The White House plan to slash the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 31% produced a rare moment of bipartisan agreement last week, as Republicans and Democrats alike pushed back on cuts they said would have severe impacts in their own districts.
“You are going to be the first EPA administrator who has come before this committee in many years who actually gets more than he asks for,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, during a review of the budget draft before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.
“I know it’s different in Oklahoma, where you have the fossil fuel industry in your backyard,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME). But “I represent a state in the tailpipe of the fossil fuel industry.”
InsideClimate News notes that Pruitt “spent most of the hearing promising to work with members of Congress on the concerns they raised—about endocrine disrupting chemicals, Puget Sound pollution, the Great Lakes, Superfund sites, and more—and on how the EPA could continue to meet the objectives of the programs the White House was proposing to cut.” While the committee divided along party lines on climate change, Cole reminded his fellow Oklahoman that the final decision on the wider budget rests with Congress, not the White House.
“The Constitution’s pretty clear on that,” he said. “It’s important that we have the president’s priorities, but at the end of the day, Congress will make the decision.”
In the course of the hearing, subcommittee chair Ken Calvert (R-CA) called out an 83% cut to diesel emission reduction grants that he said are essential to air quality in his state. Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) said he would oppose cuts to the EPA’s Great Lakes Initiative. And Pingree criticized Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, noting that climate change is an immediate threat to her constituents.
“Climate change to us is very real. It’s not an environmental platitude,” she told Pruitt. Maine lobstermen, she said, “look at me with fear in their eyes because we are watching the migration of lobsters, as we’ve seen the disappearance of shrimping. This is important to their identity; it’s important economically. I can’t go home to people and say this isn’t happening. I can’t go home and say ocean acidification isn’t happening.”