Last week, as Scott Pruitt tried to defend the proposed decapitation of the EPA in front of the House Appropriations Committee, both Democrats and Republicans made it clear that the elimination of 50% of the EPA’s programs and 31% of its budget wasn’t going to fly. Lawmakers on both sides cited the damage to their home districts that would be done by removing federal support for environmental protections and programs. Projects countering chemical contamination, water pollution, and ecological degradation are popular, like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a multi-state program which was slated for elimination earlier this spring. A bipartisan group of representatives from districts around the Great Lakes signed a letter calling for the GLRI’s continued funding, but missing from the list of signatures was Tom Reed of my district, NY 23rd. Reed, a well-entrenched and vocal supporter of 45, has a long history of opposing environmental protections in favor of industry (more at the New NY 23), and of opposing his constituents’ best interests in favor of his own. In light of this, it seems like an appropriate moment to take stock of what the EPA has done in this district.
The map above shows the grants disbursed in the NY 23rd since 2007. In the last ten years, grants from the EPA to cities, towns, school districts, tribal nations, and universities in our district have totaled almost $40 million. This does not include state or region-wide grants or programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; rather, I focused on grants that were either awarded to recipients within our district or were implemented at specific sites within the district. The effect of the EPA’s support for environmental restoration and enforcement and enactment of laws like the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts have undoubtedly had sweeping benefits for our area, but I wanted to focus on specific actions taken within our district. Often, the work that the EPA does is long-term and hard to notice, while the tangible, local results go unobserved.
Clicking on the map icons will bring up a bubble with details about the grant and the project. Grants ranged from $10,000 to almost $9 million, supporting everything from brownfields (environmentally contaminated industrial sites) assessment and cleanup in Corning, Jamestown, and Geneva, upgrades to wastewater treatment plants in Dunkirk, Owego, and in the Seneca Nation, and research into environmental remediation at Cornell and Alfred Universities. In my hometown of Elmira, $47,200 went to retrofitting school buses with tailpipe oxidation catalysts to reduce diesel exhaust; this helps improve air quality around schools, where children with developing lungs are especially vulnerable to health issues caused by air pollution. On the other end of the district, the Yorkshire school district received funding to run a program educating the community about non-point source water pollution. Field trips, classroom lessons, restoration projects, and leadership training engaged high school students with the community and helped restore wildlife habitats from pollution. The largest grant was $8.8 million to the Civic Ecology Lab at Cornell, New York’s land grant university, to run the “Expanding Capacity in Environmental Education Project,” or EECapacity, a national hub for strengthening and expanding the field of environmental education.
Projects funded by the EPA span the width of the 23rd district, supporting our own health and that of the landscape around us, as well as our infrastructure and economy. You can click through the map to see what programs have been implemented in your area. For more details, the full data set can be found here, with embedded links to the EPA listing for each individual grant. You can also search the Grants Award Database at yosemite.epa.gov using the grant number.