Help sought to avert EPA funding crisis


Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is concerned by U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget that includes a 31-percent cut for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which in turn would cut 47 percent of the Division of Environmental Quality’s budget altogether.

In a letter to Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) and House Speaker Ralph S. Demapan (R-Saipan), Torres expressed concern over Trump’s EPA budget cuts and its impact on the CNMI.

According to an article by the Washington Examiner, the EPA is being proposed to have $5.6 billion budget in fiscal year 2018. It got $8.2 billion in fiscal year 2017.

“The President’s proposed fiscal year 2018 reductions to the EPA/DEQ budget will have direct and possibly irreversible effects on the environment and public health in the CNMI,” Torres said.

Torres cited a report by Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan’s (Ind-MP) newsletter that indicated a 47-percent reduction in “pass-through EPA State Revolving Funds” for all states and territories, the CNMI included.

This drastic cut prompted Torres to seek help from Palacios and Demapan in putting in place a “contingency plan to include a supplemental budget for the agency.”

“The reduction of EPA state grants will significantly impact the…[DEQ] operations,” wrote Torres, further saying that DEQ would be forced to “implement drastic austerity measures that will undoubtedly include reduction in force.”

Torres warned that laying off DEQ employees would affect numerous programs that are crucial to an economy whose main revenue generator is the tourism industry.

“These programs include many others: clean air, clean water, waste disposal, and regulation and monitoring of chemicals and toxins,” wrote Torres.

DEQ is also the primary agency involved with addressing the contamination of soil and water through its water quality surveillance program—a key feature of the department that the community, especially the resorts, depends on.

“[The cuts will have a] tremendous adverse impact to DEQ in its continuing efforts to protect the public health and the environment,” wrote Torres.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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