Trump's proposed EPA cuts would have 'unimaginable' impact, public health expert says

March 20, 2017 by Brian W. Simpson
Tom Burke. Credit: Johns Hopkins University

President Donald Trump's proposed budget unveiled Thursday signals a major change to government's approach to environmental health. His recommended 30 percent cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would mean the loss of 3,200 positions and dozens of programs.

President Donald Trump's proposed budget unveiled Thursday signals a major change to government's approach to . His recommended 30 percent cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would mean the loss of 3,200 positions and dozens of programs.

While the proposed budget will not likely be adopted as is by the House and Senate, the recommended cuts have ignited a strong defense of environmental and public health programs.

To put the issues in context, Global Health NOW turned to Tom Burke, who served as EPA science adviser and deputy assistant administrator until January of this year. Burke, who has since returned to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health as a professor of Health Policy and Management, shares his insights into the likely effects of the proposed budget cuts, the EPA's role in public health, and responses to the proposal.

President Trump unveiled his budget recommendations on March 16, including a proposed 30% cut to the EPA. What will be the biggest loss if the proposed drastic cuts to the EPA budget go through?

If we cut off the most preeminent, important research organization and supporter of research in environmental public health, we lose our ability as a nation to be effective in core functions in environmental health. It's about understanding exposure, the long-term health effects of exposures in the environment. The losses to the global scientific community are really unimaginable.

To go back—let's imagine life before the EPA. I would like everyone to look at a piece of the sky in New York City in Thanksgiving of 1966, the great air inversion, and think about just how far we've come in protecting public health, reducing cancer risk, risks to our elderly and youngest and improving quality of life, and understanding the incredibly important connection between our environment and our health. To turn back the clock on that—for someone who has given his life to these issues—is unthinkable.

You and colleagues Jon Samet and Bernard Goldstein wrote a NEJM commentary March 1 making the case for environmental health and the EPA's role in preserving public health. Did it have any effect?

We certainly hope so. We need to get the word the out to the broader public health and medical community. And what better forum than the New England Journal of Medicine (read the commentary). It's really had a tremendous reach. I've had comments from people in Europe, staffers on Capitol Hill, and calls from reporters at major news outlets. I think those kinds of things present the argument for making sure we preserve the scientific process and support the scientific enterprise that's so essential to our decision making. We tried to emphasize that science doesn't change and it's nonpartisan. We have to go with the evidence and the very strong evidence on so many public health issues shows that we need to heed it.

Is there any silver lining to the proposed cuts to EPA and other agencies?

The silver lining is I think we've awakened a whole new generation of folks to just how fragile our environment is and how important it is to have that assurance we are protecting our natural resources. This is a wake-up call for public health and the scientific community. And I think the message has been well received, but we've got work to do.

Maybe you have to be an old guy like me to understand that public health and particularly environmental health is a roller coaster ride, that there is a pendulum that swings back and forth between stakeholders and more anti-regulatory forces being in control. For the most part we strike a balance. You can't have healthy communities without a healthy environment. And frankly you can't have a healthy economy without a healthy environment, either.

What do you hear from colleagues who are currently at EPA? How worried are they?

First of all, I have to say I have a hands-off approach to that. I've served in a very senior capacity at EPA, and I respect the changes in leadership with the new administration. But I am very concerned about people in junior positions, postdocs, and leaders of the future. I'm very concerned about the brain drain. It will be tremendously difficult to rebuild. It took a long time to rebuild agencies after Reagan's cutbacks.

This is a time of considerable mistrust of government and regulations. How would you make the case for environmental regulations to those who are opposed?

First of all, the evidence is very clear. The EPA does not stifle jobs. Just look at the economic recovery. The Obama administration in the last eight years was devastating for jobs? Not true. There's been a tremendous recovery [in job numbers]. Some of the most booming industries in the world are related to the environment in the renewable energy sector. The auto industry has tremendously recovered since 2008. If you look systematically at the accusation of job-killing regulations, it just doesn't hold water.

What's your advice to people as the budget process and the possible effects on EPA and other agencies unfold?

I would just hope that people would understand what environmental protection is to their personal lives. When you wake up in the morning and brush your teeth and flush the toilet, no one gives a thought of the incredible infrastructure. You can trust your environment now, and for most of us, it is something we don't think about.

I think recently we've learned just how fragile that is. My own experience in Flint, Michigan, [and elsewhere] is that when you lose that confidence, it is incredibly difficult to regain. We in the community have to think about how we can engage in the process and make our voices heard.

