Congresswoman, Others Decry Proposed EPA Budget Cuts
On a hot spring afternoon, with the waters of Tampa Bay lapping the shores of Tampa's Picnic Island in the background, Rep. Kathy Castor and representatives from environmental groups such as the Tampa Audubon Society, The Sierra Club and Environment Florida spoke out against the Trump Administration's plans to cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Castor distinctly remembers growing up in the Tampa Bay region when it didn't look at all like it does now.
"The air quality was very poor, you could smell it, you could taste it, and the Clean Air Act has improved the air we breathe, clearly, in the Tampa Bay area," she said.
She also said when she was a girl, people were warned against swimming in Tampa Bay, because water conditions were so bad.
The gathering was on the seventh anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the effects of which she said the state is still dealing with. Castor said cuts to the EPA, which could eliminate 31 percent of its funding, would harm not only Florida's environment, but also its economy.
Castor said, "We intend to fight to protect what makes Florida special and drives our economy: clean and healthy beaches and a beautiful Tampa Bay." She said she plans to introduce legislation to restore initiatives like the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and initiatives that protect Florida's water and air.
University of South Florida St. Petersburg Oceanographer David Hollander said people in power need to take the long view when it comes to the environment. He says it took years to decades to develop and refine programs like the Clean Water Act through the EPA.
“The fact that you can dismantle these programs within a one-to-two-year time scale doesn't take into account if things were to change, how long does it take to come back from the loss of the Clean Water Act and the regulations associated with this,” Hollander said.
Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen says the water his city discharges into the bay is "drinking quality." But he says the city can't do it alone.
“We are spending $250 million improving our storm water system. And the bottom line is that if the Trump Administration policies undercut our local efforts, it's all going to come for naught, because we need the strength of the federal government behind us to keep this bay clean,” Cohen said.