State of Risk: Nevada, a new report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), catalogues far-reaching and grave threats to air, water and land and to the people and economy of Nevada if President Trump’s proposed 30 percent cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget is enacted this fall. Such cuts would move the agency funding radically backward to its lowest level since the mid-1970s. The report was released in Nevada and in Washington D.C. at a news conference.
It provides an extensive overview of the EPA’s footprint in Nevada and examines how the proposed cutback plans threaten public health as well as commerce and tourism in the Silver State. States and local governments would face a terrible choice: stick taxpayers with the bill, drop other projects or watch their communities slide backward and become more polluted and less healthy.
The EPA has provided $83 million in grants alone to Nevada over five years, notes the report.
“The President’s plan will eliminate or weaken efforts to cleanup dirty air and water, as well as hazardous waste sites,” said Elgie Holstein, EDF’s Senior Director of Strategic Planning.
“The president seeks to roll back common-sense environmental safeguards that have protected the health and well-being of Nevadans for decades,” Holstein added, “This is not just an assault on an agency. It is an assault on public health and safety.”
Documenting specific local and statewide consequences of the proposed EPA cuts, the report finds that hollowing out the EPA would be disastrous for Nevada. The Trump Administration and some in Congress are working to push the cuts through in the next 45 days, before the federal fiscal year ends.
“Washington is so broken right now that the Trump road map could be enacted in a blink of an eye in a backroom deal when Congress returns in September,” said Holstein.
The report provides a snapshot of the environmental needs and programs which a fully funded EPA can continue to remedy and support:
- Breathing is at risk in Nevada. Many of the worst areas in America for air pollution are in Nevada. 92 percent of Nevadans live in counties receiving an “F” on air quality, according to American Lung Association data. The State of the Air study placed Nevada’s two most populous regions on top-10 worst-in-the-nation lists: Las Vegas-Henderson (for ozone) and Reno-Carson City-Fernley (short-term particle pollution). EPA provided air pollution control grants ($8 million from 2012-2016) to help Clark and Washoe county efforts. The Trump administration’s budget would cut nearly one-third from programs that help state, local, and tribal communities monitor air quality.
- Drinking water is at risk in Nevada. Dozens of Nevada projects have relied on EPA grant money to combat nonpoint source pollution, the number one type of water pollution in the United States today. The Trump Administration would eliminate the nonpoint source grant program, which helps control pollutants carried by rainfall runoff into the state’s drinking water, rivers and lakes. Nevada has relied on $7.8 million in these grants over the last five years.
- Land is at risk in Nevada. Nevada is home to some 200 brownfield sites with potential to be restored into viable job-building commercial land. The Trump budget would cut brownfield and Superfund funding by 30 percent. Nevada also has a backlog of more than 150 underground storage tanks at risk of leaking harmful chemicals into both soil and water; the administration plan eliminates one of two EPA programs to prevent and detect leaks and clean ground and groundwater – and cuts in half the second program.
A U.S. House of Representatives committee’s alternate budget would, if passed, partly restore some EPA programs but still leave many major programs unfunded, provide for significant staff cuts and leave other parts of the president’s plan to demolish EPA unchanged.
Holstein, who formerly oversaw environment and science budgets for the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, said Nevada’s Congressional delegation will find in the new report hundreds of ways in which EPA has been helping the state manage risk.
“Congress can and must stop the madness of these proposed cuts,” Holstein said. “Anything less than full EPA funding for 2018 would hobble the environmental protections on which Nevadans and others across the United States rely as the foundation for building a better life.”
Nevada medical experts and parents offered firsthand evidence on how cutting the EPA budget would put people in the state in jeopardy.
“I see people getting sick just because we happen to have a very windy day, which blows all the bad air around. At least if we can keep reliable monitoring, people can know when they should stay indoors,” said Dr. Jim Christensen, pulmonologist and former member of the Clark County Board of Health. “It would be a crime to roll back or remove EPA standards from the people of Nevada.”
Dr. Christensen noted that Nevadans are sometimes wary of government agencies, but that EPA has been a good friend to the state.
“Do people here love regulations? No, but the good ones allow us to grow and thrive.”
The mother of a young allergy sufferer said she’s outraged by the thought that someone in Washington would take away her son’s freedoms.
“One of my children, from birth, had difficulty breathing. He spent weeks in the NICU and we are very lucky to have him with us today,” said Caitlin Hippler. “Even now, five years later, he still struggles with allergy-induced asthma. And he’s not alone. Over 38,000 children in Nevada have asthma and on ‘code red’ days these kids don’t have the freedom to go outside. Many parents have sleepless nights after bad air days, worrying they’re going to have to make a trip to the emergency room. For military spouses like myself, that could mean a 40-minute drive to the base hospital.”
“With our natural geography putting a strain on air quality around here, our leaders should be doing more – not less – to defend everyone’s right to breathe decent air. We need to keep EPA strong to keep our kids safe and healthy,” said Hippler. “We can’t and shouldn’t have to do it on our own.”
Hippler, a supporter of the Mom’s Clean Air Force, said she would present the State of Risk report to Sen. Dean Heller “in hopes that he will do his part for my son to ensure the EPA is fully funded.”
State of Risk: Nevada is one in a series of Environmental Defense Fund reports cataloguing the impact of president Trump’s proposed cuts to EPA funding. The reports are available at www.EDF.org/EPAcuts.
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