The Trump budget proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t just slash funding for the EPA. It contains a less-noticed but important policy shift: eliminating federal enforcement where states and the EPA share enforcement authority. The budget plan directs the EPA to stop enforcing laws to protect clean air and water in most cases, based on the false assumption that if the EPA pulls back, the states can pick up the slack. Here’s why that’s wrong.
First, states often don’t enforce the laws within their own borders when the people primarily harmed live downwind or downriver in another state. States don’t want to spend their money or their political capital to benefit other states. The federal government has the responsibility to protect everyone — like the millions of people on the East Coast who suffer the effects from large air polluters in the Midwest.