Environmental Advocates Speak Out Against Proposed EPA Cuts

By Erin Delmore

“What you see is a systematic assault on the environment,” said New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.

When President Donald Trump proposed slashing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, the deep cuts hit home.

“If you’re a New Jerseyan, you should be really ticked off, especially because we are a donor state — we are one of those states that sends so much more money to Washington than we get back. And the frustrating thing here is, here is the EPA, which has vital funds for our state, millions of dollars for various programs, whether it’s a Superfund site, Brownsfield cleanup, you can go through those funds that we get from the federal government. Now we’re going to be getting even less of our taxpayer dollars that we’re sending down there back because you’re cutting these funds? That’s outrageous,” said Sen. Cory Booker.

Elected leaders and community activists protested the budget cuts Monday and launched complaints over a recent executive order aimed at rolling back the Clean Power Plan — a set of Obama-era regulations to combat climate change.

“There’s no state other than New Jersey that has a stronger level of public approval for the Clean Power Plan. And the reason is really simple. We get it. Across parties, we need to protect our environment and we need to crack down on pollution from our power plants. And we’re doing our job here in New Jersey, and guess who’s not doing their job? It’s the states in the Midwest, like Pennsylvania and like Ohio. And that’s what the the Clean Power Plan was going to do. It was finally going to put a price on carbon. It was going to say that our skies could not be a sewer for global warming pollution,” said Environment New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley.

This EPA lab in Edison does research on air pollution and work cleaning up toxic sites through the federal Superfund program. Officials say that’s under threat from the Trump administration.

“We see a president who is using the EPA budget as part of his war on the environment by dismantling program after program,” Tittel said.

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts EPA funding by nearly a third and slashes the workforce by more than 3,000 individuals, many of whom are charged with enforcing the agency’s laws.

New Jersey’s own Department of Environmental Protection gets around a quarter of its operating revenue from the EPA. And with more Superfund sites than any other state, activists say cleanup can’t wait. Newark resident Kim Gady voiced her concerns about living in the shadow of the Lower Passaic River — a dumping ground for toxic waste in decades past.

“We will be hit the hardest. We have to send a clear message that all of us — all of us — deserve clean air to breathe, quality drinking water to drink and access to quality foods,” said Gady, an environmental justice organizer for Clean Water Action.

Activists are planning to make their voices heard at a Trenton rally timed to Earth Day on April 22, followed by the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. on April 29.