In the news

PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center
Times Leader
Tom Venesky

When U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright won the Democratic primary in 2012 he took his campaign staff for a canoe trip on the Delaware River.

On Thursday, Cartwright expressed concern that President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget would cut the programs that made rivers such as the Delaware clean enough for canoe trips and other forms of recreation.

Specifically, Cartwright’s worry lies with proposed cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s clean water programs. His district fronts 32 miles of the Delaware River and also encompasses parts of the Susquehanna, Schuylkill and Lehigh rivers.

“Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District is blessed with abundant natural treasures and wild area, from the Delaware River to the Pocono Mountains. Conservation of our abundant natural landscape and resources is an important ecological and economic priority of mine,” said Cartwright, D-Moosic. “The EPA must have the resources necessary to keep our waterways safe, clean, and healthy.”

According to a report released by the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center on Thursday, the proposed budget cuts to EPA water programs would cost Pennsylvania $410,000 in water pollution control grants, $1.2 million in drinking water protection and enforcement grants, and $4.7 million in funding to address urban and agricultural runoff pollution.

Stephanie Wein, a clean water and conservation advocate with PennEnvironment, said rivers such as the Delaware have been cleaned up thanks to EPA programs but funding is still needed to address current threats, such as sewage, industrial and mine pollution. Wein said the Delaware and other Pennsylvania rivers serve as a source of drinking water for many communities as well.

“The Delaware River watershed — and the streams, rivers, and lands it contains — is critical to the health and welfare of our families, our communities, and our wildlife. It’s also a drinking water source for more than 15 million people,” Wein said. “We’ve made real progress to clean up and restore the Delaware River with the support and guidance of the U.S. EPA, but this budget proposal would put all of that in jeopardy.”

Pointing to one problem that EPA funds can address, Cartwright mentioned acid mine drainage resulting from the Old Forge borehole that enters the Lackawanna River before spilling into the Susquehanna. He said the proposed budget cuts would entirely eliminate the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund, which can be used to help remedy the problem.

“The Susquehanna River is no stranger to pollution,” Cartwright said. “EPA money is involved in cleaning this up and robust funding of the EPA means a lot to the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

Congress is facing an Oct. 1 deadline to pass a federal budget, a process Cartwright said has been in a “daily state of flux.” Appropriations bills in the U.S. House of Representatives have rejected some of the EPA budget cuts but it remains to be seen how the process will be handled in the Senate.

“On the House Appropriations Committee, I am fighting to protect the EPA’s funding,” Cartwright said. “Members from both sides of the aisle must work together to ensure Americans have access to safe drinking water and protections from toxic hazards.”

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, said the issue is about balancing environmental protection without impacting jobs.

“For eight years under the Obama Administration, the EPA implemented excessive regulations that killed jobs and devastated local economies. As a businessman, President Trump understands the harm these un-elected Washington bureaucrats have caused hard-working American families. I remain committed to working with his administration to balance protecting our environment through sensible reforms and rolling back overly burdensome regulations so that businesses can grow, create family-sustaining jobs, and put Americans back to work,” Barletta said.