Schneiderman: If EPA Fails To Meet Its Legal Obligations Of A Clean, Safe, & Healthy Environment, I Won’t Hesitate To Use The Full Power Of My Office To Protect New Yorkers
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today highlighted the local impacts of President Trump’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
The cuts would cause direct, immediate, and lasting harm to New Yorkers’ public health and environment — and in the letter, Attorney General Schneiderman makes clear that he will not hesitate to take action to protect New Yorkers if the EPA fails to meet its legal obligations to ensure a clean, safe, and healthy environment.
“President Trump’s budget cuts would cause untold – and perhaps irreparable – damage to New York’s rivers, lakes, and drinking water,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Even before these massive cuts, EPA represents just two-tenths of one percent of the federal budget — yet it’s responsible for protecting our environment and public health. As I’ve made clear: if the Trump administration won’t meet its legal obligation to ensure basic access to a clean, safe, and healthy environment, I won’t hesitate to act to protect New Yorkers.”
As reported, President Trump’s proposed budget would cut the EPA’s budget by $2 billion – a 25 percent cut – and the EPA’s workforce by 20 percent, which amounts to the firing of 3,000 employees. Grants to states, as well as air and water programs, would be cut by 30 percent. As Attorney General Schneiderman’s letter states, these massive cuts would devastate the core public and environmental health programs New Yorkers’ depend on, including those that ensure safe drinking water and clean water; reduce lead poisoning in children; protect homeowners from dangerous radon; ensure coastal waters are safe for recreation; clean up and return contaminated sites to productive use; ensure that companies are controlling toxic chemicals; research threats of emerging contaminants; and protect against environmental injustice.
For example, these cuts would directly undermine New York’s years-long partnership with the EPA and the federal government to provide municipalities with critical funding to ensure safe drinking water and keep water clean by adequately treating wastewater. Nearly 95% of all New Yorkers receive water from public water supply systems, and over 1,600 municipalities are served by wastewater treatment facilities. Without essential funding, municipalities will be hard-strapped to finance and ensure the safety of their drinking water supplies – potentially jeopardizing the health of millions of New Yorkers.
The letter also highlights the Trump administration’s proposed 97 percent cut to the EPA’s funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is one of the most widely supported, bipartisan, and successful pieces of legislation in Great Lakes history. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been critical in improving and protecting the health of these bodies of water, which support over 150,000 local jobs and have spurred millions in other investments. Finally, the letter cites the massive proposed cuts to climate change research, which imperils not just water quality and infrastructure but the air quality and overall health, safety, and welfare of all New Yorkers and Americans. Specifically, the letter calls out the devastating rainfall caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011, which dumped more than 11 inches of rain on the Hudson Valley, eastern Adirondacks, Catskills, and Champlain Valley in just 24 hours, causing 31 counties to be declared disaster areas. “Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, and the human contribution to it, the President continues not only to question the underlying science, but through the planned EPA budget and other actions, also work to undermine our nation’s leadership and commitment in fighting it,” Attorney General Schneiderman writes.
“Please know that – whether by starving the Agency’s budget and depleting and demoralizing its workforce, or through willful ignorance – if the EPA falters in meeting its legal obligations to ensure a clean, safe, and healthy environment for New Yorkers, I will not hesitate to use the full power of my office to force the agency to meet those obligations and to hold polluters accountable for violations of New York State and federal law,” Attorney General Schneiderman’s letter concludes.
Last month, Attorney General Schneiderman led a coalition of Attorneys General in opposing President Trump’s Executive Order that seeks to eliminate the Clean Water Rule; he has also led the coalition of states and localities supporting the Clean Power Plan, urging President Trump to reject misguided advice to discard the plan.
“Throwing out clean water protections and going after the EPA is not the way to grow our national economy and it’s going to make us less healthy, while also hurting the Hudson River we are still trying to clean up,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18). “We’ve got more work to do to get the PCB’s out of the Hudson River and finish getting a permanent solution for folks in Hopewell Junction who went without safe water for over a decade – ripping away funding from the EPA to score some political points is not the answer.”
“The EPA has played a critical role in issues of great environmental and community impact in Western New York including the restoration of the Buffalo River which has spurred millions in private investment, the creation of the Steel Winds site in Lackawanna, support for a new green-job training program, the cleanup of superfund sites, and the protection of Western New York residents against clean-air violations by Tonawanda Coke, just to name a few,” saidCongressman Brian Higgins.
