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EPA Warns of Budget Cuts

September 19, 1995
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri would lose more than $20 million in federal environmental protection funds under a budget plan for the Environmental Protection Agency passed by the U.S. House, according to EPA.

A bill cutting 34 percent of EPA's budget has passed in the U.S. House. The Senate version, which makes a smaller cut in EPA's budget, is scheduled for debate next week.

The proposed EPA budget cuts are part of the Congressional Republican plan to slow down the growth of federal government spending.

In a statement issued by EPA's Washington office, the budget plan would cut at least $22.9 million in public health and environmental protections for Missouri.

Cuts in Missouri the agency cited would include:

* a 50 percent overall loss in enforcement of existing environmental protections.

* $12.8 million lost in low-interest loans available to Missouri cities and towns for safe drinking water.

* a $10.1 million reduction of treatment for waste water (sewer) pollution in Missouri.

* blockage of public health protections from toxic air pollutants emitted by hazardous waste incinerators and cement kilns. Twelve facilities in Missouri would be exempted from pollution controls.

"A lot of money will be lost in Missouri to help overall water quality," said Dale Armstrong, spokesman for regional EPA office in Kansas City.

Currently, 47 percent of rivers and 12 percent of lakes in Missouri do not meet standards for recreational uses. "Numbers will go up in unswimmable and unfishable lakes and rivers, " Armstrong said.

This potential for environmental damage also has the state's environment agency worried.

"The House Bill is not favorable to the environment or to the EPA," said David Shorr, Director of Missouri's Natural Resources Department. The Senate Bill is "clearly much more based on a desire to change an overall philosophy of EPA/state relations with respect to the environment."

The proposed Senate cuts are less than the House's, giving the EPA $770 million more than the House version. But the Senate proposal still falls $1.5 billion below current funding.

"I still have concerns on EPA's ability to do its job," Shorr said of the Senate version.

The Environmental Quality Division in Shorr's department receives $10 to 12 million yearly plus funding for sewage treatment plant construction from EPA. Potentially, these cuts "could have an effect on our agency and our ability to perform for the public," Shorr said.

Missouri's Republican Sen. Kit Bond is chairman of the Senate Appropriations sub-committee which passed the bill, 17-11.

"There is no longer any dispute over the critical need to reduce excessive Federal spending and to bring the budget back into balance," Bond said in a statement issued by his office.

U.S. Rep. Bill Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, voted in favor of the bill. "Congress is working to make our environmental laws more cost effective while maintaining the public's commitment to the protection of our natural resources," Emerson said in a statement.