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Proposed EPA Cuts Could Be Disastrous For NYC

Many businesses feel they need to do their part to preserve the planet. Not only could they help reverse the negative effects of climate change, but they could also attract customers by doing so. In fact, 52% of people around the world say they make purchasing decisions due to, in part, packaging that shows a brand making a positive environmental or social impact.

Big, sweeping gestures aren’t always necessary, though. When smaller businesses want to become more eco-friendly, they might implement recycling programs or switch to electronic invoices, which are undoubtedly better for the environment than traditional paper billing. But if Trump’s planned EPA cuts go through, these efforts may all be for naught — especially in already vulnerable metropolises like New York City.

A recently unveiled budget proposal from the Office of Management and Budget includes a $2.6 billion cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This 31% decrease has “potentially serious implications” for NYC, says former regional EPA administrator Judith Enck. Most notably, it poses a risk to the safety of the city’s drinking water.

In 2016, a new study indicated that an estimated 218 million Americans have dangerous levels of chromium-6 in their home’s tap water — a number much higher than expected. But in New York City, changes to how the EPA operates could have a very drastic effect on the water quality due to how it’s sourced.

Enck explained, “New York [City] is unique in that not all our drinking water is filtered.” New Yorkers are able to drink unfiltered water from the Catskills “because there is a real effort to protect it at the source. EPA staff are very diligent about looking at [water] test results” to ensure no parasites, bacteria, or pathogens at unsafe levels could make people sick.

In addition to reducing the operating budget, Trump’s proposal also includes reducing the EPA’s staff by 3,200 positions and eliminating more than 50 different programs run by the agency. Enck points out that those job cuts will reduce protections in a significant way. The cuts would also make it much more difficult for the EPA to respond to natural disasters and emergencies.

But New York has never been one to back down. Governor Cuomo announced that New York was prepared to upgrade drinking water and wastewater systems throughout the state with a $60 million investment.

Still, experts agree that the effect on New York City’s water supply could be disastrous, and the air quality could continue to worsen. Currently, none of New York City’s five boroughs meet federal air quality standards for ozone levels.

The director of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, Joel Kupferman, said that after the cutbacks take place, “our air will be even worse. There will be less enforcement of the standards we have.”

Sean Dixon, a staff attorney for a non-profit organization that protects the Hudson River, predicted, “No matter where the cards fall, this won’t benefit our region.”

Enck cautions the new administration to look elsewhere for budget cuts.

“The entire EPA budget for the whole country is only $8.14 billion and they’re talking about cutting that budget while increasing the military’s budget, which is more than $600 billion annually. Cutting the EPA budget for fiscal reasons is not going to save that much,” and may end up costing more in potential environmental catastrophes, she said.

Ironically, Trump buildings were recently found to be among the worst polluters in New York City. The EPA website, which used to describe the agency’s mission as developing “scientific and technological foundations to achieve clean water,” now says it aims to focus on “economically and technologically achievable performance standards.”