Kansas City’s vacant lots would prove harder to develop, its children might be sicker and jobs would slip away if the Trump administration gouges the Environmental Protection Agency, advocates for spending said Tuesday.
At a news conference outside the Richard Bolling Federal Building in downtown Kansas City, a former head of the EPA regional office warned that President Donald Trump’s budget cuts to the agency risk the health and economy of the metro area.
“These cuts will have consequences for the cities, the states and the communities we live in,” said Mark Hague, the former top administrator for EPA’s Region 7 and a 37-year employee of the agency. “There’s a lot that’s in jeopardy.”
The Trump White House in March announced its plan to slash funding to the EPA by more than a third and lay off 3,200 workers, or roughly 20 percent of the payroll. It would wipe away some 50 EPA programs, including grants to cities to fight air pollution.
“The budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities,” Trump’s budget stated.
His move falls in line with traditional Republican thinking that local control better fits the needs of keeping pollution in check and that the federal government’s anti-pollution regulations have become a significant obstacle to business.
Hague, along with a member of the Kansas City Council and a handful of people from private groups opposed to the cuts, staged the press conference to argue that the practical effect will be more pollution and less commercial development.
Scott Wagner, Kansas City’s mayor pro tem and a member of the council from the Northland, was particularly critical of plans to cut the EPA’s “brownfields“ program. It provides grants and technical assistance to clean up and reuse land burdened with pollution from earlier use. That can range from small-scale projects like former gas stations or large and complicated parcels such as the Bannister Federal Complex, which once made non-nuclear parts to nuclear weapons.
“The uncertainty going forward will be a problem in redeveloping parts of Kansas City,” Wagner said.
Others at the news conference suggested that trying to shift pollution regulation to the states — already strapped and struggling to pay for functions such as schools — is just another way to eliminate safeguards for clean air and water.
Efforts to protect children from lead contamination through paint in older buildings or decades-old gasoline spills were already withering away, said Jennifer Lowry, a pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“These cuts will only make matters worse,” she said.