'An Amazing Assault': Former EPA Head McCarthy On Proposed 31 Percent Cut To Agency

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Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy in January (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy in January (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

The proposed budget from President Trump calls for a sharp increase in defense spending, coupled with cuts of close to 30 percent — or more — for other agencies including the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The proposal includes rolling back Obama-era protections and restrictions on greenhouse emissions. Trump also wants to cut 3,200 EPA employees.

Gina McCarthy is a former administrator of the EPA under President Obama. She's currently a fellow at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health and John F. Kennedy School of Government. McCarthy spoke with WBUR's All Things Considered about the president's proposed budget, which she notes would cut 50 EPA programs and about one-half of the agency's research and development division.

Interview Highlights

-- "It is literally and figuratively a scorched-earth budget. It is an amazing assault on clean air and clean water and clean land. It certainly will devastate the ability of the agency to protect public health the way we have all expected for the past 47 years and celebrated. It also will significantly reduce, to the tune of 45 percent, the kind of resources that go to states to manage those programs, as well. So anyone who says it's about getting rid of the federal government and leaving it to the states, this budget does not reflect that.

-- "We have a 30 percent cut in the Superfund program. Every state has to manage those hazardous waste sites and expects them to be cleaned up. ...

"But also, [the proposed budget is] an attack on the actions that have been taken to address climate change over the past four to six years. We have made tremendous progress in cleaning up our cars, making them more fuel efficient, lowering their greenhouse gas footprint. We've made significant investments in clean energy that has now put us on a chart to really have clean air from this point forward, as well as a reliable and effective energy system that's moving toward a low carbon future. ... The sad part about [the president's proposed budget] is it sends a signal to the rest of the world that the United States is backing up on its commitment to address climate. We're talking about half of our scientists being given a pink slip over the next year. This is all devastating consequences...

-- "I think we have a lot of support in Congress. Congress knows — even the Republicans — that this is a devastating budget for our environmental protections. But it is a shot out of the gate. And if you have this agency competing against significant cuts to Health and Human Services... [and] to other things, then you are going to probably come out somewhere a loser in that venue. And with the administration saying things like, 'If you want to drain the swamp, the first place to look is at EPA,' to me is sending a terrible signal. And it's also baffling. I do not understand why an agency whose sole mission it is to protect public health and who has managed to have such success and bipartisan support is now considered the first place to go to cut."

This segment aired on March 16, 2017.


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Jack Lepiarz Reporter and Anchor
Jack Lepiarz was a reporter and anchor at WBUR.


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Lynn Jolicoeur Producer/Reporter
Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.



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