TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced Friday that he has joined a coalition of state attorneys general calling on Congress to ensure that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is spared any spending cuts in the upcoming budget. The letter highlights the need for adequate funding of the agency to help ensure that states, including New Jersey, can fully enforce environmental laws that affect their residents.
Addressed to Senate and House leadership, the letter urges Congress to ensure that funding for the EPA is, “at a minimum,” maintained at 2017 levels and notes good arguments for actually increasing the agency’s funding.
“Inevitably, any cuts to the EPA’s budget will threaten harm to New Jersey’s environmental enforcement efforts as well,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Historically, our working partnership with the EPA has involved active co-enforcement by the agency where appropriate, and support of state regulatory programs. As a state, we count on the EPA to be a strong partner in the daily effort to ensure New Jersey residents have clean air, safe drinking water and a healthy environment.”
The letter notes that the EPA has for years “struggled with budgets that have not kept pace with its needs and obligations.” In fact, the group of Attorneys General explains, “there is a strong argument to be made that more – not less – funding than the agency received in FY 2017 is needed to address pressing environmental and public health issues, and the new responsibilities assigned to EPA by Congress over the years.”
The letter specifically urges that any budget agreement for fiscal 2018 ensure EPA’s “core activities” are fully funded – including environmental enforcement, setting environmental standards, issuing permits, monitoring emissions and providing technical and legal assistance.
“Stripping funding from EPA’s core programs and depleting its workforce would hamstring the agency,” the letter cautions, “and directly jeopardize not only its central activities, but also the partnership that our states depend upon – with the net result being diminished protection of our air, water and land, and the health and safety of our residents.”
Led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the multi-state letter also expresses concern that EPA’s 2017 civil and criminal enforcement activity signaled a scaling-back of effort, and that the number of prosecutions, inspections and evaluations by the federal government’s lead environmental agency dropped to their lowest levels in a decade.
Avoiding cuts to EPA funding in 2018 would send the agency a “clear and forceful message” that it is expected to fulfill its essential mission by enforcing federal law and assisting states and local jurisdictions with their environmental protection efforts, the letter asserts.
The letter concludes by noting the states’ opposition to “any and all” policy riders included in the EPA’s 2018 budget that could weaken environmental protection efforts nationwide.
Among the most “objectionable” proposed riders, the states say, are ones that would delay implementation of the 2015 national ambient air quality standards for ozone, and another that would undo prior expansions of clean water protections.