Hawaii AG joins forces with coalition opposing Trump’s EPA budget cuts

By Christopher Thompson

Hawaii Attorney General Clare E. Connors has joined forces with a coalition of 18 states, plus the District of Columbia, in opposing the “deep and punishing” cuts the Trump Administration has proposed for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The administration has proposed cutting EPA’s budget by $2.8 billion – or 31 percent – from current levels in its fiscal year 2020 budget, the coalition said.

“The President’s proposed cuts to the EPA’s budget will undermine that agency’s ability to protect our environment,” said Connors in a news release. “The cuts impact issues that are vitally important to Hawaii. These include climate change, clean water, protection of our beaches, and others that directly affect the welfare of our citizens.”

The cuts include $364 million to programs improving air quality, $1.7 billion to programs providing for clean and safe water, $278 million to programs revitalizing land and preventing contamination, and $15 million to programs ensuring the safety of chemicals in the marketplace.

In a letter sent today to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the coalition led by New York urged Congress to reject repeated attempts by the Trump Administration to gut the EPA’s budget.

The coalition said that the Trump Administration’s proposed budget would undermine the EPA’s ability to do its job. Additionally, the cuts threaten to “cripple, if not break” the successful partnership that has existed between the EPA and states and local governments for almost a half century.

“Moreover, EPA budget cuts of the magnitude proposed by the Administration threaten to reverse decades of environmental and public health progress,” the letter said, “taking our nation back to a time when air and water pollution was widespread, contaminated sites routinely imperiled the health of communities, and unregulated toxic chemicals in food, water, and the environment were a relentless danger to the safety of Americans.

The proposed cuts would reduce funding, in real dollars, to 1970s levels, the letter said, and authorize a reduction in staffing that would leave it with its smallest workforce since 1985.

On average, Connors said state environmental agencies receive roughly 27 percent of their annual funding from the federal government. The proposed budget eliminates federal funding for a number of state environmental protection activities including beach protection and pollution prevention.

Other proposals by the Trump Administration outlined in the letter include a $1.4 billion, or 34 percent cut, in assistance for states and tribes, including a $942 million reduction in State and Tribal Assistance Grants.

There would also be a $65 million, or 87 percent cut to a Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant Program, which has provided states with key funding to upgrade, retrofit, and replace school buses, transit buses, commuter ferries, and other “dirty diesel” mobile sources.

The letter is also signed by the Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.