Severe EPA Budget Cuts Threaten Clean Water Protections

From Jeff Kelble, PRKN President:

Know why I’m fighting mad?

The budget cuts proposed by the Administration last week represent the most severe reductions in clean water protections in two generations. Don’t believe claims that they are about trimming fat and making government more efficient – the attacks on several of EPA’s most important functions will actually cost Americans more than they save by passing the burden of addressing pollution from the polluter to the public. They’re being sold in the name of lean government but clean water advocates of both parties see them for what they are: massive corporate hand outs.

Some of the worst cuts hit close to home — the proposed budget would eliminate funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, the branch of EPA responsible for the bay cleanup. Why would anyone want to stop cleaning up the Bay? Activities aimed at cleaning up the Bay have pushed new and innovative conservation practices all the way up to our headwaters trout streams in Shenandoah National Park. They have spurred sewer treatment plant upgrades that protect our streams from human waste. They led to farming practices that improve the bottom line and reduce harmful nutrient pollution. They have pushed us to develop our land more responsibly. A healthy, restored Chesapeake Bay would ensure the livelihoods of our watermen, brings in tourism and recreation dollars, and raise property values.

If even a semblance of this gutted budget comes to fruition, Potomac Riverkeeper Network’s work at the local level is going to be the last line of defense against an agenda which prioritizes profit over public health and the environment. But we’re not waiting around to see what happens.

Our Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks was recently asked to speak at a rally defending EPA’s role in improving the quality of our rivers. You can see his remarks here.

Fewer investigations and enforcement actions by the EPA could reverse the gains we’ve made over the last 45 years since the Clean Water Act was passed. We can’t afford to go back to the days when our rivers were so polluted they would catch on fire. And while it is difficult to put a dollar figure on the cost of losing a pristine stream or river to contamination, certain economic impacts are easier to calculate: the federal Clean Water Act alone spurs construction projects that are worth at least $11 billion per year to the national economy. So whether your priority is a healthy environment or a healthy economy (and yes, we can have both), reversing the gains we’ve made in cleaning up our waterways is the wrong choice.

That’s why I’ll be heading to Capitol Hill on April 5th to talk directly with our elected officials. But we can’t do this alone. Please call your representatives (House & Senate), send an email today, write letters to the editor of your local papers, and share emails like this in your social media circles. Together we will stand up for clean water, the Potomac Watershed, and the rights of future generations to enjoy them.