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Activists and employees gather outside EPA for emergency protest

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The Environmental Protection Agency was a gathering place for activists, union members and employees during an emergency protest held outside the facility March 15.

Although the federal agency budgets have not yet been released, the proposed budget was released at the end of February. The proposed budget included a 10 percent increase to military spending, preceded by smaller cuts to other agencies including the U.S. Department of State and the EPA.

The protest attracted speakers from Congress, activist groups and past employees who voiced opposition to the 2018 fiscal year budget cut the EPA is expected to take.

The proposed budget cuts the EPA’s funding by 31.4 percent, taking $2.6 billion and reducing the agency’s staffing to 3,200 employees.

Dr. Dianne Rahm, political science professor, weighed in on the issue.

“The budget cuts proposed by the Trump budget, if they are passed by Congress, will have a large impact on EPA in terms of staff and programs they can oversee,” Rahm said.  “Trump is also pushing back on several recent rules such as the Waters of the United States and the Clean Power Plan.”

Rahm said President Donald Trump is able to reverse recent rules because they might have not been finalized. Congress can vote to throw a rule out, however, it comes with a lengthy formal rulemaking process.

“If the states and localities are robbed from having sufficient resources and technical tools, to clean up the air or the water, public health will suffer,” said Bill Becker with the National Association of Clear Air Agencies in an interview with CNN.

The budget would create a reduction of the agency on federal, state and division levels. This includes enforcement of air pollution laws and regulations in Houston, and in San Marcos or the Gulf of Mexico for clean water protection.

“The EPA operates on the concept of environmental federalism,” Rahm said.  “Almost all of the federal EPA programs are implemented via state agencies. This includes the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and many others. There has been a great deal of tension between Texas and the EPA over the last eight years, at least.”

Millions of dollars of the federal agency go directly to the Texas Commission on Environment Quality. As the budget is still being discussed and tempered with, White House budget officials said the budget will be set in May and enacted in October.

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