States slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study

States slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study

A new report warns that spending cutbacks at state environmental protection agencies have led to thousands of job cuts at a time when the federal government is rolling back regulations.

The study from the advocacy group Environmental Integrity Project found that states have eliminated 4,400 positions at agencies responsible for protecting the environment over the past decade.

The group argues that the cuts have been especially damaging under the Trump administration and deregulation at places like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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“The Trump Administration has been trying to roll back EPA’s authority and funding by arguing that the states will pick up the slack and keep our air and water clean,” Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said in a statement.

“State agencies are often badly understaffed and the EPA workforce is already at its lowest level in more than thirty years," he added. "Neither EPA nor states have the funding they need to meet their responsibilities under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other laws that protect the public’s health and our environment from dangerous pollution.”

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.

Thirty states cut their environmental agency budgets from 2008 to 2018, according to the study. Wisconsin, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Delaware and New York all cut their agency budgets by at least 30 percent over the past decade, when adjusted for inflation.

Forty states reduced their staffing levels over that same time period, with Illinois, North Carolina, Arizona and Louisiana all cutting more than 30 percent of their positions, the study found.

“Neither EPA nor most state environmental agencies have enough funding to perform their responsibilities," the group wrote in its report. "Congress could help with more funding for both EPA and state agencies."

Under the Trump administration, the EPA has rolled back a number of environmental rules, including regulations on methane, replacing an Obama-era rule regulating power plants emissions and weakening vehicle emissions standards. The administration has also proposed easing a major Obama-era rule protecting waterways.

California was the only state to make significant investment in its environmental agency, boosting the funding for its Environmental Protection Agency by 75 percent and adding 1,255 staff over the decade, according to the report.