by Susan Sharon
Maine Public news story
A new report from the Natural Resources Council of Maine paints a bleak picture of what could happen in Maine if the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency are adopted.
The proposal calls for cutting the agency’s budget 31 percent, slashing 3,200 jobs and eliminating more than 50 EPA programs. And Pete Didisheim of the NRCM says Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection would also take a big hit.
“Nearly 100 DEP staff are funded by EPA to implement the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the nation’s other important environmental laws,” he says.
“We absolutely will see backsliding if the department loses funding with the Trump administration budget,” says David Van Wie, former director of the Bureau of Land and Water Quality at the Maine Department of Protection.
He says that “backsliding” would take the form of lax enforcement around the Clean Water Act. Passage of the Act eventually helped transform rivers in Maine like the Androscoggin, which was once considered one of the most polluted in the country.
“When I moved to Maine in 1983 I lived right near the Androscoggin and I’ll tell you that you wouldn’t have thought of putting a canoe on the Androscoggin in 1983,” Van Wie says.
That’s because of the untreated waste that poured into the river from multiple sources, including paper mills.
Last year Maine’s DEP received just over $11 million in dedicated grants from the EPA. Didisheim says the money supports nearly every aspect of the DEP’s work, including licensing, permitting, enforcement, resource assessment and mitigation.
“It would put Maine’s clean waters at increased risk by cutting programs that are used to protect lakes, streams, rivers and coastal waters,” he says.
In addition, when combined administration policies to roll back pollution standards for cars and power plants, Didisheim says more air pollution would drift into Maine from upwind states, resulting in increased emergency room visits, hospitalizations and premature deaths because of Maine’s high rate of asthma.