(This piece was originally published on September 7, 2018 by the Washington Times Herald.)

State Rep. Carey Hamilton warned Hoosiers Thursday that proposed federal cuts to the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency would hurt Indiana programs that protect the state’s waterways and air.

The Indianapolis Democrat was joined at the Indiana Statehouse press conference by Dr. Indra Frank, environmental health director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, and Greg Harger, coach of the Indiana Invaders, a club of elite distance runners. They expressed their concerns about how funding cuts to EPA would hurt the state.

“Current proposals in Washington D.C. could drastically reduce or even eliminate EPA programs from which Indiana receives funding,” said Frank, explaining that the state currently receives about $73 million a year from EPA grants and programs.

Frank’s concern for Hoosiers is that these cuts would not only hurt the environment, it would also affect the health of individuals.

U.S. News & World Report’s most recent state rankings show that Indiana is the third worst state behind New Jersey and California when it comes to quality of life.

Quality of life is determined by measuring the social environment and the natural environment of a state. Indiana is currently number 34 on the list of states for drinking water quality and 48 for pollution health risks.

“Indiana needs congress to fully fund the EPA and to reject harmful policies that put our environment and thus our health at risk,” Frank said.

Hamilton said that cuts from EPA funding would hurt Indiana’s overall economy as well as the environment.

Indiana currently has 39 sites across the state that are defined as toxic areas by the EPA, including Bennett Stone quarry in Bloomington, Reilly Tar & Chemical Corporation in Indianapolis and Tippecanoe Sanitary Landfill in Lafayette. When these sites are able to be cleaned up, Hamilton said they can be used for new economic activity.

“All of these sites have the potential to be restored into viable, job-creating commercial property,” Hamilton said.

The current budget supported by leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives reduces EPA programs by $228 million, Hamilton said.

“If these proposed cuts are passed, our state government and our local communities will be faced with difficult choices,” Hamilton said. “These choices will put our health and our environment at risk.”

The current budget proposal does not only mean a cut in EPA funding, she said, but also repeals the clean water rule, putting Indiana’s waterways at risk of greater contamination.

“If funding is not restored, EPA will be operating at its lowest budget level in 30 years,” Hamilton said. “That is very concerning to me.”

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