By Colin Woodard / Portland Press Herald
The deeper cuts proposed by the Trump administration would slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund cleanup activities and eliminate its support for monitoring and cleanup efforts in Casco Bay and for beach water testing across Maine.
When taken in conjunction with previously reported proposals to eliminate federal funding for the University of Maine’s Sea Grant program and the Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, critics say the president’s budget proposals are a serious threat to Maine’s coastal economy, which is dependent on maintaining a clean environment.
Environmental advocates and Maine’s entire congressional delegation are expressing grave concern about the cuts.
“Our coastal and island communities rely overwhelmingly on the marine environment both for natural resource harvesting and tourism, and they have worked for a really long time to ensure that their water quality is improving, that they have safe places to swim and that the marine environment is healthy for the marine species fishermen rely on,” says Rob Snyder, president of the Island Institute. “These proposals undermine those efforts and threaten their future economic vitality.”
Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, says Trump’s rationale – that environmental regulation threatens jobs – is wrongheaded. “Almost every aspect of what we are seeing in this EPA cut is bad for Maine,” he says. “What jumps off the page is that this is such 1950s thinking: ‘Let’s get rid of all these environmental programs so we can make jobs.’ But in the state of Maine, so many jobs rely on a clean environment.”
Earlier in the budget process, the White House proposed to cut EPA’s budget by 25 percent, including slashing nearly a third of state grant funds for cleaning up abandoned industrial sites, mitigating radon in homes, and protecting air and water quality. But a detailed, 64-page March 21 EPA memo obtained by The Washington Post revealed even deeper cuts: a 31 percent budget cut, layoffs of a quarter of the agency’s staff and the elimination of additional programs.
The EPA did not respond directly to the Maine Sunday Telegram’s questions about the program cuts, instead replying with same general statement it has been using for more than a week: “EPA is evaluating different approaches to implementing the president’s budget that would allow us to effectively serve taxpayers and protect the environment.”