President Donald Trump’s administration is proposing serious cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—by $2 billion. These cuts will include removing the agency’s environmental justice office, reports CNN.
The office is responsible for providing funding to communities disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards through grants, keeping track of toxic sites through its screening and mapping tool and ensuring the government isn’t discriminating against communities by class or race when making decisions, among other things.
In October, it released its EJ 2020 Action Agenda, which laid out the office’s strategy to make sure that the environmental justice framework is implemented across government to better prevent health crises (like the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan) from occurring in communities of color.
“Through this decision to zero out funding for the EPA’s environmental justice programs, the president and the administrator have sent a shameful message: the health of poor Americans is less important than that of the wealthy,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, to The Guardian.
John Coequyt of the Sierra Club told CNN this move was “just racist.” He went on to say: “I can’t describe it in any other terms than a move to leave those communities behind. I can’t imagine what the justification would be, other than racism.”
The agency’s budget cuts will help the administration move toward increasing military funding by $54 billion. The administration has been targeting the agency for change since Trump took office in January. While at first it was acts like instructing the EPA to remove the “climate change” page from its website, the White House also appointed Scott Pruitt, a climate denier who has sued the EPA in the past, as head of the agency.