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Trump budget cuts would devastate Three Rivers protection efforts, new report says

For Immediate release

Pittsburgh, PA – Proposed cuts to U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean water programs would halt progress on addressing legacy pollution and stormwater runoff in Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers, according to a new report released today by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center.  With Congress set to approve a federal budget before the end of the year, the Environment Integrity Project, Center for Coalfield Justice, and others joined PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center in calling for full funding of EPA to protect the Three Rivers and other Pennsylvania waterways.

“Thanks to recent efforts to clean up our rivers, Pittsburgh’s defining waters are cleaner than they’ve been in decades” said PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center’s Western Pennsylvania Field Organizer Zachary Barber. “Cutting the EPA’s clean water programs would put that progress at risk.”

Rough Waters Ahead: The Impact of the Trump Administration’s EPA Budget Cuts on The Three Rivers Basin, issued today by PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, examines the impacts of the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts to EPA water programs on Ohio River Basin.  

More specifically, the report found that the proposed budget would threaten the EPA’s ability to clean up decades of pollution, hold polluters accountable, and provide critical assistance to local stormwater management and green infrastructure efforts.

Stormwater runoff is one of the largest sources of pollution to the Three Rivers.  When heavy rains cause our aging sewage infrastructure to overflow, the contaminated water enters our rivers, carrying with it disease-causing bacteria and pollution from our roadways. The City of Pittsburgh is investing in cutting-edge green stormwater infrastructure that will help prevent pollution and avoid flooding, but technical assistance from EPA staff has been invaluable to design the infrastructure and get these projects off the ground. Under the Trump administration’s current budget proposal, technical assistance programs like this would be cut.

“The President has proposed slashing funding for commonsense EPA programs that protect our air and water and improve public health,” said Congressman Mike Doyle (PA-14, D). “Investment in these essential programs would be drastically cut back if the President gets his way.”

 This report provides details about how the EPA has helped Pittsburgh, as well as the negative impact such cuts would have on this region. I will continue fighting against these harmful proposals.”

The agency’s enforcement actions would also suffer. After Consol Energy illegally dumped mining wastewater into tributaries of the Ohio River in Greene and Washington Counties, the EPA not only fined Consol Energy $3 million, it also worked with Consol to develop a plan that will prevent 2.5 million pounds of coal waste from entering our watershed each year.. This type of enforcement would be weakened by the Administration’s cuts.

"There are several water discharge permits that have expired along the Monongahela River and some have not been renewed for over 5 years failing to comply with updated regulations. The EPA is critical to ensuring the DEP follows the Clean Water Regulations and protecting our communities main drinking water sources and recreational areas,” said Veronica Coptis, Executive Director of the Center for Coalfield Justice.

“For decades environmental rules have been based on sound science, monitoring data and citizen input; however, the Trump administration is proposing unimaginable cuts to the very rules that keep us and our drinking water safe,” said Lisa Graves-Marcucci, PA Coordinator for Community Outreach with the Environmental Integrity Project. “Why after so many years of effective protections must the rules be gutted?  Are these draconian cuts truly in the public’s best interest or are these cuts actually protections for polluters instead of people?”

Today’s report comes as Congress has only a few weeks to approve the federal budget to avoid a government shutdown.  While the budget deal earlier this fall had rejected some of the most extreme EPA budget cuts, the process begins anew in the coming weeks.

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PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center is a statewide, citizen based, environmental organizing and advocacy non-profit fighting for clean air, clean water, and open spaces. For more information,  visit our website at www.PennEnvironmentCenter.org