EPA cuts would end 10% of state en­vi­ron­men­tal work,

Trump bud­get would cut EPA ‘in­vest­ment in state ac­tiv­i­ties.’

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Asher Price ash­er­price@states­man.com Con­tact Asher Price at 512-445-3643.

Pro­grams that aim to rid wa­ter wells of ar­senic in poor pock­ets of South Texas, pre­vent bioter­ror­ism and re­de­velop for­mer in­dus­trial sites into parks in East Austin ap­pear to be in jeop­ardy un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bud­get pro­posal.

Seek­ing a “broader strat­egy of stream­lin­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion,” the White House has sug­gested cut­ting the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency bud­get by nearly a third.

To achieve its aims, the Trump bud­get pro­posal, re­leased Thurs­day, “elim­i­nates or sub­stan­tially re­duces fed­eral in­vest­ment in state en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tiv­i­ties.”

If Congress adopts the Trump pro­posal, a range of pro­grams in Texas are likely to feel the pinch.

Nearly 10 per­cent of state en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion pro­grams are paid for di­rectly by EPA grants that now ap­pear to be in jeop­ardy.

Those grants amount to nearly $50 mil­lion this year.

Among them: $500,000 for dam safety; $2.4 mil­lion for the BioWatch pro­gram, which aims for the early de­tec­tion of bioter­ror­ism agents to en­able the ear­li­est pos­si­ble re­sponse to an at­tack; and $2.3 mil­lion to ad­dress leak­ing un­der­ground oil stor­age tanks.

The big­gest chunk of grant-mak­ing from the EPA to the Texas Com­mis­sion on En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity is $21.2 mil­lion, to help Texas ad­dress its en­vi­ron­men­tal pri­or­i­ties, cut pol­lu­tion, and achieve ad­min­is­tra­tive sav­ings.

“The bud­get re­turns the re­spon­si­bil­ity for fund­ing lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­forts and pro­grams to state and lo­cal en­ti­ties,” ac­cord­ing to the bud­get pro­posal.

But Texas of­fi­cials are un­likely to step in with state money to prop up these pro­grams, said Larry Soward, a Gov. Rick Perry ap­pointee who served as a com­mis­sioner at the state en­vi­ron­men­tal agency from 2003 to 2009.

The Trump bud­get also calls for elim­i­nat­ing EPA “in­fra­struc­ture as­sis­tance” along the Mex­ico bor­der.

More than 300 com­mu­ni­ties in Texas, many in bor­der ar­eas, lack ac­cess to potable wa­ter or ad­e­quate waste­water dis­posal.

In the Lower Rio Grande Val­ley, the EPA is work­ing with lead­ers rep­re­sent­ing more than a dozen colo­nias to ad­dress a mal­func­tion­ing waste­water fa­cil­ity and the cleanup of a haz­ardous su­per­fund site.

And the bud­get would phase out EPA’s re­search grants to en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tists and en­gi­neers, which the Trump bud­get refers to as “ex­tra­mu­ral ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Those grants in­clude just over $3.9 mil­lion awarded last year to the Univer­sity of Texas to de­velop re­search into wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture.

Re­searchers have said EPA is likely to meet its cur­rent grant obli­ga­tions, in­clud­ing an $820,000 grant awarded in 2016 to the city of Austin to clean up for­mer in­dus­trial sites and re­de­velop them into things like af­ford­able hous­ing and parks.

Nearly 10 per­cent of Texas en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion pro­grams — $50 mil­lion this year — are paid for di­rectly by EPA grants.

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