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LETTER: What strong front line on climate change looks like

Steve Hvozdovich
Clean Water Action
This Sept. 21, 2017 file photo shows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Building in Washington. Criminal prosecution and convictions of polluters haven fallen to quarter-century lows under the Trump administration. That’s according to Justice Department figures for fiscal year 2019. The EPA says it’s improved in some other enforcement categories. But a former EPA agent in charge says three years of declines show the agency dismantling criminal enforcement. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Our front line in the battle against climate change got more thinned out when President Trump unveiled last week a draft budget that invests in polluters by slashing the Environmental Protection Agency budget 26.5%.

The agency that should be seeking ways to reduce pollutants like methane and carbon that are warming our planet at an unsustainable rate and holding emitters of these pollutants accountable is instead seeing $376 million taken from air quality improvement efforts and having their staff reduced to its lowest levels in three decades.

Fortunately, Gov. Tom Wolf and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection are offering a counter narrative to Trump's slash (the budget) and burn (the planet) approach. During his recent budget address, Gov. Wolf proposed restoring spending from the general fund for environmental protection at a level it hasn’t been at since 1994-95 and adding additional staff to address critical environmental protection programs, like Air Quality.

More:Pa. leads nation in per capita premature deaths due to air pollution, study finds

More:EPA prosecutions of polluters approach quarter-century lows

Also poised to move soon are his plans to cut methane emissions from the state’s sizable existing gas industry and participate in a regional trading program to reduce greenhouse gas emission. Through these proactive, positive steps, Pennsylvania is seeing firsthand what a strong front line on the battle to tackle climate change should look like. With truly no time to waste, we should all get behind these actions and quickly get them to the finish line.

— Steve Hvozdovich is the Pennsylvania Campaigns director for Clean Water Action.