Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lucy Pulls the Football From Charlie Brown

EPA pulls grant promised for West Virginia Sewage Treatment Plant
West Virginia has had a tumultuous relationship with the EPA since President Obama took office, fighting openly about the heavier hand the regulatory agency is exercising in the coal industry.

And now there is a baffling new EPA decision that threatens a long-planned water clean-up project in West Virginia and runs counter to the EPA’s own mandate.

For at least four years, federal, state and local officials have worked tirelessly to secure over $36 million to build a new water treatment plant for Hardy County. Now, just as the project is about to go to bid, the EPA has pulled a $3 million grant, endangering the project.

The EPA says it’s simply complying with a $140 budget cut ordered by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. But top EPA officials responded with an across-the-board cut of projects rather than analyzing them individually or determining which ones were shovel ready.

“This project is ready to proceed. Why would they take money from it?” asked Scott Mandirola, director of the state Division of Water and Waste Management, who has worked closely on the project and says he generally has a good working relationship with the EPA.

EPA’s funding cut also has an ironic twist.

In 2010, President Obama signed an executive order empowering the EPA to crack down on Chesapeake Bay pollution. West Virginia is among the states required to dramatically reduce pollutants reaching the Bay.

The Hardy County treatment plant would cut 45 percent of the phosphorus and 30 percent of the nitrogen leaving the West Virginia watershed and reaching the Bay.
I assume that's a typo and it was a $140 MILLION dollar budget cut.  The overall discretionary budget of EPA for 2011 is $10 billion (with a "B") and only 8.9 billion in 2012. That would be a $110 million cut from 2011, but presumably $140 million less than they thought they deserved for 2012.  What's 30 million among friends?

Granted something needs to be cut, and I'll warrant I could find plenty, but $3 million of a $36 million project for a sewage treatment plant that's ready to go?  I think the EPA is playing the usual game where an agency threatened with budget cuts hastens to threaten something they do that people really like, as opposed to what they would rather see cut.  We often see state and local agencies threaten to cut police and fire protection rather that something like administrative staff when asked to cut, or even restrict their aspirations for more.

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