Most of the discussion surrounding environmental budget cuts in Virginia have centered on the elimination of funding for the Chesapeake Bay, and the subsequent fallout on our streams, fishing economy and recreational activities. But, I want to note that the Bay has activists to fight for funding restoration. Senators Tim Kaine (D - VA) and Mark Warner (D - VA) are on record calling on the rejection of these budget cuts. What about the other federal budget cuts that will impact Virginia’s environmental and energy programs?
Trump’s proposed budget will significantly reduce funding for the EPA by 31 percent, the Department of Interior by 12 percent and the Department of Energy’s nonnuclear programs by 18 percent. For many Americans, these budget cuts may sound like banal numbers on paper, but it means that we will have fewer people and fewer grants to safeguard our environment.
The reality is that the majority of EPA programs are run by state government agencies, and are partially funded by the federal government. Federal environmental laws set the national standards for environmental protection, and the EPA develops enforcement programs and policies to ensure the law is being followed. States work with the EPA through specific programs to achieve compliance. Bottom line: they need federal dollars to do their job.
Here in Virginia, the Office of Natural Resources depends on federal funding for 19 percent of its budget. The Department of Environmental Quality has cumulatively received more than $550 million in EPA grants for compliance programs. Those resources helps the state safeguard the environment.
Each year the EPA awards more than $4 billion in grants. Several of Virginia’s state agencies such as the Department of Health, Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have received funding for enforcement activities like indoor radon testing, beach monitoring, pesticide performance, hazardous waste management and air pollution control.
This funding also goes towards small nonprofit organizations and provides average citizens with an opportunity for meaningful involvement – an opportunity to be part of the decision-making process with the responsible state and federal government agencies.
In 2015, the Greater Southeast Development Corporation of Newport News, Va. was awarded $30,000 through the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program to address lung health in the community. Residents created a coalition to improve the health of residents by raising awareness about air pollutants and developing self-care strategies for respiratory health.
So while the Chesapeake Bay receives several headlines in this budget cut discussion, remember the day-to-day environmental protections that also need funding.
It’s important that we lobby our elected officials to fight for federal dollars that support local cleanup projects, raise awareness about air pollution, and save energy efficiency programs that helps low-income families save money on their utility bills. Heavy cuts force us to prioritize which families will have clean air and water, and which families will suffer from asthma and lead in their drinking water.
Environmental advocate. Communications professional. Sports fan. I love television and press conferences.