HARTFORD, CT – President Donald Trump’s budget cuts government programs across the board but no agency is hurt more than the Environmental Protection Agency, which was slashed 31 percent.
Using the Connecticut Science Center as a backdrop, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee, and other champions of the environment, called on Congress Wednesday to block Trump’s plan to cut funding for environmental programs.
“What department do they pick on to the greatest extent,” Malloy said. “It’s the one, EPA, that are the biggest foes of some of his (Trump’s) best friends.”
For some reason this government agency” has gotten under the president’s skin,” Malloy said.
But it’s more than the environment.
“Science itself is under attack by the Trump administration,” Klee said.
Malloy and Klee said if Trump’s budget plan goes through, as proposed, it would mean a $6 million cut to Connecticut’s environmental program budget. That’s about 3.4 percent of the DEEP’s total budget.
Malloy himself is proposing to reduce the DEEP budget by $2.2 million. That’s in addition to a $1.85 million reduction in funding that’s carried forward from last year.
Trump has expressed doubts about the science of climate change and has said the United States can reduce green regulation drastically without compromising air quality.
His proposed EPA budget cuts, however, besides axing climate change funds, also would cut some $427 million to regional pollution cleanup programs. Funding for the Superfund program to clean up the nation’s most contaminated sites would drop by $330 million to $762 million.
His budget proposal would also cut the budget for the EPA’s enforcement division, which fines companies for pollution, by 31 percent. It would axe dozens of other programs including the Energy Star appliance efficiency program aimed at reducing U.S. energy consumption.
Trump’s budget summary said the rationale for the changes is to give local and state governments, many of whom are facing severe budget issues themselves – responsibility for clean-up efforts.
Malloy said Trump’s budget plan couldn’t come at a worse time for Connecticut, stating, for instance that the Connecticut River “is slowly but surely getting cleaner.”
“There is a larger, greater cost of not doing these things properly,” Malloy said. “It’s a cost in illness, in child deformity, in asthma rates, in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
“And now comes the Trump administration after all these years of success. By the way, I’ve had to make tough choices. But I’ve made better choices than the ones are represented in this budget in tough economic times.”
Malloy added that environmental issues aren’t state, or even regional issues.
“We are not in clean air attainment levels for most of the warm weather months in Connecticut,” Malloy said. “We could stop every car. We could shut down every energy plant. And we could stop manufacturing anything in the state. And we would still not be in attainment levels.”
That’s “because we live by a different set of rules than they live by in Illinois, in Ohio, in Indiana, in Kentucky, in Pennsylvania, where our air comes from,” Malloy said.
Malloy said Trump’s EPA budget is “absolutely an attack on future generations – those yet unborn.”
Asked whether he thought the Republican-controlled Congress would hear the pleas of those looking to protect the environment, Malloy said he was hopeful Congress would make some alterations to Trump’s plan before approving it.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Klee said.”This is really a risk to our state and to our nation.”
Also critical of Trump’s environmental agenda was Gary Yohe, a Huffington Foundation professor of Economics and Environmental Studies at Wesleyan University and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize recipient for his work on climate change.
Yohe noted that under President Barack Obama an agreement was reached between the United States and China – and signed on by 190 other nations – to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gasses, and to accelerate efforts to come up with alternative energy options.
Yohe worked, for Obama, as vice-chair of the organization that brokered the agreement.
Trump’s administration has “attacked climate science and has announced its intention to abandon any initiative designed to ameliorate climate risk in any way,” Yohe said.
Also critical of Trump’s environmental budget, was Donald Strait, president of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound.
He described Trump’s budget as “taking a chainsaw to the protection of safety to Connecticut residents,” stating parents will have to worry if the state’s waters are safe to swim in if funding is slashed to test for bacteria levels, among other things.
And Bill Dornbos, Connecticut director of the Acadia Center, said he was particularly concerned about that Trump’s budget would eliminate the Energy Star program.
The program was created by the EPA in 1992. Devices carrying the Energy Star service mark, such as computer products, kitchen appliances, homes, buildings and other products, generally use 20-to-30 percent less energy than required by federal standards.
“It’s the wrong budget at the wrong time,” Dornbos said. “It would set us back decades.”