In response to the budget cuts the Environmental Protection Agency is facing under the Trump Administration, the School of Global Environmental Sustainability held a panel Wednesday night to discuss the changes that may occur.
The panel was open to anyone, and there were over 100 students, staff, former staff and community members in attendance at Avogadro’s Number. Several questions were targeted to what changes will be made without the EPA operating in full swing.
According to panelist Robert Duffy, with the department of political sciences, the cuts have been heavily focused on data collection, regulation enforcement, climate and clean energy programs.
“It’s important to remember that the president can propose anything he wants, however, there may be pushback from democrats and republicans looking to protect programs that aid their constituents,” Duffy said. “So nothing is a done deal.”
Several students that attended the panel were concerned about how these cuts would limit their future research capabilities and if there will still be a field for them to do research in.
“The data that has been collected is critical to where we are now,” said Jennifer Peel, a guest panelist and professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences.
“There is a monitoring system across the U.S. that we use in our studies that have proven invaluable to show that there is causal evidence that emission is impacting health,” Peel said. “This is a valuable resource that has the potential to go away.”
Other members of the audience inquired if there are other institutions that would be able to provide the same types of research data that the EPA provides.
“There are several institutions that collect large amounts of data,” said Delphine Farmer, guest panelist and professor in the Department of Chemistry. “NASA is amazing at collecting data from satellites and ground mapping.”
Farmer said there are other agencies around the world that are collecting data on particles and pollutants in the air.
“Unfortunately these are also government agencies and are at risk for loss of funding,” Farmer said. “It’s difficult to find different organizations state by state because there is not one cohesive unit organizing the quantity and quality of that data.”
Farmer believes that graduate students all over the country are capable of continuing research set by professional scientific institutions.
“Students could definitely manage this; the problem resides in the lack of funding,” Farmer said.
Several Fort Collins residents were concerned with the world would look like without the EPA in place.
“You would start to notice that anyone with Asthma or a preexisting respiratory condition are going to have more problems and hospital visits,” Peel said. “Then you would notice regression over time, with no enforcement pollution rates will rise and there will be dumping of oils and other chemicals.”
Others at the panel asked what they could do individually to increase advocacy and create conversations with those who do not agree the environment is an issue.
Panelist Robert Young, a research scientist with the Center for Contaminant Hydrology, said that the public may not become concerned with environmental issues until it is too late.
“When rivers or oceans are on fire and an increase in cancer starts affecting communities, that’s when there will be a concern and a need for restrictions that the EPA provides,” Young said. “Until health concerns are driving people’s lives, economics and money will come first.”
Diana Wall, the director of SoGES, believes that initiating conversation and providing themselves as resources are crucial steps to further progress.
“I think people forget why we make rules about the environment: We cannot have lead in our water, pollution in our air and we don’t want people sick,” Wall said. “We forget that what the EPA does is monitor all of this for us.”
Collegian reporter Drew Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dc6smith19.