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Cuts to EPA Budget Are Attack on NJ

News Source: NJ.com

Date: August 17, 2017

By: MaryAnn Spoto

"Cuts to EPA budget are attack on NJ, environmental groups say"

Brick Township - A bipartisan group of elected officials from the Jersey Shore joined with environmental groups Thursday to denounce proposed cuts to the budget of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, reductions they say would decimate programs that keep the state safe and its residents healthy.

Pledging to ramp up efforts to oppose the proposed cuts, the groups said the will target Congressional leaders and even Gov. Chris Christie to pressure Washington into keeping the EPA fully funded.

With as many as 50 federal programs expected to be cut more than 30 percent, New Jersey will lose all of the environmental gains it made over the past four decades in everything from clean beaches and safe drinking water to remediated Superfund sites, they said.

"The budget is across-the-board devastating for the environment," said David Pringle, New Jersey campaign director for Clean Water Action. "So we really need all of our Congressional delegation - Democrats and Republicans - to work together to call for full funding - not just cutting less - but full funding for all of these critical programs for the environment and for clean energy, not dirty energy."

The event was held on the fishing pier at the Barnegat Bay in Brick, the remaining portion of the western end of the Mantoloking Bridge that was torn down to make room for a newer and higher bridge a decade ago. The backdrop for the gathering was the bay, which has been struggling with nitrogen overloads, and the dunes in Mantoloking that had been breached by Hurricane Sandy's storm surge in 2012, devastating that town.

Brick Mayor John Ducey said his town of 100,000 residents would be severely affected by the cuts. The township has three oceanfront beaches, a bay beach, two rivers, and a solar field built on a former landfill, which is a Superfund site that is still being monitored. The town's drinking water is drawn from the Metedeconk River.

Brick has the most waterfront property in the entire state of New Jersey so we are going to be heavily impacted by any cuts to the EPA," he said. "Health, safety and welfare - that's what these cuts are about."

Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservative Voters, said the state Department of Environmental Protection relies heavily on federal funding and New Jersey is in no financial position to make up potential losses.

"With more than 40 percent of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection dependent on the federal budget, it's more important than ever for Congress to push back against the draconian Trump budget proposal and ensure full funding for the agencies we count on to protect our health and environment," he said.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker sent a representative to read a statement opposing the cuts and U.S. Rep Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.) joined the group to pledge to fight the proposed budget slashes.

Junior Romero, central New Jersey organizer for Food and Water Watch, said his organization plans to hold information sessions before the end of this month for the public in five legislative districts where Republican representatives haven't expressed outrage over the planned cuts.

The federal budget is expected to be finalized the end of September for the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.

Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, said that rather than cutting the EPA, the federal government should eliminate subsidies to oil companies and the program for offshore oil drilling. She said that although federal lawmakers have proposed less severe cuts to programs that affect clean water, no reduction in funding is acceptable.

"These programs were already underfunded. We need more money for these programs, not less. Especially with the impact of climate change and what we saw from Superstorm Sandy," she said.

Bay Head Mayor William Curtis said his oceanfront community has been waiting for a dredging of Scow Ditch, a small canal linking Twilight Lake to Barnegat Bay, since Hurricane Sandy washed tons of sand into it. Without federal funding, the dredging won't occur and the health of lake, which is flushed by the bay, would suffer, he said. "If more funding cuts will go to New Jersey, we'll never get that dredged and eventually people will walk on it and it will not help Barnegat Bay at all," he said.

Trisha Sheehan, national field manager for Moms Clean Air Force, said her family was exposed to vinyl chloride during a train derailment in Paulsboro five years ago. She's worried that cuts to the EPA would result in lax regulations that could lead to health risks.

"As parents, we depend on the Environmental Protection Agency every single day to protect our families, our children and the most vulnerable among us," she said. "We are outraged that the EPA, our silent guardian, is under attack."

-- MaryAnn Spoto
mspoto@njadvancemedia.com


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