The word is out. The Trump administration wants to cut 93%, that’s right, 93% of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA budget) for restoration and monitoring of Puget Sound. (Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes also face such draconian measures). The details of this proposed budget, and the likelihood of it being enacted, are murky at best.
There’s a big “however” here. However, murkiness notwithstanding we sailors can take steps to save our Sound. We have to be ready to fight for our beautiful Salish Sea. It doesn’t take long to pollute. It does take a long time to clean it up. And sailors do know how to make noise. What we can do now is give our elected officials, particular those in support of the new administration, an earful.
Here’s the essence of it, assuming that the 93% cut regionally and 24% nationally is seriously proposed. It has nothing to do with a Washington immigrant feud with Trump, as has been suggested. It has everything to do with Trump and the Republicans trying to blow up the EPA. From their standpoint, why not? They deny global warming and have willfully forgotten what our waterways were like in 1970 and why the EPA was created in the first place. Furthermore, they believe that regulations have stifled our economy. So, why not get rid of the EPA?
And here’s a really fitting nugget: Environmental Education would be cut 94%. To my mind, those were some of the most effective dollars spent. Change people’s minds, and you change their behavior. My behavior has certainly changed as I’ve learned more about the environment.
They believe that protecting the environment is bad for business, though businesses seem to have managed. A model might be our boatyards. They’ve made changes to their business model, and many (though not all) have withstood the onslaught of dubious lawsuits. They’ve utilized new technologies and charged their customers a bit more with an explanation. And while there’s plenty of room for discussion about lawsuits, boatyards and bottom paints, there’s one undeniable fact. Boatyards have become cleaner.
This move is not about budget savings. All of Donald Trump’s proposals regarding infrastructure, walls, and military show that he’s not cutting “here” to make more money available “there.” It’s comically out of whack. If this were about trimming the budget, there’d be a serious proposal to cut a percentage and a mandate for each department to come up with well reasoned cuts.
No, this is about diminishing our country’s dedication to the environment. It’s about declaring that global warming doesn’t exist. It’s about putting business profits ahead of all else. It’s about a philosophy that regulation is bad and that the free market can and will take care of everything. The administration is willing to sacrifice the condition of Puget Sound and kick the cleanup can to our kids’ corners. I can’t even get my kids to pick up their own socks.
It’s about putting a guy like Scott Pruitt in charge who has been in the pocket of big business his entire career and fought the EPA tooth and nail. The Republicans have even introduced a bill to eliminate the EPA.
Apparently, the idea is that by gutting the EPA, businesses will become more profitable and somehow our lives will be enhanced. Since the economic recovery from the great recession began, businesses have been hoarding their profits, making the rich richer. There’s NO reason to think that “unburdening” them will make them more civically or environmentally minded.
And here’s the clincher, and it’s an economic one. A clean Sound makes money. A dirty Sound costs money. There are shellfish beds, salmon fisheries, sport fishing, and yes, recreational boating.
Trump and the current Republicans don’t see the dollar value of a clean environment or the expense of cleaning it up when it does get polluted. Excuse me, but they’re pooping on the hard work (sometimes not efficient or even misguided, but mostly highly valuable work) of Republicans, Democrats, Independents and ordinary citizens, since the early 1970s.
I’ve always thought that the greatest environmental gains were made through cooperative efforts. Sure, industry lobbying for its interests, and environmentalists lobbying for theirs, but the workable solution always seemed to lie somewhere between the two. And the EPA was an effective arbiter. Both sides have screamed and yelled that the EPA hasn’t been doing its job. I was splashing around southern Lake Michigan in 1970. I can say first hand that it has done its job.
The Trump administration has decided Puget Sound (and Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes) is not worth cleaning up and protecting. It’s up to all of us in Washington State to join together and fight for Puget Sound. And make no mistake, if the EPA is eviscerated, we will have to. Shellfish harvesters, sportfishermen, commercial, recreational, business organizations, private citizens, all of us, need to work together. Who knows, in this adversarial climate we might find some surprising alliances.
Oh, yeah, and about those salmon. Guess what eat salmon? Our Southern Resident orcas. They’re already on a dangerously thin diet.
While we have a profound history in Washington of dumping unspeakables in places like Commencement Bay and Lake Union, and damming up some of the most productive salmon runs in the world, we also have a history of learning from our mistakes and becoming champions for our environment. I hope and expect that as Trump’s government abdicates its responsibilities, we sailors can join other Washingtonians to stop the madness. At least here.
Stay tuned, because I’m going to weigh in on the No Discharge Zone (yes, it may be happening) and a proposed no-go zone around San Juan Island to protect those orcas.
Here are some links that you might find interesting. The excellent environmental writer Christopher Dunagan gives his analysis of the proposed cuts. KOMO News gives its mass media overview. For those of you numbers folks out there, I found a list of proposed changes from the 2016 to 2018 EPA budgets and the actual 2016 EPA Budget in Brief.