Seven Democratic U.S. senators have expressed “grave concern” about the possible withholding of EPA cleanup dollars to Seattle, Portland, Washington, D.C., and New York City under a Trump administration executive order that seeks to deny funding to cities that have been labeled as “anarchist jurisdictions.”
“We have learned that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), in its internal meetings related to the policy, has begun to identify funding sources that could be subject to the directive, some of which are vital for the provision of safe drinking water and the remediation of contamination,” said an Oct. 6 letter to Andrew Wheeler, the EPA administrator, from Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray as well as five senators from Oregon, New York and Delaware.
The letter cites more than $1 billion the EPA could seek to “halt, deny, or rescind,” including a $192.2 million loan to Seattle to reduce combined sewer overflows.
Molly Block, an EPA spokeswoman, responded to the senators’ letter in an email that said the EPA “will continue to follow guidance from the White House in accordance with its statutory obligations.” But she said that “Any suggestion that EPA is intending to rescind state revolving loan funds or withhold grant awards or other financial commitments is false and misleading to the public.”
A Trump administration executive order signed in early September instructed Attorney General William Barr to develop a list of “anarchist jurisdictions,” where the Trump administration would not allow federal funding.
On Sept. 21, a memorandum from the executive office to the EPA and other agencies requested that reports detailing funding to Seattle, Portland, New York City and Washington, D.C., be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget. The memorandum asked for all grants, loans, contracts and other monetary awards for fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020.
That memo was cited by the senators in their letter.
“Setting aside the legally questionable and abhorrent nature of the President’s
directive, EPA’s implementation thereof could endanger human health and the
environment, the letter from the Democratic senators said.
Block, in an email to The Seattle Times, said “Senate minority members are once again peddling a false narrative,” and noted Trump administration accomplishments that include “deleting” 82 Superfund sites from a national priorities list.