It was only five years ago that Environmental Protection Agency data showed the Delaware River was the fifth-most polluted river in the U.S., because industries were legally permitted to dump millions of pounds of toxic goop into it each year across a 300-mile watershed.
Since then, tighter regulations and remediation of former industrial sites — led by the EPA — has resulted in an extraordinary resurgence for the watershed, including a 71-percent reduction in chemical pollution.
But President Trump’s pledge to emasculate the EPA is about to hit home, according to a report from Environment New Jersey.
The EPA, under new and appallingly unqualified management, plans to bail out on water protection a not only for the Delaware River Watershed, the source of drinking water for more than 15 million people, but throughout the U.S. a so Congress must scale back the budget cuts that the agency’s director proposes for 2018.
The 34-percent cut in pollution control programs are just one casualty of Scott Pruitt’s scorched-earth budget: He will slash the overall budget by 31 percent. That will kill 3,200 jobs and erase $129 million from federal enforcement a which invites disaster in the Delaware River basin, where there are 4,000 facilities with permits to discharge pollutants into the water.
New Jersey will lose at least $4 million for pollution control and drinking water protection, but the Environment NJ report suggests that Trump Administration could cut back on the state’s annual infrastructure grant a it was $54 million last year a as well as grants to our Department of Environmental Protection.
This is too close for comfort. “The Delaware watershed reversed its toxic legacy over 40-plus years to become a destination for recreation, fishing, and source for drinking water,” Environment New Jersey director Doug O’Malley said. “But the proposed cuts would clearly set back that progress.”
If the DEP is prepared for such cuts, it isn’t sharing its strategy. But consider: There are 114 Superfund sites in New Jersey, and the report highlighted some of the worst in the Delaware River Basin. Without EPA clout and vigilance, remediation efforts are compromised, polluters aren’t held accountable, and the watershed a a $25 billion economic powerhouse of agricultural and recreational might a degrades.
Even congressional Republicans and fossil fuel flunky Scott Pruitt, who opposes some of the core missions of the EPA he now runs, think Trump is going too far.
This is what happens when a mustache-twisting cartoon villain runs a federal agency. Put it this way: Part of Pruitt’s job is to deploy emergency response teams to natural disasters, but he chose this week a during two hurricanes, rampant wildfires, and a potentially catastrophic benzene leak – to give buyouts to 400 employees.
It is also Trump’s vision of government. On August 15, in a 28-word executive order, he revoked the flood risk management standards set by President Obama, making homes and businesses more vulnerable to sea-level rise. Seven days later, Hurricane Harvey drowned Houston.
Cut to the chase: “This is a time when the government should be increasing and not slashing the EPA budget,” said Judith Enck, our region’s EPA director under Obama. “It is essential that the New Jersey Congressional delegation stand up and reject the Trump environmental budget.”
Congress, indeed, is obligated to protect the environment and public health when the EPA won’t do its job. This isn’t about politics. This is about one generation’s legacy to the generations to come. And this president cannot be its author.
Posted with permission from Tribune Content Agency