“Cuts at this level would be devastating.” “At a time when climate change threatens our national and global security with more and more urgency, when Long Island communities continue to recover from Superstorm Sandy, when chemicals have tainted public water supplies in New York and across the country, and when air pollution takes its heaviest toll on working families and low-income communities, it’s outrageous and unconscionable that this administration is trying to slash a quarter of the EPA’s budget,” said Representative Kathleen Rice. “We have an opportunity right now to double-down on the progress we’ve made combating climate change, protecting our air and water, investing in clean energy and creating good green jobs in New York. If President Trump wants to take us in the opposite direction, we are ready to stand together and fight back.”
Major cuts to EPA’s budget would severely limit our ability to keep our air and water clean. These federal budget cuts would mean state and local governments are stuck footing the bill. That is not right. I have a bill, H.R. 1071, the AQUA Act, which would increase funding to fix our broken drinking water systems, reduce lead in our schools and help prevent water main breaks. I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for his efforts to fight these misguided attacks on common sense protections for our air, water and environment,” said Rep. Paul Tonko.
“These proposed cuts would have devastating consequences toward securing a cleaner and healthier environment. Putting our drinking water at risk and rolling back common-sense protections is not in the best interests of anyone living in New York,” said Congressman Tom Suozzi.
“I applaud New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for standing up to protect the environment of the Hudson Valley, and all of New York, by opposing the dismantling of the EPA’s Clean Water Rule,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. “Ulster County has been at the forefront of environmental protection and I firmly believe we have a moral obligation now as well as to the next generation to protect our resources. I want to thank the Attorney General and all those who fight day in and day out for clean air and clean water.”
“The Trump Administration’s cuts to the EPA are nothing less than an assault on human health and the livability of our communities,” said Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair, Committee on Environmental Conservation. “From the Long Island Sound to the Great Lakes, restoration programs built on decades of success are proposed to be eliminated or slashed to nearly nothing. Bathing beaches will no longer be tested for harmful pathogens. Programs to protect our drinking water and keep our air clean will be severely cut. As the Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation, I stand with Attorney General Schneiderman to protect New Yorkers from these destructive cuts that will endanger our air, our water and our health.”
“Although actions in Washington are threatening to compromise existing protections, stall and even reverse the progress we’ve made with the Hudson, we in New York will be steadfast in our efforts to protect our beautiful river and all waterways. I am proud to join Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and thank him for the leadership he has shown in this and many other critical areas,” stated Assemblymember Cahill.
“I have spent my entire career fighting to preserve our natural resources,” said City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble. “But the most important work I did in this field was educating our community, particularly our youth, about the responsibility each of us has in protecting the environment. The thousands of children I taught understood the lesson quite well- if we are not good stewards of our water, land and ecosystems, we will lose them. This lesson, while incredibly simple, continues to escape some of the most powerful elected officials in our nation. I am proud to stand alongside the Attorney General and all those committed to protecting our most essential resources.” “People want clean water that they can swim, fish, and boat in. Rewriting the Clean Water Rule takes that away from them,” said New Paltz Town Supervisor Neil Bettez. “I am proud to join Attorney General Schneiderman in fighting to protect the Hudson River and all of our state’s waterways.”
Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York said, “President Trump has declared war on our lungs, our drinking water, and the scientists and ‘cops on the beat’ charged with enforcing our country’s laws to protect public health. This is a pivotal moment — the nation needs New York to lead. We thank and applaud Attorney General Schneiderman, and encourage all state leaders to meet this moment and lead on climate, clean air and water, and all that New Yorkers depend on.”
“Clean water and clean air are a necessity not a luxury item that can be dispensed with by political budget shenanigans. It defies logic for the federal government to target the destruction of successful protection and restoration efforts of drinking water and waterways that are loved by the public and are essential to our local economy. Antiquated policies based on the ridiculous premise that we need to choose between clean water and jobs have been replaced by the understanding that clean water bodies creates jobs and rigorously spur regional economies. Now more than ever we need elected leaders and members of the public to join together to fight for clean water, fight for our health, and fight for environment. Thank you to Attorney General Schneiderman for being such a leader”, said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
“New York’s families, communities, and great outdoors rely on a fully funded Environmental Protection Agency to protect our air, water, and public health. Catskill Mountainkeeper is proud to stand with Attorney General Schneiderman to highlight the need for full funding, and calls on our Congressional representatives and Senators to vote against any budget that cuts the EPA,” saidKathy Nolan, Senior Research Director at Catskill Mountainkeeper.
“Donald Trump’s plan to cut the EPA’s funding is a misguided attempt to help big oil and the super rich,” said Karen Scharff, Citizen Action Executive Director. “Climate change impacts everyone, but for low-income people, and communities of color, the effects are far more severe and harder to recover from. Their health is more important than Exxon mobile’s stock portfolio.”