broadcasting first reported last week.

In a memo obtained by OPB, the projected federal cuts would include losing more than 30 people working within the DEQ’s core programs to protect Oregon’s air and water. If Congress approved the budget as is, the DEQ would be forced to cut state workers who:

  • study & protectwater water quality (14)
  • monitor air quality and issue permits (11)
  • oversee hazardous waste handling (3)
  • support and help manage mission-critical agency programs (4)

Funding for Cleaner Air Oregon, an initiative announced just last year to address air pollution from smaller industrial facilities, would most likely continue, though funding is not certain, (pending outcomes this legislative session). However the reduction in employees to enforce air quality rules could mean that polluters wouldn’t feel pressure to abide by program rules – returning Oregon to the historically unsuccessful approach of voluntary compliance.

Oregon’s water quality program already has one of the country’s worst backlogs of expired water quality permits because there aren’t enough staff to keep up. If DEQ were to lose more than a dozen people as projected, scores of industries and sewage plants would continue to discharge pollutants into our waters under old, less protective requirements.

Mark Riskedahl of the Northwest Environmental Defense Center called these cuts an “obvious, very callous disregard for the weakest and the poorest among us in those figures.” That is true. At OEC we know that pollution, environmental and climate disasters do not strike all Oregonians equally. Low-income communities and communities of color are hit first and worst, and they do not have the ample resources to adapt or evacuate when disaster strikes. They more often live near major roadways, where their health is inordinately impacted by tailpipe pollution. They more often live in housing contaminated with lead and other toxic hazards.

We should be increasing polluter accountability and regulation — not rolling back protections. Calling for any cut of any agency that protects our air, land and water is simply not justified; a 45% cut is nothing short of…intolerable. As the Medford Mail Tribune reports, “Trump budget bad news for nature.”

Despite the hopelessness some may feel at the steady cadence of bad news on the environmental front, OEC is committed to advancing innovative, collaborative and equitable solutions to Oregon’s environmental challenges for today and future generations.

As the new administration attempts to roll back environmental protections, we are buckling down. From our presence in Salem advocating for Clean Energy Jobs, to our participation at rulemaking hearings to ensure new laws protecting our air and children from toxics do not get watered down, to our presence within a broad coalition of stakeholders advocating for a sustainable and equitable water future — you can count on us to be working for Oregon.

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