Local environmental officials worry that they will end up carrying the burden of proposed cuts for environmental regulation. They would be less able to protect the environment and public health.
“The states get 27% of their budget from the federal government,” says Martha Rudolph, director of environmental programs for the Colorado Department of Human Health and the Environment. “If you cut that, it is significant: research and development, for example, would be cut by 50%.”
The Trump administration is proposing to cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency more than 31% in the 2018 budget. The White House rationalizes that the cuts would reduce the regulatory burden, allowing businesses to expand and to invest in modern pollution controls.
The budget, she adds, still needs to go through the US Congress. And, in the past, Congress has not been able to agree and the various regions of the country have lived with a “continuing resolution.” Simply, the 2018 budget will be the same as the 2017 budget.
“We all think there will be budget cuts but we don’t believe they will be as deep as what the president is proposing,” says Rudolph, before an Environmental Leader audience.
Beyond the cuts in EPA’s funding, President Trump would streamline the regulatory process. That is something every administration across party lines has continually sought to achieve.
While there is real concern about budget cuts, Rudolph emphasizes that the the rules in place today cannot be changed with just a signature. They have to go through a complicated rule making process. There has to be a record to support the change. And whatever change would happen, it would then be appealed.
She agrees that the states ought to have more flexibility when it comes to carrying out the will of Congress. Once a standard is set, the states are knowledgeable and can implement that.
“We need to look at outcomes and how are we protecting public health and the environment,” Rudolph says. “But we need adequate resources. EPA has a responsibility to provide us resources.”
“Having it more local is more accountable and more accessible,” adds John Jacus, environmental lawyer in Denver. “All politics is local. Here in the West, we want western concerns to be reflected in the solutions to regulatory problems.”