Sierra Club: We Stood Up to Trump on the Environment and We Won

Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

 

We Stood Up to Trump on the Environment and We Won

 

The Senate has passed a new $1 trillion spending bill with a vote of 79-18 that would maintain nearly 99 percent of the EPA’s total budget until September as well as sets aside other important funding threatened by President Trump. However, it is not certain yet whether the President will veto the bill or not. This is good news for now because earlier this year, the Trump Administration came out with plans to cut the EPA’s budget cuts state programs by 45 percent. This budget could cause the DEP to cut staff who are responsible for implementing the Clean Water Act as well as other vital programs throughout the state, leaving a huge hole in New Jersey’s budget. Even if he signs off on the spending bill, this budget will only be in place until September and Trump can continue his attacks in next year’s budget.

 

“We have a temporary victory today now that the Senate has restored funding for the environment and other important programs. This happened because so many people wrote letters, had protests, and came out to town halls against the President’s cuts to the environment. As a result of all of the public outcry, both Democrats and Republicans have opposed dismantling the EPA by going after its budget. They have sent a clear message to Trump that they will not support building Trump’s border wall and will stand up against his attack on the environment. This shows that our protests outside Congressman Lance and Frelinghuysen’s offices and coming out against Trump’s rollbacks sent a clear message just like it did with healthcare,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “In five months we will be at it again because the spending bill will only last until September. That is why we must continue to come out against Trump’s anti-environment agenda and defend our clean air and water.”

 

Although Trump has targeted the EPA for deep cuts, the omnibus deal preserves decent funding levels for EPA (a 1% cut) that protect EPA staff, and provides key funding for water infrastructure. This budget dismissed attempts to target endangered species, the Clean Power Plan, protections for Waters of the US and critical Clean Air Act standards such as the ozone and methane rules. Department of Interior saw an increase of $15 million over 2016 funding levels and $7 million over the Administration trying to de-fund it.  This includes an overall increase for the Bureau of Land Management and US Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Park Service receives a 3% plus up including $56 million in new funds for deferred maintenance. Instead of Trump’s plans for elimination, the Department of Energy Office of Science will get up $42 million over FY2016.  Energy Efficiency funding will also get $17 million more funding.

 

“The public stood up to Trump and the public won. Now we have a budget for the next five months that helps the environment. Not only is the EPA funding restored, we will have more funding for the Department of Interior and US Fish and Wildlife Service. This is important because New Jersey has assumption of federal programs to protect our air and water. Now we will be able to keep the $85 million out of $300 million for DEP operations at least until September,” said Jeff Tittel. “Now New Jersey will be able to keep the $100 million in funding to deal with stormwater, mitigate climate change, and remove lead from pipes and upgrade our water system. This is important because the people have went eye ball to eye ball against all of Trump’s cuts and the people won.”

 

The omnibus spending bill also includes money for the New Jersey Highlands Open Space and Drinking Water Protection, providing $10 million to buy property to preserve open space in the Highlands region, which encompasses parts of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. The watershed is a source of drinking water for millions of residents. The bill also includes $68 million for railroad safety improvements, including the installation of automatic braking called Positive Control that could have prevented the derailment on NJ Transit in Hoboken. Even though Trump’s budget threatened funding for the Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River, this spending bill provides an extra $75 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, providing $328 million.

 

“Not only were we able to restore EPA funding, under this bill, the Highlands will be fully funded for the first time since the Highlands Act was passed in 2004. That means there will be $10 million to purchase environmentally sensitive land in the Highlands that protects the drinking water for more than 5.5 million people. Given the Governor’s attack on clean water in the Highlands, we desperately need this funding to preserve more open space that protects our water supply,” said Jeff Tittel. “There is also important funding for transportation infrastructure projects like Gateway Tunnel and Positive Train Control to make our rails safer. While there have been runaway trains and malfunctions happening along NJ Transit lines, the federal government even mandated NJ Transit to upgrade their system with an automatic braking system, but they have failed to do. If this bill is signed into law, we hope the Governor will use this funding for automatic braking instead of keeping the lights on as he has done in the past.”

 

Even though this budget still sides with the fossil fuel industry over clean energy, it is better than all of Trump’s rollbacks on environmental protections in the budget. We are also glad that it kept tax incentives for solar and wind energy.

 

“The passing of this spending bill is a win for now, but it still needs to get past Trump. We are glad the House and Senate did the right thing and keep most of the EPA funding intact, while adding money to other important transportation projects, clean water programs, and keeping funding for renewable energy tax incentives. Unfortunately, Trump may still veto this budget so we must continue to speak out against his rollbacks. We fought 45 years ago for Congress to create the EPA and now we will fight all over again to stop the President from dismantling it,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “That is why we must work together and lead the fight for clean air, clean water and action on climate change. It will be up to us to protect our planet from Trump.”

 

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