President Trump’s administration is being accused of “environmental racism” after it proposed slashing the Environmental Protection Agency budget by nearly one-quarter.
The EPA’s $8.1 billion budget is 20 percent smaller than it was when the GOP took control of the House in 2011, and now President Trump’s budget proposal calls for cutting its budget 24 percent, or $2 billion, and reducing the agency’s workforce 20 percent, or 3,000 employees, according to Axios.
The EPA, led by Scott Pruitt – who previously opposed the agency in several court cases – did not fight the 24 percent cut Trump officials proposed, encouraging the administration to contemplate even deeper cuts.
“Senior Trump officials consider the EPA the leading edge of the administration’s plans to deconstruct the administrative state,” a source told Axios.
The agency’s Environmental Justice Department is one of a slew of programs slated to get chopped as part of the plan to reduce the bloated agency. The Environmental Justice Department, which was launched under former President Barack Obama’s first Environmental Protection Agency secretary, Lisa Jackson, allocates tens of millions of dollars to leftist groups to help poor, minority and indigenous communities attain “environmental justice.”
Environmental justice is defined by the EPA as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and polices.”
This division of the agency has been dedicated to initiatives that help illegal immigrants and that teach black, Latino and indigenous people how to recycle, reduce carbon emissions through “weatherization” and to participate in “green jobs.”
Slashing the environmental justice office, leftists and environmentalist groups warn, will have a devastating impact on communities of color across the U.S. that already suffer disproportionately from toxic pollution.
Amid pending cuts to the office, the founder of the environmental justice program at the EPA, Mustafa Ali, resigned earlier this month. Ali helped launch the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice in 1992 and served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Ali shared his resignation letter on Twitter, urging Pruitt to listen to and assist communities of color, low-income and indigenous populations in solving the environmental problems that impact their communities. After resigning, he explained in an interview with Inside Climate News that he believes a core EPA function is to shield minority and poor neighborhoods from pollution.
The new EPA leaders have not shown “any indication that they are focused or interested in helping those vulnerable communities,” and as such, “I feel that it’s best if I take my talents elsewhere,” Ali said.
John Coequyt, a campaign director of the progressive environmental group Sierra Club, argued that there are racial motivations behind efforts to eliminate the environmental justice program, which focuses on protection from environmental hazards for people of all races and incomes.
“To cut the environmental justice program at EPA is just racist,” Coequyt said in an interview with CNN. “I can’t describe it in any other terms than a move to leave those communities behind. I can’t imagine what the justification would be, other than racism.”
He predicted the administration wouldn’t be able to get Congress to sign off on the cuts.
“States and Congress won’t go for this,” Coequyt said. “They are proposing cutting programs that are connected to jobs in states and programs that address environmental issues.”
Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols insisted in a March 1 email that the proposed cutbacks would disproportionately affect poorer Americans and minorities.
“While this ‘zero out’ strategy would impact nearly every community in the United States, a close examination shows the burden of these cuts will fall hardest on the health of low-income Americans and people of color,” Nichols said. “This is environmental racism in action.”
Nichols continued: “The Trump administration clearly sees corporations as its true constituents, not the people of this country. For decades, the Environmental Protection Agency has helped protect people’s health and safety when corporations have put them in danger, and the Trump administration now wants to undo all of that. These proposed cuts negate any goodwill Trump may have shown during his congressional address, including his empty promises to promote clean air and water.”
Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, also insinuated that the Trump administration’s intent for scaling back the EPA is rooted in bigotry.
“The Trump administration has decided fence-line communities across the country, whose residents already bear an outsized burden from pollution, are on their own to take on big polluters,” Cook told the Guardian. “Most pollution-spewing operations are within eye-shot of the backyards and kitchen windows of African-American and Hispanic families, as well as those of many largely white lower-income communities.”
Dramatically shrinking or eliminating the EPA, however, may etch President Donald Trump in history as a success in the eyes of conservatives and ease a major tax burden on Americans. Judicial Watch has extensively detailed what it deems wasteful expenditures of the EPA’s environmental justice program.
The billions of federal tax dollars absorbed by the environmental justice department were spent “to teach residents of public housing about recycling, seniors to reduce their ‘carbon footprint,’ inner city neighborhoods about ‘climate-change readiness’ and middle school students with a ‘disparate economic and racial/ethnic composition’ how to ‘identify and mitigate air pollution and solid waste disposal issues,'” the conservative watchdog explained in a memo published Friday.
“Low-income public school students were taught asthma self-management skills, poor minorities got asthma-friendly homes and a New Jersey group called Lazos America Unida that helps Mexican immigrants got money to create a ‘lead-safe backyard gardening’ program to protect members from the risks associated with gardening in lead contaminated soil,” the memo continues.
“Another environmental justice grant recipient, a migrant farm workers’ group in Missouri, used its taxpayer dollars to explain symbols and key words on television weather advisories and to ‘increase awareness about the dangers of sun and heat exposure’ in migrant communities. Other leftist groups used their environmental justice cash to educate migrant workers from Mexico and Guatemala about ‘pesticide exposure’ risks and to help the poor ‘evaluate toys and find out about toy recalls.'”
The Trump administration’s budget cuts will also effectively end several other Obama-era programs including, Global Change Research and Clean Power Plan.
Trump plans to cut funding for the civilian bureaucracy to pay for a $54 billion increase in defense spending. It remains uncertain whether Congress will approve the cuts.