The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was dealt a massive blow this week by the House Appropriations committee, where the Republican majority voted to further cut the agency’s budget and reduce its authority to enforce laws safeguarding our air, water and health.
The House committee voted on Tuesday to slash the EPA’s budget by 9%, or $718 million. This is in addition to a dramatic 20% reduction in overall funding that has taken place since the control of the House of Representatives switched to the Republican Party in 2011. This new reduction will put EPA funding at its lowest level since 1989.
The cuts are part of the 2016 Interior and Environment Funding Bill, which will head to the full House for a vote soon.
The budget is not the only thing that the Appropriations committee is taking a shot at; they also want to curtail the agency’s authority to enforce rules. Specifically, the new budget would prevent the agency from enforcing water pollution standards as well as the new emissions standards for coal-fired power plants.
The attacks on the EPA’s budget are part of a broader plan by the Republican Party to thwart the agency’s attempts to pass rules aimed at reducing the effects of climate change and reigning in industry pollution.
As The Hill points out, it will take significant support from members of the Democratic Party in order for these plans to reach fruition, and few defectors have come forward, with the notable exception of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia.
U.S. News and World Report spells out the problems facing Republicans in the form of Democratic opposition:
Democrats expressed alarms about the spending levels as well as nearly two dozen provisions that prevent the federal government from taking specific regulatory actions. For example, the bill would prevent the issuance of a final rule that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants. If enacted, the rule could shut down some coal-fired plants and curb coal production nationally.
The irony that is apparently lost on the Republican Party is that the Environmental Protection Agency was a Republican creation. President Richard Nixon is the one who authorized the creation of the agency, as he understood the importance of protecting the environment from destruction.
In the 40+ years since the agency was created, our understanding of both climate change and the health effects of pollution have increased exponentially, and crippling the agency with budget cuts will not only be detrimental to the environment, but it could have potentially fatal consequences on the health and well being of American citizens.