How You Can Help A Weakened US EPA

The environment took a big hit in Washington D.C. this week, writes Sarah Sikich, Heal the Bay’s Vice President. Today, we’re launching the first of three actions you can take to fight back locally. Stay tuned for two more actions in the coming days.

If you’re a scientist or a clean water advocate, it’s hard not to be concerned about recent developments in Washington, D.C. I’ve tried to remain positive. I’ve taken an observational attitude for overheated rhetoric about reining in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, hoping it would be more talk than action. I’ve hoped for the not-so-terrible, while preparing for the worse. Unfortunately, these threats are becoming reality.

3 Strikes & Clean Water Is Out

Three big blows have been dealt by the new administration to environmental and public health protections. These actions come from the White House, but their effects will ripple from D.C. to Santa Monica Bay:

Strike 1: Massive cuts to the US EPA budget and workforce.

The administration recently proposed the US EPA budget 2018 plan, which includes funding cuts of 25%, staff reductions of more than 3,000 people, and the complete elimination of funding for beach water quality monitoring across our nation. The impacts here in California will be felt deeply.

US EPA grants help underwrite the weekly sampling and testing of beaches in California, support public health protection against contaminated fish off the Palos Verdes Shelf for under-served communities, our local Santa Monica Bay Natural Estuary Program, and much more.

The administration has said it is committed to promoting clean water and clean air, but these actions demonstrate otherwise. It seems virtually impossible to maintain basic protections, given such deep cuts and job losses.

Strike 2: Weakening of the Clean Water Rule.

This week’s executive order directing US EPA to reevaluate the Waters of the U.S. rule has the potential to weaken clean water and habitat protections for countless streams and wetlands throughout our nation. The Obama administration expanded the definition of what water bodies are afforded protection by the federal Clean Water Act in 2015, safeguarding the drinking water of nearly 120 million Americans.

We have lost over 95% of wetland habitat in the greater L.A. area. With the threat of rolling back wetland protection at the federal level, it is imperative to bolster wetlands protection here in California. The California State Water Board is currently in the process of finalizing a statewide Wetland Policy. Heal the Bay scientists have been actively engaged in this process and we urge the State Board to adopt a strong policy that ensures wetland habitat is meaningfully protected and enhanced throughout our state.

Strike 3: Repeal of the Stream Protection Rule.

This law – enacted late last year under the Obama administration – protects waterways from being polluted by coal mining. The waste is not just toxic to aquatic life, but also poses major community health impacts. Many communities throughout the nation will suffer if these protections are repealed.

Take Action To Protect What You Love

These rollbacks jeopardize public health and economic vitality, both of which depend upon clean water and a healthy environment. But, Heal the Bay and its supporters are not going to remain silent. No matter what happens in D.C., there are concrete steps we can take in our backyard to ensure clean water and vibrant ecosystems.

Here is one simple thing you can do now to protect beach water quality monitoring and other critical environmental and community health programs:

Tell Congress to Maintain EPA Funding