Dismantling EPA: What this means for Vermont

Bennington Banner, published Jan. 31, 2017, written by David Bond and Phoebe Cohen:

Just over a week old, the Trump Administration is fast advancing a brave new world of environmental un-governance, one with dire consequence for the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the future our children will inhabit.In his first hours in office, Trump initiated a hiring freeze at federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, issued edicts muzzling the role of science in public policy, subjected the reporting of routine environmental data like air pollution levels to the editorial discretion of political appointees, and purged all mention of “climate change” from the official vocabulary of federal governance.

As faculty members at two New England colleges whose work has been supported by federal research grants and who see the next generation of scientists in our classrooms everyday, we are alarmed by this attack on science from the highest office in the land. The new administration appears driven by an unprecedented hostility to science itself. This is not a reasonable debate on the principles that should guide scientific investments and environmental safeguards — this is trying to blow up the library because you suspect it may contain a book you find distasteful.

Trump’s toying with basic environmental protections reveals both how far we’ve come as a nation and how far we can fall. There’s a reason we now turn to textbooks to teach our students about the problems of “death-dealing” smog, careless pesticide use, substandard drinking water systems, and rivers so polluted they caught fire: to a large extent, these problems have disappeared. They were rigorously analyzed by scientists, many working in federal agencies, and successfully addressed by informed and bipartisan regulations. With the Trump Administration’s current slash and burn approach to environmental protections, such problems threaten to move from the pages of our textbooks back into our homes and neighborhoods.

Consider the EPA — this past week the Trump Administration issued a blanket freeze on all EPA grants and contracts, which it began selectively walking back this past weekend. The EPA is unique among the federal agencies: instead of monopolizing authority in a single federal body, the EPA works to empower cities and states to clean up their own environmental problems. The EPA accomplishes this by issuing clear standards and providing grants adequate to the task. As the EPA website notes, “Nearly half of our budget goes into grants to state environment programs, non-profits, educational institutions, and others.” So where does this money go?

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