In December, Republicans lauded a $1.6 billion EPA budget cut as an effort to shrink federal government—but it’s the states that are feeling much of the squeeze, reports the Washington Post. That’s because most EPA money is channeled through the states, whose governments now have millions less to enforce environmental laws and pay for cleanup efforts. With the federal government also imposing tougher environmental laws, the timing of the budget cuts couldn’t be worse.
“The federal government and state grants are both shrinking while our demands are increasing exponentially,” says an Oregon environmental official. Republicans acknowledge that the cuts aren’t working the way they’d expected; for the 2012 fiscal year, they may work to restrict the cuts to the federal level. For its part, the EPA has managed to save some top projects, including its Chesapeake Bay cleanup, by whittling down others. But “we’re very close to the edge where you start to erode the capacity of the agency,” says an EPA official.