Brewer, Maine — The White House this week released a budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 that would slash Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) programs that reduce pollution in Maine, save the lives of Maine people, and strengthen our communities and economy. The proposal singles out EPA for the deepest cuts of any federal agency, causing widespread concerns in Maine about the potential impacts of these cuts if they are enacted.
Today’s news conference took place in Brewer at Cianbro’s Eastern Manufacturing Facility, built at the former Eastern Fine Paper mill site that was successfully redeveloped using EPA Brownfields grant funding. The Brownfields Program is targeted for deep cuts in the President’s budget.
Speakers described how the Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to environmental protections would dramatically harm efforts in Maine to protect clean air and clean water, achieve economic redevelopment at shuttered paper mills, and protect Maine people from toxic hazards.
“These cuts would be especially bad for Maine, where our environment, economy, and way of life are tightly intertwined,” says NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann. “The impacts would hit all parts of Maine: polluting our lakes and rivers, contaminating the air we breathe and the water we drink, and preventing clean-ups at former industrial sites. Because of these particularly damaging consequences for Maine, we are counting on Maine’s Congressional delegation to stand up for Maine and fight to defeat these cuts.”
Today, a letter signed by 60 organizations in Maine was sent to Maine’s Congressional delegation urging them to do “everything possible” to maintain EPA’s budget “at no less than current funding levels. The health of our air, water, people, and economy is at stake.”
The Trump Administration’s FY18 Budget completely eliminates more than 50 environmental protection programs and cuts EPA funding by $2.6 billion (31%) and its staff by 3,800 (25%). Adjusted for inflation, EPA’s budget would plummet to levels not seen since the 1970s. These radical cuts would be unprecedented in EPA’s 47-year history, and would cripple the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which depends heavily on these funds. Last year DEP received $11.4 million in funding from EPA, which supported nearly 100 Maine staff members with critical jobs protecting our state’s environment.
Cianbro’s facility in Brewer is one of the many job-creating success stories in Maine where EPA Brownfields grants were instrumental in the economic redevelopment of a previously contaminated industrial site. Up to 600 workers are employed at the facility today, and its economic impact has exceeded $300 million over the past 10 years.
The President’s budget would cut Brownfields funds available to states by one-third, raising concerns about the availability of funds for the clean-up of closed mill sites in Lincoln, Millinocket, East Millinocket, Madison, and Bucksport.
From 1994 to 2016, Maine received $72 million in Brownfields Program funds for successful projects including Eastern Fine Paper (Brewer), Old Howland Tannery (Howland), Old Town Canoe (Old Town), Bates Mill Complex (Lewiston), Moosehead Manufacturing (Dover-Foxcroft), and Maine Street Station (Brunswick).
Today’s news conference featured Mainers who shared their concerns about the environmental protection cuts:
Samantha Paradis, RN, FNP-S — Staff Nurse, Waldo County General Hospital; Family Nurse Practitioner Student, Husson University; Asthmatic
“Maine has one of the highest rates of asthma in the country. What may be good for a polluting power plant in Oklahoma is certainly not good for Maine. Trump’s budget is a recipe for more air pollution in Maine, which hurts our health. Increased air pollution leads to more emergency room visits, hospitalization, and premature deaths for those with asthma, other respiratory illnesses, and our seniors. As the tailpipe of the nation, Maine people need a strong EPA to curb pollution from upwind, polluting states.”
Steven Mogul — Maine Lakes Society Board Member; Chair, Maine Lakes Society Policy Committee; Camp Owner, Hopkins Pond; Partner at Gross, Minsky & Mogul, P.A.
“All of us who love the lakes of Maine are deeply concerned about the proposed termination of one of the most important EPA programs that helps reduce polluted runoff into our nation’s rivers, lakes, and streams. Maine’s lakes face serious risks already, and these budget cuts would worsen matters. In large part, it is our state’s lakes that keep my family and me in Maine. For others, it is what brings them here. For many small towns, it’s what provides the financial means to serve their residents. Declining lake water quality puts all of that at risk. The lake most dear to me, Hopkins Pond, is like a member of my family. Maine’s 6,000 lakes are part of an extended family for everyone in Maine, which is why these radical cuts are so painful to contemplate and why they must be rejected by our members of Congress.”
Arthur (Archie) Verow — former Brewer state representative; former Mayor of Brewer
“As a long-time resident of Brewer, I watched the decline of the Eastern Fine Paper mill and its rebirth as Cianbro’s Eastern Manufacturing Facility. This has been a real success story in how EPA funding can play a vital role in achieving economic redevelopment. For more than 100 years, the mill was the city’s largest property tax payer and largest employer. When it filed for bankruptcy, hundreds of our friends and neighbors lost their jobs and we had no idea whether the mill site would ever produce jobs again. Thankfully, the City and Maine DEP brought the leadership needed to secure EPA funding to clean up the site and turn it back into a major employer. It wouldn’t have been possible without EPA’s Brownfields Program. Because Maine has lost five more paper mills in the last few years, many Maine communities face an uncertain future just like Brewer did. But now those towns face the even bigger uncertainly of not knowing whether EPA’s Brownfields funding will dry up. I hope Congress rejects these cuts, not just to the Brownfields Program, but all the EPA cuts. These are important programs in Maine.”
