TN at Risk? Report examines proposed EPA cuts

Research suggests air pollution is reducing scenic views in natural spaces such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Bart Everson/Flickr)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A new report suggests proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency would diminish the quality of Tennessee’s air and water.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, Tennessee has received more than $230 million in EPA grants over the last five years – funding that would be cut 30 percent under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.

Lindsay Pace, a Tennessee field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, explains it’s money that funds important programs that protect public health, including air pollution monitoring.

“Last year during the wildfires, I was able to use our air quality monitoring program to make informed decisions,” she states. “As parents, we deserve to know if the air outside is safe. Yet cutting funding to our air quality-monitoring program would affect our ability to do just that. ”

The report notes that EPA support was crucial in helping Tennessee recently meet federal air quality standards for smog and soot for the first time in decades.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt argues that many environmental regulations are too onerous for the business community.

There also are business and economic concerns under the proposal, says Bill Becker, an environmental consultant and former head of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

He says air pollution is reducing scenic views in natural spaces such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“If you take away the regulations to help reduce emissions in these areas, then viability will be further impaired and the public may not be as excited about going to some of our nation’s treasures as they previously were,” he points out.

Trump’s budget proposes to also slash funding for programs that address leaking underground chemical storage tanks, reduce poisonous radon gas in homes and schools, and support radioactive waste cleanup.

Becker contends these cuts would reverse years of environmental progress.

“It is an extraordinarily small price to pay to equip state and local officials with the necessary financial and regulatory tools to clean up the environment when you fully understand the impacts that could occur if you don’t provide these resources,” he stresses.

Congress is set to take up a series of 12 appropriations bills in the next few weeks.


By: Mary Kuhlman, Tennessee News Service

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