An environmental activist group raced to criticize President Donald Trump Monday for proposing a budget that “guts” Superfund cleanup efforts — before having to take it back as inaccurate.
Lukas Ross, climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, issued a statement criticizing Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, claiming it would cut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget from $5.6 billion to $5.4 billion. That would translate to a $272 million cut to the Superfund cleanup program and effectively end federal efforts to clean up sites with the worst environmental contamination.
“Unsurprisingly, toxic waste cleanup isn’t a concern for an administration that’s done everything to please corporate polluters,” Ross said in the statement. “Additionally, the categorical grant program that goes to help states and tribes with environmental protection will be slashed by over 40 percent. Donald Trump and [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt are sending polluters a dream budget, at the expense of Americans’ public health and the environment.”
Just one problem. The group misstated the budget — and had to issue a new statement hours later, rescinding its criticism.
“In our attempt to quickly analyze the 2019 budget, we missed the addendum. In error, we missed a proposed increase in EPA spending levels included to acknowledge last week’s deal to raise the spending caps,” Friends of the Earth stated. “Therefore, we are retracting our statement. Please disregard our previous statement. We have also pulled it from our website. We humbly apologize for the error and any inconvenience it caused.”
That addendum calls for an additional $327 million to the Hazardous Substance Superfund account.
“The additional funding would advance the cleanup and reuse of contaminated sites on the National Priorities List,” the addendum states.
Congress established the Superfund program in 1980 in response to toxic waste dumps such as Love Canal in New York and Valley of the Drums in Kentucky. There are more than 1,000 Superfund sites scattered across the country at former manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills, and mining sites.
Hundreds of these sites have languished for decades without being cleaned up despite the expenditure of millions of tax dollars on them. Pruitt made it one of his first priorities upon being confirmed as EPA head to speed up the Superfund program, with emphasis on the oldest sites.