Jeff Wallace — Housing Rehabilitation Coordinator, City of Bangor
“Lead exposure is a serious issue for Maine children. In 2015, nearly 300 Maine children under the age of six tested positive for lead poisoning. Every single one of these 300 cases of lead poisoning is preventable and should have been prevented. Lead poisoning is linked to learning disabilities, speech delay, aggressive behavior, and other developmental difficulties. Eliminating EPA’s lead program means more Maine children and their families will suffer. We need to be doing more in Maine to prevent lead poisoning, not less.”
Patrick MacRoy — Epidemiologist; Deputy Director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center; Former Director, City of Chicago’s lead poisoning prevention program
“Because EPA’s core responsibility is to reduce pollution, this budget is an unprecedented and dangerous assault on public health. It would result in more asthma attacks for our children, increased risks for cancer, and more pollution in our communities. The proposed EPA cuts would put the health of Maine’s children and families on the chopping block, undermining safe drinking water and clean air, ignoring the risks of lead and radon poisoning, and exposing us all to more untested chemicals.“
Lisa Pohlmann — Executive Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine
“Maine’s environment and economy go hand-in-hand, so this attack on environmental protection funding is an attack on Maine. If upwind factories can belch out more air pollution, as they would under this budget, then Maine people will suffer. If Maine’s Healthy Beaches program is terminated, as it would be under this budget, then our tourism sector and sea-side communities will suffer. If essentially all of EPA’s work to address the threat of climate change is terminated, as it would be under this budget, then we all suffer—because Maine people, our environment, and businesses are at high risk from climate change. We are pleased that Maine’s Congressional delegation appears to understand the risks to Maine from these massive budget cuts, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to prevent these cuts from happening.”
Summary of Impacts on Maine from EPA Budget Cuts
According to a report by NRCM, the proposed EPA budget cuts would damage virtually all aspects of environmental protection in Maine, and would be especially harmful in the following areas:
- Putting Maine’s Clean Water at Risk The budget proposes deep cuts in EPA funding that is vital for the protection of Maine’s rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal waters. Of particular concern, the budget calls for elimination of the Non-Point Source (NPS) pollution program, which protects lakes from polluted runoff. Maine lakes provide $3.5 billion to Maine’s economy annually and support 52,000 jobs. In recent years, NPS funding has been used for water quality protection statewide, including for Penjajawoc Stream and Capehart Brook (Bangor), Pushaw Lake (Old Town), Dexter Lakes (Dexter), and Cold Stream Pond (Enfield).
- Slowing Redevelopment of Brownfields and Waste Sites Brownfields Program funding would be cut 30%, impeding the ability of Maine communities to secure economic redevelopment of contaminated sites. A 25% cut in the Superfund program could impede cleanup of the former Callahan mine in Brooksville and complicate clean up at Lincoln Pulp and Tissue Mill in Lincoln, which is being considered for Superfund designation. Costs for the Callahan mine clean-up have increased to $58 million. Maine taxpayers already have paid $14 million toward the clean-up, and they now need EPA to step in and cover most of the rest.
- Making Maine Homes Less Safe The EPA budget would eliminate programs that: 1) address radon pollution (the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers), and 2) reduce risks to children from lead-based paint. Elimination of EPA’s lead program would put more Maine children at risk of learning disabilities, lower IQ, speech delay, hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, and other problems caused by lead poisoning. From 2011-2015, an estimated 154 children ages 0-6 in Penobscot County had dangerous blood lead levels. Also, Penobscot County is among the counties in Maine with the highest levels of radon in homes.
- Increasing Air Pollution and Health Threats EPA programs that help protect Maine people from dangerous air pollution would be cut by 30%. Because Maine has some of the highest asthma rates in the country, increased air pollution would result in more emergency room visits, hospitalization, and premature deaths.
- Increasing Risks to Drinking Water The budget eliminates funding for the Leaking Underground Storage Tanks program. These funds help DEP protect groundwater, drinking water, and human health by ensuring that underground petroleum storage is done responsibly. Cuts to this program will lead to more leaks from tanks and increased contamination of drinking water.
- Terminating Maine Healthy Beach Program The budget eliminates funding for beach water quality testing. Terminating this program puts Maine residents and visitors at risk. Maine beaches receive an estimated 12 million visitors each year, and these visitors contribute more than $1.6 billion annually to Maine’s economy.
- Stopping Efforts to Address Climate Change The budget eliminates most EPA climate initiatives, including funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate programs, and climate research. Maine faces serious risks from climate change. Eliminating climate research will reduce the ability of Maine people to understand and prepare for changes already underway that affect property, businesses, and Maine’s economy. Also of concern, EPA’s overall research funding would be cut by 40 percent.
More details available at: Damaging Maine: The Impacts of Proposed Cuts to the EPA Budget.