EPA Cuts Will Damage Hoosier Health, Environment, Groups Say

Aug 3, 2017

Indiana stands to lose out if Congress approves proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, says environmentalists, scientists, EPA staffers, and Indiana residents.

The cuts could affect drinking water infrastructure, burden the state’s environmental regulatory agency, and hinder efforts to clean up industrial toxic waste sites.

A Congressional subcommittee last month passed an 8 percent across the board cut to the EPA’s 2018 budget. That’s far less drastic than the 31 percent cut proposed by President Trump.

Michael Mikulka, an EPA employee and president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 704, says those cuts are bad news for Hoosiers.

“The general public should not be surprised to see increases in contamination from heavy metals like lead and an increase in cancer rates,” Mikulka says.

Mikulka, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and environmental activists spoke with reporters during a conference call organized by the Sierra Club.

The budget would also reduce the amount of loan money available to states for water infrastructure projects. Indiana needs $2 billion in immediate water infrastructure repairs, according to the Indiana Finance Authority.

Julie Peller, a Valparaiso University chemistry professor and member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the cuts would shift enforcement and cleanup responsibilities to the state agencies, like the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

“In northwest Indiana the EPA has recently responded to numerous oil spills, a steel mill industrial leak of chromium, and the list goes on and on,” Peller says. “Our state is simply not equipped to deal with these types of problems.”

The EPA also plans to offer buyouts to 1,200 employees nationwide. In July, 182 regional staffers were offered buyouts — 32 accepted them last week.

Mikulka, an EPA employee, says the budget making its way through Congress in combination with the buyouts would tax the agency’s ability to clean up sites contaminated with industrial waste, such as the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago.

Tara Adams, who lives in the lead contaminated Superfund site, says the cuts are an attack on her community and others like it — ones where mostly minority residents live below the poverty line.

“They’re not being protected. We’re just being left out there to survive as best as we can,” Adams says.