The Trump administration has proposed cutting the EPA’s budget by 25 percent, down to $6.1 billion, and to reduce its workforce by 20 percent, down to 12,400 employees, for the fiscal year starting October 1. Some programs will be cut by 90 percent or more, or even wiped out completely.
Many of these programs have greatly benefited Southwestern Pennsylvania. Since we still have levels of air pollution that are higher than most other places in the country, we stand to be affected in an outsized manner. Here’s a look at some of the programs on the chopping block, and how those programs have benefited our region in the past.
Over the last eight years, Pennsylvania has been awarded more than $12 million in Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) funding, allowing a variety of fleets, including construction, ports, rail, and public buses to be replaced or retrofit with diesel emissions reduction equipment. Many of these projects cleaned up the oldest and dirtiest diesel vehicles and equipment being used right here in Allegheny County. The current budget proposal would cut Diesel Emission Reduction Act funding 100 percent.
Allegheny County Health Department’s Air Pollution Control Program receives significant funding from the EPA to assist them in planning, developing, establishing, improving, and maintaining adequate programs for the prevention and control of air pollution or implementation of national primary and secondary air quality standards. Allegheny County has also recently received additional grant funding from EPA to purchase equipment for a variety of air quality monitoring activities, including a monitoring site to study NO2 concentrations near heavily trafficked roads and to assess the pollutant’s impact on vulnerable and susceptible populations. This critical funding could be cut by 30 percent.
The Targeted Air Shed Grant is another EPA program at risk of being eliminated. This program’s main goal is to reduce air pollution in the nation’s areas with the highest levels of ozone and PM2.5 ambient air concentrations, like Allegheny County. Past funding, matched with U.S. Steel funding, allowed Clairton Coke Works to replace an old quench tower with a state-of-the-art, low-emissions quench tower, resulting in much less PM2.5 air pollution. The current budget proposal would completely eliminate the Targeted Air Shed Grant program.
The proposed cuts affect many more important programs. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in America, and Western Pennsylvania has levels of radon far above the national average. Funding for state radon programs in Trump’s proposal would be completely eliminated. Programs for lead, brownfield remediation, compliance monitoring, and civil enforcement—all cut. (To learn more about all of the proposed reductions, please see this article.)
The cuts to these programs would be harmful to our nation’s citizens and especially to residents of areas with high levels of air pollution, like Allegheny County. According to the EPA, in 2020, the Clean Air Act Amendments will prevent around 240,000 early deaths. Most of the economic benefits (about 85 percent) are attributable to reductions in premature mortality associated with reductions in ambient particulate matter. The benefits to society exceed the compliance cost of the amendments by a factor of more than 30 to 1.
In 2015, for 2/3 of the days, the Pittsburgh region’s air quality was not considered good by EPA’s standards for ozone and particulate matter. Allegheny County residents have a cancer risk from air pollution up to 20 times higher than residents of surrounding rural areas. And from 2013 to 2015, 10 of Allegheny County’s 14 PM2.5 air quality monitors registered annual concentrations that placed the readings in the worst 25% in the country. Any cuts to EPA’s important work will affect Allegheny County residents significantly.
The Trump administration’s final budget request is scheduled to be released on 3/16. Tell Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey: the EPA and the Clean Air Act have been literal lifesavers for thousands of Pennsylvanians. Do not cut their budget!
Senator Pat Toomey Email: https://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=contact Twitter: @SenToomey Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/senatortoomey/ Phone numbers and office addresses: see the bottom of his Senate web page here: https://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=contact
Senator Robert Casey Email: https://www.casey.senate.gov/contact Twitter: @SenBobCasey Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SenatorBobCasey/ Phone numbers and office addresses: see the bottom of his Senate web page here: https://www.casey.senate.gov/
—Rachel Filippini, Executive Director