Explore further: Trump budget 'cripples' environment, science, critics say (Update)

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22 comments

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rderkis
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 20, 2017
I think we're all in agreement here. Just raise all of our taxes by 25%, situation resolved. If we want the government to provide more than it can afford, please just raise our taxes to pay for it. :-)
gkam
Mar 20, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
rderkis
3 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2017
Sorry gkam you are on my ignore list :-) I have no idea what you said. Please talk to my hand again!
rhugh1066
2.1 / 5 (7) Mar 20, 2017
"First of all, the evidence is very clear. The EPA does not stifle jobs. Just look at the economic recovery. The Obama administration in the last eight years was devastating for jobs? Not true. There's been a tremendous recovery [in job numbers]" . This is the same lie liberals have been telling for 8 years. Due to his hatred of our capitalist republic that informed every decision he made, President Mom Jeans Tee Time throttled us all with a less that 2% growth average. Liberal lies of exactly that sort are one of the strongest reasons Trump got elected.

gkam
2.7 / 5 (7) Mar 20, 2017
It is up the the House of Representatives to originate all revenue bills, such as the Obama Jobs Bills and his Transportation Bill,and his Infrastructure Bill, which the Republican Congress would not even look at.

Refusing to let Obama have any successes at all, they stifled our economy to hurt him.

Now they want to end aid to the poor and sick, and increase the tax cuts to millionaires which have been piling up since Reagan in 1981. Track the rise of those tax cuts and the National Debt. Go do it.
gkam
2.7 / 5 (7) Mar 20, 2017
Here is the news:

"U.S. Forces G20 to Drop Mention of Climate Change in Joint Statement"
http://www.ecowat...92.html?

"Scientists Sound the Alarm: CO2 Levels Race Past Point of No Return"
http://www.ecowat...70.html?

We have to do something to end this.

Any ideas?
rderkis
3 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2017
President Mom Jeans Tee Time


I have never heard of him/her. Please try to be scientific in your comments.
geokstr
1 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2017
It is up the the House of Representatives to originate all revenue bills...

Which is precisely why the Marxi..., uh, Democrats in the Senate called the myriad taxes in ObamaCare "penalties" and "mandates", so they could strip a totally unrelated bill passed in the House of every single word and drop in their takeover of 1/6 of the economy, then claim it originated in the House so they could avoid a filibuster and pass it through reconciliation. And the "fundamental transformation" of an America Obama hates began.
Refusing to let Obama have any successes at all, they stifled our economy to hurt him.

So, first you claim Obama was the job creator of all time, a typical flat-out lie. After 8 years, the job participation rate was the lowest since Carter.

Zzzzzzzz
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 20, 2017
"First of all, the evidence is very clear. The EPA does not stifle jobs. Just look at the economic recovery. The Obama administration in the last eight years was devastating for jobs? Not true. There's been a tremendous recovery [in job numbers]" . This is the same lie liberals have been telling for 8 years. Due to his hatred of our capitalist republic that informed every decision he made, President Mom Jeans Tee Time throttled us all with a less that 2% growth average. Liberal lies of exactly that sort are one of the strongest reasons Trump got elected.


Are you some kind of dumb phark? Don't try to answer, that was a rhetorical question......
Zzzzzzzz
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 20, 2017
It is up the the House of Representatives to originate all revenue bills...

Which is precisely why the Marxi..., uh, Democrats in the Senate called the myriad taxes in ObamaCare "penalties" and "mandates", so they could strip a totally unrelated bill passed in the House of every single word and drop in their takeover of 1/6 of the economy, then claim it originated in the House so they could avoid a filibuster and pass it through reconciliation. And the "fundamental transformation" of an America Obama hates began.
Refusing to let Obama have any successes at all, they stifled our economy to hurt him.

So, first you claim Obama was the job creator of all time, a typical flat-out lie. After 8 years, the job participation rate was the lowest since Carter.


Are you some kind of dumb phark? Let's see, how about another rhetorical question..... How did you get so pharken stupid? Again, don't try to answer.....you'll drool all over yourself
geokstr
1 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2017
The job creation rate under Obama was way under the number needed with population growth we have. He got the unemployment rate down by putting out cooked statistics, changing the way the rate was calculated, and parking millions of unemployed in the SSDI program by changing the rules to start approving nebulous claims of back pain and depression, bankrupting it.
Now they want to end aid to the poor and sick, and increase the tax cuts to millionaires which have been piling up since Reagan in 1981. Track the rise of those tax cuts and the National Debt. Go do it.

At the end of Reagan's 8 years, tax revenues had doubled, including from the rich, but spending had tripled, because the Democrats who controlled the House lied about giving him $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in new taxes in 1986. Reagan called his inability to get spending under control his biggest failure.

