by Michael Bielawski
President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent would mean an easing up on the EPA’s notoriously heavy-handed enforcement and push environmental groups to reset their priorities.
The spending cuts — which are light years from a forgone conclusion — would also put pressure on state government to decide what programs are important enough to fund from Montpelier.
“EPA cuts don’t necessarily mean that Vermont is going to be without regulation,” said Matthew Hardin, an attorney who handles Energy and Environment Legal Institute cases in Vermont. “The cuts mean to a certain degree the EPA will getting out of the way and the state regulators can jump into that void and do whatever they want to do.”
Hardin noted the EPA’s “well-written history on being sort of overbearing” when it comes to working with state and local regulators.
“So I think this can definitely be a positive thing if you cut an enforcement budget,” he said. “It facilitates a shift toward collaborative enforcement that works with companies and works with state officials, as opposed to coming in with a hammer and saying ‘you must do this!’”