Indiana environmentalists warn of drastic budget cuts for EPA

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - A federal agency now investigating contaminated sites here in Indiana could soon have less money to do its work.

The Environmental Protection Agency is facing drastic budget cuts, with millions of dollars at stake.

Thursday, a group of local supporters warned the lack of funding could put Indiana waterways and even the health of Hoosiers at risk.

Under the proposed federal budget, the EPA could face the lowest level of funding it's seen in 30 years. The proposed 11-percent budget cut translates to $228 million.

Hoosier leaders say that could severely hurt EPA programs or even eliminate some of them.

The Hoosier Environmental Council joined State Rep. Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis) at the Statehouse to call on the Indiana delegation in Congress to vote down the budget cuts.

Right now, Indiana has 39 sites as part of the EPA Superfund Cleanup Program. Local environmentalists say the nation needs a strong EPA to protect the health of children and families.

"Indiana receives approximated $73 million per year from EPA grants and programs. That money helps protect our water resources, protect our air and clean up our contaminated sites," said Dr. Indra Frank, the Environmental Health Director at the Hoosier Environmental Council.

Environmentalists are also concerned about eliminating the federal clean water rule. That rule gives the EPA authority over small bodies of water, including streams, to protect the nation's drinking water supply.

But farmers say the rule is overreaching and subjects them to burdensome permits. Ten states including Indiana sued to keep the rule from being enforced and won.

"Given what we know about pollution and its impacts to our health and to our children's health, why would we want to make it easier to pollute? And that's exactly what we've been seeing at the federal level over the last two years," Dr. Frank added.

An appeal was filed in the case in July. The budget deadline is September 30.