When congressional Republicans cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget 16% as part of a deal with President Obama in April to keep the government running, they hailed it as a blow to a federal bureaucracy that had overreached in its size and ambition.


But, now that the agency has detailed how it is making the $1.6-billion cut for fiscal 2011, the reality is somewhat different. Because the EPA passes the vast majority of its money through to the states, it has meant that these governments — not Washington — are taking the biggest hits. Already constrained financially at home, state officials have millions of dollars less to enforce the nation’s air- and water-quality laws, fund critical capital improvements and help communities comply with new, more stringent pollution controls imposed by the federal government.


Indian Head, MD, won’t get the nearly $1 million it has requested to improve sewer lines and rehabilitate manhole covers. Wyandotte County, KS, has suspended its hazardous-waste public awareness programs. And, Virginia will scale back the studies it is conducting to evaluate nitrogen runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.


“The federal government and state grants are both shrinking while our demands are increasing exponentially,” says Andrew Ginsburg, air quality division administrator at Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality. “We’re definitely feeling the crunch here.”


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