LTE: Government Shutdown Prevents EPA From Keeping Us Healthy

The following letter to the editor was published in The Berkshire Edge on January 15, 2019 and was written by Joshua Cohen, our Director of Campaigns.

LTE: Government Shutdown Prevents EPA From Keeping Us Healthy

It’s hard these days not to feel like we are under attack, to be confident that our children are safe. Just look at what the Trump administration is doing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The one public agency mandated to keep us healthy and our air and water clean is being systematically dismantled and picked apart. We are watching nearly 50 years of progress unravel before our eyes. The Clean Air Act and Clean Water Rule were designed to keep us healthy. Mercury and air toxin standards save lives. The Endangered Species Act protects wildlife and our country’s great wild places. Bans on toxic pesticides like chlorpyrifos keep farm workers and consumers safe. The Clean Power Plan and fuel efficiency standards are good for our health and our pockets. This is what the EPA does, and none of it can be taken for granted.

I find some relief in Congress demonstrating a commitment to preserve the EPA’s 2019 budget, but am dismayed at the current government shutdown over a wall no one needs. It highlights the importance of preserving the integrity of the EPA even more acutely. During a shutdown, vital services stop. During the 2013 shutdown, 94 percent of EPA staff were furloughed, which meant that environmental laws were not enforced, food safety measures were hard to address (including a significant Salmonella outbreak), clean up on Superfund sites were halted and emergency responses were slowed, to name a few. The current shutdown may also impact review of drinking water systems, among other critical programs.

We need strong leadership to strengthen, not weaken, common sense protections that benefit all of us and push a cleaner, greener economy that will simultaneously address an already changing climate, create a groundswell of new jobs and protect all of our communities. The actions of the administration should be met with resistance from all of us who like breathing clean air and drinking clean water. A new Congress would be wise to keep this in mind.