Cuts Weaken Effectiveness of State Environmental Agencies - Word&Way

Cuts Weaken Effectiveness of State Environmental Agencies


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The capacity of state environmental agencies to assess and enforce environmental protection policies is being diminished by funding and staff cuts, according to a report published Dec. 5 by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

The D.C.-based nonprofit, launched in 2002, reviewed the “annual expenditures and staffing levels from fiscal year 2008 to 2018 for state agencies that protect public health and the environment from all forms of pollution.”

Its analysis found that among the lower 48 states, more than 4,000 state-level environmental control positions were eliminated from 2008 to 2018, with nine states cutting at least 20% of their agencies’ staff and 21 states reducing staff by at least 10%.

Such reductions are the result of agency budget cuts, with EIP finding that 30 states had made such cuts during the last decade.

Of the 30 states that decreased the budget for their environmental protection agencies, Wisconsin (36% decrease), Louisiana (35% decrease) and Texas (35% decrease) enacted the largest declines.

These states were followed closely by North Carolina (34% decrease), Delaware (33% decrease) and New York (31% decrease).

“These steep reductions came despite evidence that many environmental violations are not resulting in enforcement or penalties,” the report said. “For example, there are 2,098 sewage plants, factories and other industrial sites in 49 states that are currently in significant violation of federal air, water or hazardous waste pollution control laws, including 1,255 that have been in violation every quarter continuously for the last three years, according to EPA records.”

A total of 17 states increased the budgets of their environmental agencies during this period, with Connecticut (117% increase) and California (74% increase) leading the way. No usable data was available for West Virginia.

The next closest increases were in Vermont (38% increase), Missouri (35% increase), Colorado (31% increase) and Oregon (28% increase), with the remaining states seeing increases of 20% of less.

While 17 state agencies received budget increases, only eight states saw staffing increases, with California (28% increase) being the only state with a percent increase above 4%.

All the other 39 states assessed in the report saw staffing decreases (staffing data was not available for Wisconsin), with Illinois (38% decrease), North Carolina (35% decrease) and Arizona (32% decrease) having the highest percentage reductions.

The full report is available here.

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