Strauss: EPA budget cut—if passed—will affect NMI

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 will reduce the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s overall budget by over 30 percent.

The proposed cuts will result in a reduction in funds granted to states and territories.

During the second day of the Pacific Islands Environmental Conference on Wednesday, EPA region 9 administrator Alexis Strauss spoke about the uncertainty of the future for EPA.

According to Strauss, the 31-percent cut will impact not only the agency’s funding but also the grant funding that they provide for the Northern Marianas as well as territories and states, which are called State and Tribal Assistance Grants.

Last fiscal year, EPA received over $8 billion from the federal budget. Strauss said that over $2 billion will be cut if the proposed fiscal year budget by the Trump administration is passed.

In the proposed budget cut, STAG programs were either zeroed out or reduced by 30 percent. According to an online source, STAG grants take up the largest percentage of the EPA budget. STAG granted programs include the beach water quality programs (CWA 319), overall water quality programs (CWA 106), land redevelopment (Brownfields 128a), and more.

The reduction in funds to the STAG programs does not include the overall reduction to territories. In fact, the proposed budget cut would reduce the funds that territories receive from EPA by 45 percent.

In the last year, EPA funded the Commonwealth’s cleanup of contaminated sites, monitoring of pesticide use, and monitoring the quality of its drinking water and beach waters.

According to Strauss, although there is a possibility that the agency will face tremendous cuts, EPA Region 9, which includes the CNMI, will continue to prioritize the Pacific islands.

Region 9 worked with EPA headquarters to increase the funding for water and sewer infrastructures for the Pacific islands. Over $200 million was invested in the Commonwealth, Guam, and American Samoa to improve the water and wastewater systems.

During the conference Strauss highlighted the achievements that resulted from the partnership between EPA and the Pacific islands.

That partnership enabled the Commonwealth to transform a solid waste dump in Puerto Rico into a 21-acre peace park.

With the help of EPA, wastewater spills in the CNMI, Guam, and America Samoa have decreased by 90 percent since the early 2000s.

In American Samoa, the partnership with EPA helped the purification of water and eliminating the risk of leptospirosis.

According to Strauss, although the journey in accomplishing a working relationship with the Pacific was not an easy one, the journey was definitely wonderful. Strauss encouraged everyone to continue to aim higher in protecting the precious resources of the islands and to continue to work together.

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Kimberly A. Bautista Author

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