Environmental protection has been a hot button issue for decades. Fortunately, today’s younger generation seems to be expressing more dedication to climate change reform. However, while younger adults strive for change, the government does not seem to match the public’s efforts. Instead, state governments are rolling back many regulations that support environmental protection.
In the last ten years, several states have collectively cut 4,400 job positions at agencies that are responsible for environmental protection.
Study Shows Drastic Budget Cuts To Environmental Protection Efforts
In a recent study published by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), analysts underscored the economical behavior of state agencies that strive to protect public health and the environment from all forms of pollution. Their discoveries were shocking.
From 2008 to 2018, EIP found that 31 states reduced funding for pollution control programs through their local environmental agencies. As a result, half of U.S. states were subject to budget cuts of at least 10 percent.
Out of these, Wisconsin experienced the largest reduction of 36% of funding for its environmental agency. Closely following are Texas and Louisiana with a reduction of 35% and North Carolina with a reduction of 34%.
Unfortunately, the losses do not stop there. On top of the rollbacks of funding, a total of 41 states have reduced their staff population in their respective environmental agencies.
Illinois suffered the most with a cut of 38% of its environmental staffing. In addition, North Carolina cut 35%, Arizona cut 32%, and Louisiana cut 30% of their respective staffings.
Why Are Budget Cuts Happening For Environmental Protection?
Surprisingly, these cuts are not necessarily the consequence of a partisan issue. Many Republican states, such as Texas and Louisiana, experienced large losses in environmental funding. However, Democratic states like New York and Illinois suffered as well.
The question then arises, if not for political opinion, why are these changes happening?
One explanation is the possibility that some states simply do not have the money. As noted in the report, federal and state governments play complementary but essential roles in environmental protection.
However, many states nor the EPA have enough funding to do their share. Unfortunately, this results in many of the cuts seen in the workforce.
For Instance, Texas Is Making Huge Reductions
However, Luke Metzger, the Executive Director of Environment Texas, explained another obvious reason: lack of care.
Metzger noted that with “one-third of [Texas] waterways unsafe for fishing and swimming and two-thirds of Texans living in areas with unsafe air quality, Texas has major environmental problems”.
However, he continues to note that “instead of meeting this challenge, [Texas] legislature is de-prioritizing the environment and public health”.
Unfortunately, Texas is not the only state de-prioritizing the issue.
In 2011, an EPA Inspector General report found that Louisiana had the worst enforcement of environmental laws in the country. In addition, North Carolina cut $136 million in 2008, a time when overall state spending increased.
Where Do These Decisions Leave Us?
Unfortunately, environmentalists and policy experts warn that state-level cuts are only the beginning. Following the trend, many foresee similar budget cuts in federal spending in the near future.
This would entail a larger slash in funding than the 16% already lost by the EPA between 2008 and 2018.
The truth is, there is no silver lining on these actions. To say in simpler terms, cuts to state environmental agencies are attacks on the quality of life across the country.
By stripping the allotted budget away from environmental protection, public health may very well deteriorate over time. Whether through the lack of spending or sheer apathy, the health of families, forests, and waterways are put in jeopardy by pollution.
Not only do we not want that for ourselves, but for the sake of future generations, something needs to change.