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Stephanie Wein,
PennEnvironment

Trump budget cuts would devastate Delaware River protection efforts, new report says.

For Immediate Release

Philadelphia, PA – Proposed cuts to clean water programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) by the Trump administration would dramatically halt progress on addressing many of the greatest threats facing the Delaware River including sewage pollution, industrial pollutants and mine pollution, according to a new report released today by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center.  

With a deadline for Congress to approve a federal budget rapidly approaching, PennEnvironment was joined by Congressman Dwight Evans, state Representative Donna Bullock, and the Director for Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability Christine Knapp in calling for full funding of EPA in order to protect the Delaware River watershed and all of Pennsylvania’s waterways.

“The Delaware River watershed - and the streams, rivers, and lands it contains - is critical to the health and welfare of our families, our communities, and our wildlife.  It’s also a drinking water source for more than 15 million people,” said Stephanie Wein, Clean Water and Conservation Advocate with PennEnvironment. “We’ve made real progress to clean up and restore the Delaware River with the support and guidance of the U.S. EPA, but this budget proposal would put all of that in jeopardy. ”

“Our work is far from over when it comes to protecting and preserving the waterways near and dear to our daily lives like the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers,” noted Congressman Dwight Evans (PA-2). “Yet we currently find ourselves facing an Administration that wants to undo decades of progress and restoration,  not only to the rivers in our own backyard, but to those across our Commonwealth and nation.  We cannot let this happen.”

“This funding allows us to enforce regulations that keep our air and drinking water safe,” said Rep. Donna Bullock. “If we are not able to ensure that the drinking water of our residents is safe, then we have a serious problem. The EPA must be able to do its part or millions of Pennsylvanians will be at risk.”

The report issued today by PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, entitled Rough Waters Ahead, examined the impacts of the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts to EPA water programs for the Delaware River watershed.  More specifically, the report found that  Pennsylvania would lose:

  • $410,000 for water pollution control grants, which constitutes a 30% cut;
  • $1.2 million in drinking water protection and enforcement grants, also a 30% cut;
  • $4.7 million to address urban and agricultural runoff pollution if non-point pollution control grants are eliminated.

“Look at the kids in hammocks at Spruce Street Harbor Park, the runners on the Schuylkill Boardwalk, the new condos going up all along the Delaware, or our breweries that rely on clean water. All of these demonstrate the impact that our rivers have on the vibrancy of Philadelphia,” added Christine Knapp, Director of the Office of Sustainability for the City of Philadelphia. “Proudly, Philadelphia also provides high quality tap water to support the health of 1.5 million residents.”

“Cutting EPA funding would put an extra strain on local governments, who need the EPA to help protect the waterways we rely on,” added Philadelphia City Councilman Derek Green.

In addition to these cuts, the report highlighted specific successes of EPA programs that have been shown to deliver real ecological benefits for the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers in terms of pollution prevention, law enforcement, restoration, and research to identify emerging threats and discover practical solutions.  For example, in 2015 an EPA grant of more than $450,000 enabled the Schuylkill Headwaters Association, a local nonprofit, to clean up acid mine drainage. Yet under the proposed Trump EPA budget, this program would be eliminated.

“The Environmental Protection Agency is critical to TTF’s efforts,” said Rosanne Mistretta of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, a local watershed conservation group. “We rely on the EPA to fund programs and enforce compliance with regulations ensuring our work has lasting effects. Our work with the Partnership for Delaware Estuary has enabled us to engage and educate hundreds of citizens about clean water and how they can make a difference. Our partnership with our communities has been strengthened by stormwater permitting programs.”

“Although far from perfect, water quality in the Wissahickon has greatly improved because of the regulation and enforcement efforts of the EPA,” said Maura McCarthy, Executive Director of Friends of the Wissahickon

Today’s report comes as Congress has roughly one month to approve the federal budget to avoid a government shutdown.  While appropriations bills in the U.S. House of Representatives have rejected some of the most extreme EPA budget cuts, the process begins anew in the Senate, which returns next week.

“It is my sincere hope,” added Evans, “that you will stand with me to speak up and speak out against the devastating budget cuts proposed by the Trump Administration which are sure to lead to irreparable damage to our Environmental Protection Agency as we know it.”

“Kudos to Senator Casey for consistently advocating for the resources needed to restore the Delaware and the Schuylkill,” stated Wein.   “Now it’s up to Senator Toomey to stand up and ensure that we protect Pennsylvania’s waterways by defending the budget at the U.S. EPA.”

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PennEnvironment is the statewide, citizen-funded advocacy organizations dedicated to protecting our air, water, and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state, and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. For more information, visit www.PennEnvironment.org