Those numbers have already been tracked, but the Marxists continue to hide by revising history.
geokstr
1 / 5 (3) Mar 20, 2017
Are you some kind of dumb phark? Let's see, how about another rhetorical question..... How did you get so pharken stupid? Again, don't try to answer.....you'll drool all over yourself

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa

As usual, your comments here are totally devoid of any substance, consisting of the usual Marxist invective and ad hominem which are the only weapons you have.
gkam
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 20, 2017
"So, first you claim Obama was the job creator of all time, a typical flat-out lie."
---------------------------------

No, . . the lie is that statement. I have never said he was the greatest job creator. Never.

Blinded by hate and superstition, you have no credibility.
RealityCheck
3 / 5 (4) Mar 20, 2017
Seems some have never heard the truism:
"Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."
CONSIDER:

- China, India etc have huge nation-wide environmental pollution/degradation problems; resulting in huge social/physiological costs/damage to budgets/health and community cohesion.

- Recall what USA etc were like before EPA cleaned up the air/soil/water and reduced new such from happening; yes, that's right, they were just as bad as China, India etc are NOW...why would anyone sane want to undo all the good work and RETURN to a China-India like pollution etc situation?

- As for supporters of 'unfettered' Capitalism, have they stopped to consider who 'outsourced' all the jobs to China/India?...and so ruined the economic/social wellbeing/prospects of US et al?

- The US conservatives selfishly/politically (our OZ conservatives copied from their spoiler's playbook) delayed, sabotaged, deonized green energy investment/initiatives/projects/developments.

Rethink it! :)
rderkis
1 / 5 (3) Mar 20, 2017
Recall what USA etc were like before EPA cleaned up the air/soil/water and reduced new such from happening; yes, that's right, they were just as bad as China, India etc are NOW...why would anyone sane want to undo all the good work and RETURN to a China-India like pollution etc situation?


So using your highly trained intelligence a middle ground is impossible for you to conceive of, it is all or nothing, with you right?
RealityCheck
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 20, 2017
Hi rderkis.:)
Recall what USA etc were like before EPA cleaned up the air/soil/water and reduced new such from happening; yes, that's right, they were just as bad as China, India etc are NOW...why would anyone sane want to undo all the good work and RETURN to a China-India like pollution etc situation?


So using your highly trained intelligence a middle ground is impossible for you to conceive of, it is all or nothing, with you right?
I have always encouraged sensible (middle ground even....but that may be impossible in some highly dangerous circumstances....for instance when exposure to toxic/poisonous/damaging situations/doses becomes no longer 'negotiable').

Consider: Why destroy what has been achieved over decades of EPA oversight/action to mitigate the worst cases?! Especially since China/India are NOW considering similar EPA 'approach/actions' because of the terrible costs/damage to economy/society. So why Trump trying to 'neuter' US EPA now? Politics?
RobertKarlStonjek
5 / 5 (3) Mar 20, 2017
When asked about the environment, Trump said "we can afford to keep some of it".
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (4) Mar 20, 2017
Yeah, the part the rich people see.

Been there done that got the t-shirt used it for an oil rag.
aksdad
1 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2017
I can imagine the impact. There will be fewer economy-strangling regulations implemented by the economics-impaired environmentalists that have taken over the EPA. The EPA will work more with industry to come up with sensible regulations that provide real environmental benefit while minimizing the negative impact to industry. The economy will grow, there will be more jobs...but what about "public health" and the fragile environment? I will bet you that the current trend toward cleaner air and water--which is the EPA's only mandate, not "public health" and carbon dioxide emissions--will continue unabated, even if the EPA budget was cut by 75%. The EPA would trim the fat and focus more on its primary mission.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (3) Mar 20, 2017
I can imagine the impact. @aksdad dies of obstructive pulmonary disease after its second bypass without insurance and its family is left bankrupt.

You gets what you pays Trump for.
rderkis
1 / 5 (1) Mar 21, 2017
Consider: Why destroy what has been achieved over decades of EPA oversight/action to mitigate the worst cases?! Especially since China/India are NOW considering similar EPA 'approach/actions' because of the terrible costs/damage to economy/society. So why Trump trying to 'neuter' US EPA now? Politics?


You confuse me first you say a middle ground than you imply all regulations will change.
Have you ever read all the regulations? I know I have not. And out of all those regulations, you think there is no room for improvement? Or that since they started writing them no conditions have changed?
Plus perhaps President Trump's science advisers are telling him that certain atmospheric conditions will be repairable with new technology in a few years. That sounds far fetched but remember the holes in the ozone layer were created by man using freon(fluorocarbon). Where a single molecule could destroy tens of thousands of ozone molecules.
gkam
Mar 21, 2017
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