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Agriculture’s congressional allies will need to think twice about cutting EPA’s budget to ensure money continues to programs such as pesticide regulation, a former top congressional staffer said Feb. 1.
John Goldberg, former science adviser for the House Agriculture Committee who recently formed his own consulting shop, said at a panel that Republicans in Congress may need to scale back on the mantra to defund the EPA under President Donald Trump to make sure that money flows to those programs.
“Simply cutting the EPA budget is not the answer to better government,” he said at a panel at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture winter policy conference.
Goldberg singled out the agency’s pesticide office, which registers pest killers for use and oversees the language on labels to ensure that pesticides are used safely. These programs operate differently than regulatory programs, where EPA directives to implement the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and other statutes have triggered conflict with state agencies.
“[Industry has] to communicate the new message to the Hill,” added Goldberg, who left the Agriculture Committee after 22 years last year to form Science Based Strategies. “There is an opportunity for better regulations rather than releasing the regulatory bulldogs.”
Myron Ebell, the former head of the Trump transition team for the EPA, said in an interview last week he favors cutting $1 billion from the agency’s roughly $8 billion budget and whittling down the workforce from 15,000 employees to about 5,000 employees. Don Benton, a senior White House adviser currently overseeing the agency’s transition, said in an e-mail to employees this week that “no final decisions have been made with regard to the EPA.”
The White House has not yet announced a date for the fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which will indicate the administration’s spending priorities for next year.
The new administration will offer a chance for the federal government and states to work jointly on managing environmental issues, said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, executive director of the Environmental Council of the States. This includes implementation of the revised Toxic Substances Control Act, which, for the first time, authorizes the EPA to share companies’ confidential business information with states, tribes, emergency responders and public health officials provided they agreed to safeguard it. “That’s what we’ve been trying to work on with EPA for a long, long time,” said Dunn, who also spoke on the panel representing the coalition of state environmental agencies. “Give us room, give us space to make decisions.”
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