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John Rumpler,
Environment Washington

Budget Cuts Would Increase Puget Sound Pollution

Local Leaders Laud WA Congress Members for Puget Sound Leadership
For Immediate Release

Tacoma, WA – Proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean water programs would halt progress on curbing the flow of polluted runoff into Puget Sound, according to a new report by Environment Washington Research and Policy Center (Environment Washington RPC). With a deadline for Congress to approve a federal budget fast approaching, Northern Fish Seafood Company President Ross Swanes, Pierce Conservation District Executive Director Ryan Mello, and Washington Environmental Council Puget Sound Program Director Mindy Roberts joined Environment Washington RPC in calling for full funding of EPA to protect Puget Sound and other Washington waterways.

“It has taken a lot of hard work, but we are making Puget Sound more swimmable and fishable every year,” said Bruce Speight, Executive Director of Environment Washington RCP. “Cutting EPA’s clean water programs would put that progress at risk.”

Rough Waters Ahead, which examines the impacts of the Trump Administration’s proposed budget cuts, found that water-related programs run directly by the EPA would be slashed by 34 percent, hobbling the agency’s ability to prevent runoff pollution, monitor water quality, establish pollution limits, protect watersheds and wetlands, and pursue polluters. The report estimates that $5.9 million in Nonpoint Pollution Control Grants would be completely eliminated.

“A cut in federal funding triggers loss in local funding, risking the health of both rural and urban communities,” said Mindy Roberts, Puget Sound Director at Washington Environmental Council. “The work enabled by EPA funding keeps pollution out of our waterways, restores estuaries, and invests in our future through critical research.”

Many members of Washington’s Congressional delegation, including Senator Murray, Congressmen Derek Kilmer and Denny Heck, co-chairs of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, and Congressman David Reichert have spoken out loudly and consistently in support of Puget Sound protection funding.

The report reviewed how EPA programs have protected and restored Puget Sound by preventing pollution, enforcing the law, restoring wildlife habitat, and researching emerging threats and practical solutions. The Trump Administration’s proposal would cut research and development funding by 47 percent, limiting the EPA’s ability to help scientists, citizens and local communities understand the ever-changing threats facing their waterways.

“Commercial and Sport Fishing in the Puget Sound is a vital part of our economy,” said Ross Swanes, President of Northern Fish. “Conservation and restoration efforts in the Puget Sound have made steady progress over the past couple of decades. These hard-fought efforts can be quickly undone without the collaboration between private and public sectors. Northern Fish considers reducing the EPA’s ability to monitor the health the Puget Sound a step backwards.”

“We have made so much progress here in Pierce County to reduce stormwater runoff into and other threats to the Bay and the Sound,” said Ryan Mello, Executive Director of the Pierce County Conservation District and a Tacoma City Councilmember. “The EPA has been an integral partner. Without a well-funded EPA, that progress will be undermined. We can’t afford to go backwards after all the work we’ve done to restore the Puget Sound.”

While the new budget deal struck by President Trump and Congress keeps funding in place until December, the 2018 budget will start all over again after the continuing resolution expires. And as shown in our report, the Trump administration's originally proposed cuts do not bode well for Puget Sound.

“The job of cleaning up and protecting Puget Sound is not done,” concluded Speight. “Only a well-funded EPA can continue the region’s legacy of progress in cleaning up Puget Sound and ensure that it is healthy and safe for us and future generations to enjoy.”

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Environment Washington Research and Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our water, air and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. http://environmentwashingtoncenter.org/.