EDITORIAL: Trump budget continues assault on environment

York Dispatch

When it came to draining the figurative swamp in Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump failed miserably, so it should be no surprise that he’s not exactly concerned about the condition of real bodies of water either.

The president’s 2019 budget plan would take a chainsaw to clean-water efforts — and just about every other manner of environmental protection.

More:Trump’s $4.4 trillion budget moves deficit sharply higher

The Environmental Protection Agency would see a third of its budget cut, with funding for climate-change programs virtually eliminated. How’s that for forward thinking?

And among the programs in the crosshairs are two that especially affect Pennsylvania. The Chesapeake Bay Program and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would each see funding cut — are you sitting down? — 90 percent.

More:EDITORIAL: Keep bay cleanup on track

That’s galling because the Chesapeake program — initiated under President Ronald Reagan — has been a resounding success of late. Its aggressive pollution-reduction efforts have diminished runoff to the point where, last summer, scientists recorded no dead zones in the bay, and found its signature Maryland blue crabs are again thriving.

More:Chesapeake Bay Foundation gives media first-hand look at bay

The Great Lakes program, which, among other initiatives, fights the spread of invasive species in Pennsylvania-bordering Lake Erie, would see its budget cut from $300 million to $30 million.

Pennsylvania and New York are the only two states that both border the Great Lakes and are part of the Chesapeake Bay Program. As bad as the proposed cuts are, they could be worse: Trump proposed zeroing out both programs last year.

More:Trump proposes eliminating Chesapeake Bay program

“This is yet another assault on clean water, from a president who campaigned saying he valued it,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker.

Though this is cold comfort, the foundation shouldn’t feel singled out. The administration’s spending plans also target the Global Climate Initiative, the toxic sites superfund, and federal programs to measure sea-level rise and radon detection. All would be either slashed severely or eliminated entirely.

Some cuts are particularly indefensible. The Energy Department’s program to develop renewable energy would be cut completely. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood mapping program would be cut 50 percent — despite the horrendous effects of recent hurricanes in the Southeast.

It is all part of an agenda that can only be called anti-environmental. Between his mule-headed refusal to acknowledge climate change, his EPA appointments and his budget proposals, Trump seems bent on blocking environmental progress from sea to rising sea.

More:EDITORIAL: EPA must face up to a new normal

The silver lining is that the administration’s budget proposals are unlikely to emerge from Congress intact. And measures like the Chesapeake Bay Program enjoy bipartisan support.

Thank goodness. Because Pennsylvania — beset by questionable air quality, pockmarked with abandoned coal mines, and shot through with wastewater and other aftereffects of hydraulic fracking — can ill afford a reversal of environmental advances on any front.

Successful programs aimed at reviving and protecting the waters of Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes —waters which millions drink and eat fish from, swim in, and enjoy for recreation — should be supplemented by federal lawmakers, not undermined by a backwards, science-denying political agenda.