Drastic cuts in the federal Environmental Protection Agency budget could mean reduced enforcement of water quality and air emissions laws in Washington state.
The cuts and provisions - if upheld by the Senate and President Clinton - will affect towns such as Wilbur and Colville and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, according to the EPA.
“It’s obvious Congress is going to make major cutbacks and, in many cases, eliminate funds (to the EPA),” said Spokane resident Bob Apple, a member of the Spokane environmental group Citizens for Clean Air.
The Senate still has not acted on the bill passed by the House late Monday - part of a $79.4 billion package that would also finance environmental, housing, space and veterans programs for the next year.
Cuts that would be felt in Eastern Washington include:
A $774,000 loan the town of Wilbur is expected to receive to upgrade a wastewater treatment system would be eliminated. According to an EPA report, residents have been exposed to raw sewage and frequent overflows into nearby Goose Creek, which has threatened the city’s ground water supply.
Funding to repair Colville’s sewer system would be delayed.
Some parts of the cleanup of radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear facility would be slowed down or halted.
Statewide effects of the House action include:
The EPA’s power to require refineries to have operating permits would be limited. In Washington six refineries emitted 1.1 million pounds of toxic air pollution in one year, according to the EPA’s toxic release inventory.
More than 45,000 oil and gas processing facilities would be exempt from provisions in the Clean Air Act that require industries to comply with risk management plans.
State grants used to help clean up leaking underground storage tanks would be cut 40 percent.
The EPA cuts also would limit funding for construction of sewage plants in Washington, and it would limit $3 million for stormwater treatment plants.
Yet proponents of the bill say that repetitive and expendable programs within the EPA must be cut to pare down the federal budget.
“A lot of people believe that $5 billion for one agency is adequate,” said Ken Lisaius, press secretary for George Nethercutt, R-Wash. That amount, he said, should “allow them to go back to their original mission of protecting the environment.”