Congressman Tonko: Trump’s EPA budget will be “devastating” for NY

Legislative Gazette photo by David Tregaskis

Congressman Paul Tonko, state legislators and environmental groups are warning New Yorkers of potential health dangers they could face if proposed cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency budget are implemented.

The Trump administration’s proposed allocation of $5.4 billion for the EPA would slash funding to the agency by 23 percent and subsequently defund state programs. It would be the lowest EPA budget since 1990.

“With nearly 40 percent of the EPA funds going directly to the states, these cuts would be especially devastating to New York,” Tonko said. “[New York] relies on those funds to support brownfield cleanups, air pollution monitoring and water infrastructure financing.”

Tonko is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and previously served on the Natural Resources Committee.

State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, joined Tonko at a recent press conference in Albany to warn against the potential EPA cuts. He stresses the importance of EPA funding for the transformation of brownfield sites across New York state. The brownfield program cleans and eliminates the chemicals in unused urban sites and transforms the polluted properties into viable development sites.

Members of environmental groups from around the state such as the Adirondack Council, Riverkeeper and Citizens Campaign for the Environment pointed out that programs funded by the EPA both help to create jobs and help save lives.

John Sheehan, spokesman for the Adirondack Council warns New Yorkers of dangers of pollution in the Adirondack Park. The proposed budget cut would likely get rid of grants responsible for acid rain research and monthly monitoring.

“If we don’t know what’s falling on our heads, we can’t protect ourselves,” Sheehan said.

While progress has been made to clear the Adirondacks of pollutants, it will likely halt due to cuts. The effects of acid rain has caused mercury contamination in fish. The contamination won’t disappear right away even after the acid rain stops.

The problem is unlikely to go away without the proper funding for environmental programs. Adirondack Park is the water supply for most of New York and the beginning of all the state’s major rivers.

“What pollutes the Adirondacks gets to us eventually,” Sheehan said.

Advocates argue that environmental protection and human health is not a partisan issue. Turning back the clock would expose communities to dangerous pollutants, threatening the air and water supplies and endanger lives.

“We cannot afford a Trump budget that puts special interests ahead of the needs of the people,” Tonko said.