Over the past decade, U.S. states eliminated 4,400 jobs at agencies responsible for protecting the environment, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. From 2008 to 2018, 30 states also cut funding for environmental agencies, with more than half of those slashing budgets by at least 20 percent.
Wisconsin cut funding for its environmental agency by 36 percent in the past decade, Texas and Louisiana by 35 percent each, and North Carolina by 34 percent. Illinois cut the most jobs, eliminating 389 positions, or 38 percent, between 2008 and 2018. North Carolina cut 35 percent of its environmental staff positions, Arizona 32 percent and Louisiana 30 percent.
The new report notes that for many states, the cuts to environmental oversight where not the result of state budget crunches. Texas, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina all increased total state spending at the same time that they cut environmental agency budgets.
The only state to increase both its environmental agency budget and staff was California, according to the report, boosting funding by 75 percent and adding 1,255 positions, The Hill reported.
Environmentalists and policy experts warn that the state-level cuts correspond with reductions to the federal budget for oversight. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lost 16 percent of its funding between 2008 and 2018.
“The Trump Administration has been trying to roll back EPA’s authority and funding by arguing that the states will pick up the slack and keep our air and water clean,” Eric Schaeffer, the executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said in a statement. “State agencies are often badly understaffed and the EPA workforce is already at its lowest level in more than thirty years… Neither EPA nor states have the funding they need to meet their responsibilities under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other laws that protect the public’s health and our environment from dangerous pollution.”