Washington, DC – Environmental funding for Massachusetts has been cut by 25% and the state can no longer meet basic federal anti-pollution requirements, according to a filing today by the New England chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
These cuts are detailed in a two-year funding contract, known as the 2005-6 Performance Partnership Agreement (PPA), between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The PPA specifies how much monitoring of pollution, environmental enforcement, and permit oversight EPA expects Massachusetts DEP to perform during the next two years.
“The environmental safety net for Massachusetts is fraying,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a former EPA biologist and attorney, noting that DEP has 25% less staff than it did just two years ago. “Massachusetts DEP contends that it can be as effective with less resources by working smarter but they will have to import geniuses to overcome cuts of this magnitude.”
The net results of diminished environmental investment are reflected in the state of Massachusetts’ air, lands and waters:
- Only 9 percent of the state’s rivers and lakes meet federal water quality standards. While the vast majority (78 percent) of the state’s waters have not been assessed, the state monitoring program has been reduced to the point where it “cannot determine the full extent of our pollution issues nor can it identify the subbasins where the problems are most acute”;
- Despite an ongoing scandal over its auto emissions testing program that routinely passes cars that should fail and fails cars that should pass, DEP cannot predict when the problems will be fixed. Moreover, the state still has not filed the required reports for past years that are supposed to document what, if any, progress it has made; and
- The state acknowledges “extensive illegal alterations of wetlands …has occurred” but says that it will respond by cutting back on monitoring permits, even though the wetland losses associated with permitting are collectively much larger than those from illegal filling.
“Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not an effective environmental program,” added Bennett, pointing to DEP’s prediction that it will have to ignore several federal requirements so it can fulfill those that it deems “high priority.” “In this Partnership Agreement, EPA and DEP are agreeing to do less at the expense of our natural resources.”