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Proposed Federal Environmental Cuts Would Negatively Impact Vermont

Vermont Statehouse Spring 2017
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Statehouse Spring 2017

President Donald Trump recently signed executive orders that roll back efforts to control global warming by eliminating the pending Clean Power Plan.  The administration’s budget proposal also proposes slashing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget more than 31 percent.  Environmental officials in Vermont say such moves would have serious repercussions on the state.
President Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate $2.6 billion from the EPA’s budget.  It’s one of many cuts the president plans to funnel money to military programs.  If the cuts are approved by Congress, it would make it difficult for Vermont to meet federal mandates and continue state environmental programs, according to state officials.    Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Commissioner Julie Moore explains that the EPA is a significant source of their funding, particularly for the Department of Environmental Conservation.   “We receive what’s called a State Assistance Grant.  And it funds our work implementing core federal environmental regulations.  It’s been suggested the cut could be as high as 45 percent of the grant funds we receive from EPA to administer those programs. It doesn’t change our legal responsibilities to implement these laws and so it will be a significant challenge for us.”

Vermont is mandated by the EPA to meet specific targets to clean up pollution in Lake Champlain. But the proposed cuts eliminate nearly $4.5 million targeted for the effort.  Moore is concerned that the Lake Champlain Basin Program, which coordinates lake stewardship efforts, would be eliminated under President Trump’s budget.  “The Lake Champlain Basin Program serves this incredible coordinating function of the work across Vermont, New York and Quebec. Their leadership is very critical and that’s another issue we’re paying close attention to.”

Federal funds from the EPA currently support about 100 positions in Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation, according to Moore, and provide resources for education, outreach and services such as technical support to those implementing federal mandates.   “It could have varied and wide ranging effects. In addition other cuts in the federal budget would impact our Fish & Wildlife Department, particularly the work we do on non-game species and threatened and endangered species and work that’s available to support forest landowners with conservation planning, which is a really critical asset both for us environmentally and economically.  So we’re quite concerned.”

The state’s air quality also could be in jeopardy. The executive order, signed in March, begins the process to rescind the Clean Power Plan.  It requires coal fired power plants to cut emissions, which can travel downwind to Northeastern states.  
ANR Air Pollution and Climate Division Director Heidi Hales says Vermont has long been concerned about the out-of-state air pollution conveyed into the region. She says if implemented, the Clean Power Plan would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emission from those plants.  “Vermont is currently in attainment for both ozone and PM 2.5 (particle pollution) standards. But there still is a lot of work to be done in Vermont to address those emissions and transport for both ozone and particulate matter.”  

The Trump budget also cuts $6 million in funding for the Green Mountain National Forest.
Vermont senior Senator Patrick Leahy, the vice-chair of the Appropriations Committee, has called the budget plan “a hasty list of appallingly unbalanced, shortsighted, politically driven priorities.”

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