The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides broad-ranging benefits to all Americans. The EPA ensures that our water is clean, our air is breathable, and that our communities are protected from toxic hazards and the impacts of climate change. The EPA coordinates with state and local governments, businesses, and other stakeholders to provide services through grants to states, law enforcement, and setting health and safety standards. President Trump’s budget, however, proposes slashing the agency by nearly a third – a plan for more pollution, less accountability for breaking the law, and worse health for Tennessee.
Protecting Tennessee’s Water Resources The EPA sets health-based standards limiting contaminants in drinking water and establishing thresholds for safe swimming and fishing. It provides billions of dollars to communities to deliver safe drinking water and improve water quality. The EPA can also step in to ensure the safety of drinking water sources threatened by oil and gas operations when states refuse to act. After disasters, the EPA provides resources to get drinking water and sewage treatment back online quickly.
EPA provides grants to states to implement control programs for "non-point" sources of water pollution, like agricultural runoff, which are often poorly controlled but which also can be significant contributors to water bodies' degradation. In fiscal year 2016, EPA provided Tennessee with approximately $2.5 million. Trump’s budget proposes cutting categorical grants by roughly 45%.
In Fiscal Year 2016, EPA supported over $19 million in water infrastructure grants in Tennessee under the Clean Water Act’s State Revolving Fund program. Nationally, EPA reports that since 1987, that program “provided over … $118.7 billion to communities” and supported “38,450 low-cost loans” for wastewater system repairs and upgrades that prevent raw sewage discharges, manage contaminated urban runoff, and upgrade publicly owned treatment facilities. By slashing clean drinking water funding coming through the Department of Agriculture for small rural communities, Trump’s budget proposal would reduce the overall national investment in water infrastructure and place additional pressure on the revolving funds.
EPA’s Clean Water Rule protects small streams and other critical water bodies. In Tennessee, headwater, rain-fed, and seasonal streams contribute to the drinking water supplies of 3.5 million people. The budget for EPA programs to prevent water pollution should not be reduced.
Defending Clean Air in Tennessee The EPA sets and enforces limits on dangerous air pollutants from factories, refineries, power plants, oil and gas extraction, and vehicles. Ensuring these laws are implemented protects public health, helping prevent asthma attacks, birth defects, respiratory and cardiovascular disease and cancer. In addition, EPA ensures Tennessee is protected from other states’ unsafe air pollution, because dirty air doesn’t stop at state lines.
In Tennessee, EPA programs to reduce dangerous air pollution and toxic mercury save up to 2,075 lives per year. Cutting EPA’s budget won’t protect our air or health.
EPA standards to reduce dangerous air pollution and toxic mercury from power plants in Tennessee will create $3 billion in health benefits for the state. Cutting funding for the EPA could jeopardize clean air programs that create millions of dollars in health benefits.
The EPA plays a central role in protecting our air quality, providing benefits to the 448,599 adults and 145,505 children in Tennessee diagnosed with asthma. Asthma attacks were the cause of 13,779 pediatric emergency room visits and over $1.1 billion in associated medicals costs in Tennessee in 2008.
Trump’s proposed budget would cut enforcement by 24% - this would eliminate funding to pursue cases when power plants violate laws that reduce dangerous emissions in Tennessee’s communities.
Protecting Tennessee’s Communities from Toxic Hazards
EPA regulates hazardous waste treatment, handling, and disposal facilities across Tennessee and the country to avoid contamination of our air, water and soils by toxic chemicals. The agency’s Superfund Program is also responsible for protecting communities by preventing and cleaning up hazardous releases that endanger community health. Through this program, EPA provides resources to identify and clean up contaminated sites, such as brownfields.
There are 17 hazardous waste sites in Tennessee on the EPA’s National Priority List for the Superfund program, which helps communities clean up toxic pollution. Trump’s proposed budget would cut the Superfund program by more than 30%, slowing down their ability to help clean up these sites.
In Tennessee, there are 130 brownfields sites, land contaminated and needing cleanup to be used or redeveloped. Without funding, the EPA won’t be able to clean-up dangerous contamination.
Fighting Climate Change
Climate change poses threats to our health and our economy. Last year was the 3 rd hottest year on record in Tennessee. The EPA has the responsibility to clean up the dangerous carbon pollution that fuels climate change. In fact, the EPA already finalized a plan that would save up to $54 billion and 3,500 American lives by 2030. Cutting funding for EPA climate change programs will endanger lives and cost money across Tennessee and the country.
Promoting Cost-Saving Energy Efficiency in Tennessee
The EPA maintains the ENERGY STAR® program, which helps consumers identify the most energy efficient appliances, equipment, and buildings that can save them money and energy.
Nationally, the ENERGY STAR New Homes program, which allows homeowners to purchase third-party verified, highly-efficient homes, has saved American homeowners more than $4.7 billion on utility bills over the last 20 years. In total, the program has saved homeowners enough energy to power 2 million homes for a year – while improving comfort and indoor air quality. In 2015, almost 10 percent of all single-family homes built were ENERGY STAR-rated, with these new homeowners expected to save $21 million annually on their electric and gas bills. In Tennessee, this program saves consumers over $190,000 annually.
Over 450,000 buildings across the country use ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager database to track and publish their energy use. Of these, around 30,000 commercial buildings – representing a diverse set of buildings including offices, hospitals, congregations, and schools – have achieved an ENERGY STAR rating of 75 or higher. This means that the building is more efficient than at least 75 percent of all similar building types in the nation. In Tennessee, 362 buildings are ENERGY STAR-rated.
In the United States, almost 10,000 school buildings have achieved an ENERGY STAR rating of 75 or higher that results in cost savings and improved indoor air quality. In Tennessee, 61 schools have earned this ENERGY STAR rating with an estimated annual cost saving of $1.4 million.
Trump’s budget proposal would eliminate this program entirely, preventing future efficiencies and savings.