When congressional Republicans cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget 16 percent as part of a deal with President Obama in April to keep the government running, they hailed it as a blow to a federal bureaucracy that had overreached in its size and ambition.
But now that the agency has detailed how it is making the $1.6 billion cut for fiscal 2011, the reality is somewhat different. Because the EPA passes the vast majority of its money through to the states, it has meant that these governments — not Washington — are taking the biggest hits. Already constrained financially at home, state officials have millions of dollars less to enforce the nation’s air- and water-quality laws, fund critical capital improvements and help communities comply with new, more stringent pollution controls imposed by the federal government.
Indian Head, Md., won’t get the nearly $1 million it has requested to improve sewer lines and rehabilitate manhole covers. Wyandotte County, Kan., has suspended its hazardous-waste public awareness programs. And Virginia will scale back the studies it is conducting to evaluate nitrogen runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.