The head of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has denounced the Trump administration's proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), revealed last week as part of a $1.6 trillion budget proposal.
In a letterto new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell wrote that "slashing the EPA budget -- including a potential 30% reduction in the funding we use to carry out responsibilities under federal environmental laws -- would have an immediate and devastating effect on my state's ability to ensure that Pennsylvania's air is safe to breathe, our water is safe to drink, and our economy prospers."
The cuts "signal the Trump administration's disregard for its responsibility to protect the health and safety of American citizens," he added.
Overlying parts of both the Marcellus and Utica Shales, Pennsylvania is among the largest natural gas-producing states, outputting a record 5.1 Tcf in 2016, according to recently released DEP data.
Though not directly mentioning natural gas, McDonnell pointed to several areas where the cuts could harm Pennsylvania businesses, including through permitting delays as regulators attempt to do the same with less.
Cuts to the Bureau of Air Quality "would limit air monitoring for harmful pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, mercury, and particulate matter, and have a negative impact on the timeline for review of air quality permits, which companies need in order to start operations or expand," he said.
"...These budget cuts do not reduce any of the responsibilities that DEP has to the people of Pennsylvania” even as they “decrease the resources available to fulfill those responsibilities," McDonnell wrote. "These cuts, if enacted, would harm businesses seeking permits, and harm residents' clean water, air, and land."
Federal and state cooperation has helped to address a number of environmental issues in Pennsylvania, McDonnell wrote. "We urge the Trump administration not to turn its back on those very federal-state partnerships that have produced these many benefits," he said.
McDonnell also criticized Pruitt for recent comments in which he said he doubts whether carbon dioxide is a "primary contributor" to global warming. Since assuming his new role overseeing the EPA, Pruitt has said he plans to withdraw the Clean Power Plan -- the Obama administration’s cornerstone climate change initiative -- and the agency’s controversial Waters of the United States rule.
Pruitt formerly served as Oklahoma's attorney general, where his record of acting on behalf of the state's oil and gas industry -- including litigation against the agency he now leads -- has drawn scrutiny from critics.
"It is beyond disappointing that the nation's top environmental official would call into question the overwhelming scientific consensus and undermine progress on this critical subject," McDonnell wrote.