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Democrats allege EPA plans to withhold funding from 'anarchist' cities

Democrats allege EPA plans to withhold funding from 'anarchist' cities
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats’ top Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) watchdog is warning that the agency plans to withhold funds to clean contaminated land and drinking water sources in Seattle, Portland, New York and Washington, D.C., citing a directive from President TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE to withhold federal funds from “anarchist” jurisdictions.

“We have learned that EPA, 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,” Environmental and Public Works Committee ranking member Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTrump signs bipartisan bill funding conservation grants  OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats allege EPA plans to withhold funding from 'anarchist' cities | Montana asks court to throw out major public lands decisions after ousting BLM director | It's unknown if fee reductions given to oil producers prevented shutdowns Democrats allege EPA plans to withhold funding from 'anarchist' cities MORE (D-Del.) wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior official called Black Lives Matter 'racist,' defended alleged Kenosha shooter | Trump signs bipartisan bill funding conservation grants  Overnight Energy: Interior ends endangered species protections for gray wolves | Top Interior official retaliated against whistleblower, watchdog says | EPA limits enforcement of pesticide application boundaries EPA limits enforcement of pesticide application boundaries MORE.

“Setting aside the legally questionable and abhorrent nature of the President’s directive, EPA’s implementation thereof could endanger human health and the environment,” he continued in the letter, which was signed by six other Democrats. “We strongly urge you not to take any action that could result in the collective loss of more than a billion dollars of funding intended to clean up contamination and drinking water in these American cities.”

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The Sept. 2 directive from Trump said the administration would “not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones” — a nod to protests against racial inequalities taking place in major cities. 

EPA has already pushed ahead with the directive in New York.

A late September letter from Wheeler to New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoNew York attorney general working on list of Trump initiatives for Biden to reverse Paul Rudd hands out cookies to long lines of early voters waiting in rain Two events in NY county turn into superspreaders that infect 56 people MORE (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioOn The Money: Trump makes a late pitch on the economy | US economy records record GDP gains after historic COVID-19 drop | Pelosi eyes big COVID-19 deal in lame duck De Blasio mum on whether he'll block sale of Mets to controversial investor De Blasio says New Yorkers should avoid holiday travel: 'It's sad. It's very sad' MORE (D)  characterized summer protests in the city as a danger to the EPA’s Manhattan office.

“If you cannot demonstrate that EPA employees will be safe accessing our New York City offices, then I will begin the process of looking for a new location for our regional headquarters outside of New York City that can maintain order. I have an obligation to our employees, and if the city is unwilling or incapable of doing its job, I will do mine and move them to a location that can competently fulfill the basic mission of a local government,” Wheeler wrote.

Carper called the move a “retaliatory threat [that] would waste taxpayer dollars and endanger the jobs of the nearly 600 people who work there.”

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EPA accused Carper and others of “peddling a false narrative to diminish the accomplishments of the Trump Administration.”

“EPA will continue to follow guidance from the White House in accordance with its statutory obligations,” agency spokeswoman Molly Block said in an email. 

Carper’s letter outlines millions designated for each city to help with clean water and contaminated areas.

Portland was invited to apply for $554 million in Water Infrastructure and Finance Innovation Act loans to improve its drinking water quality. Seattle got $192.2 million under the same grant program. D.C. got $158,000 in funding to test for lead in drinking water in schools along with roughly $20 million in other drinking water funds.

New York got $300,000 in Brownfields funding to clean up sites with “the intention of redeveloping vacant and abandoned properties and turning them into community assets such as housing, recreation and open space, health facilities, social services and commerce opportunities.”

Carper identified each as “funding that EPA may seek to halt, deny or rescind.”