Pennsylvania could lose millions of dollars in federal funds to clean up hazardous waste. That’s if budget cuts favored by the Trump administration get through Congress.
The Environmental Defense Fund released a report this week detailing how proposed budget cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency could be particularly hard on Pennsylvania because of its manufacturing and industrial past.
The budget proposal calls for a 30 percent decrease in grants to clean up hazardous waste at Superfund sites. Elgie Holstein, senior director at the Environmental Defense Fund, says there are 95 such sites across the state that are a priority for the EPA.
“Pennsylvania is third in the nation behind New Jersey and California, in terms of contaminated Superfund sites,” Holstein says.
LISTEN: “Report: Proposed EPA Budget Cuts Will Impact Waste Cleanup in PA”
He says the cuts for Superfund cleanups, and additional funding cuts for cleaning up old, industrial brownfields, risk the health of Pennsylvania residents, and will slow economic growth, because the sites can’t be used for anything else.
According to the report, Pennsylvania received more than $51 million in EPA grants to cleanup brownfields and Superfund sites over the last five years.
“Both Superfund sites and brownfield sites have similar effects on communities,” Holstein says. “Not just in terms of the dangers they pose to natural resources and public health, but also, the longer they sit untended, often the more danger they pose.”
The report also warns that minority communities could be impacted the most by the budget cuts. It cites EPA data which shows 62 percent of all minorities in the U.S. live within 3 miles of a Superfund, brownfield or other hazardous waste site. The Trump budget proposal would also eliminate EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, which works provide equal protection from environmental hazards for low income and minority communities.
Congress will be hashing out the budget in September, ahead of the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.
The Environmental Defense Fund report, “State of Risk: Pennsylvania,” looks at other proposed cuts that could impact residents, including funding to deal with underground storage tanks and Air Pollution Control grants.