The Trump Administration has released a budget outline that guts funding for the Environmental Protection Agency. The proposal would cut almost $2 billion from an $8.1 billion budget and fire 3,000 of 15,000 EPA staff. The news confirms the fears of public health advocates across the nation that President Donald Trump would actively undermine decades of work to keep our air, water, land, and people safe and healthy.
Founded in 1970 by Executive Order of President Richard Nixon, the Environmental Protection Agency has saved countless lives and billions of dollars through such important statutes as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
“These laws are not controversial,” said Adrian Shelley, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston, “We’re talking about the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live on. If they’re not healthy, we cannot be healthy.”
President Trump’s move follows the conservative mantra that “regulations” hurt businesses and cost taxpayers money. In most cases, the opposite is true. Although many environmental statutes do have large cost investments, the benefits vastly outweigh those costs. Estimates suggest that while the cost of implementing the Clean Air Act in 2020 will reach $65 billion, the benefits received will be nearly $2 trillion. (See here.)
Closer to home, we know that a single day with high ozone in Houston causes increased ambulance trips to the emergency room for asthma attacks. A single ambulance ride can cost $3,000. Because many Houstonians who live with uncontrolled asthma also lack medical insurance, that cost will be borne by Houston’s taxpayers.
Shelley was disappointed by what he saw in Trump’s outline. “This budget shows no understanding of the need to invest in environmental protection today to save countless lives and public health costs tomorrow. Unfortunately, our President is unable to evaluate long-term strategies and make decisions to ensure a healthy, prosperous future.
“Cutting the budget for clean air and clean water makes about as much sense as promising to bring jobs back to the dying coal industry. This president cannot see the writing on the wall, and we are all going to pay for it.”