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Report: Cutting EPA Grants Means More Illness in WV

A new report says cuts to EPA air-quality grants alone will hobble state and local programs to protect West Virginians' health. (Pixabay)
A new report says cuts to EPA air-quality grants alone will hobble state and local programs to protect West Virginians' health. (Pixabay)
September 5, 2017

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Deep cuts to federal grants that help state and local officials protect clean air and water would threaten the health and livelihoods of West Virginians, according to a new report. The Trump Administration has proposed cutting nearly one-third from the Environmental Protection Agency's budget.

According to the "State of Risk" report from the Environmental Defense Fund, those cuts would mean more people getting sick from pollution in air and water, and on land - because health and environmental agencies depend on those grants.

Bill Becker is the former executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

"If states and localities faced a 30-percent cut in federal funding to run their programs, more people would die prematurely and many more would get sick unnecessarily," he notes. "And that would be tragic because all of these illnesses are preventable."

Critics of the EPA in the coal industry and its political allies argue the agency and the regulations it enforces have deeply damaged the industry. But the federal Energy Information Agency says cheap natural gas has caused most of the decline in demand for coal.

The State of Risk report projects the cuts would eliminate or hobble state programs dealing with local tap water quality, brownfield redevelopment and threats from leaking underground storage tanks. And Becker adds cutting the EPA grants also means problems for other types of businesses - for example, reducing the appeal of outdoor recreation.

"If you take away the regulations to help reduce emissions in these areas, then visibility will be further impaired and the public may not be as excited about going to some of our nation's treasures as they previously were," he explains.

The EPA grants to West Virginia totaled almost a quarter-billion dollars in the last five years. According to the report, Congress will likely decide the fate of the funding over the next 30 days.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV