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Iowa Pollution Enforcement Could Lose Big Under Trump EPA Cuts, Critics Warn

Iowa would lose millions of dollars it uses to help enforce pollution rules that protect its air, water and land if the Trump administration goes through with its plan to slash the federal Environmental Protection Agency budget, critics of the spending cuts warn.

The federal money helps Iowa's work to inspect large animal feeding operations, monitor air pollution from factories, test for harmful bacteria and microcystins that cause toxic algae in public lakes and restore wetlands, among other services.

"Iowa DNR already has a shoestring budget for oversight and enforcement of the factory farm industry," said Jess Mazour, a farm and environmental organizer at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a grassroots activist group.

President Donald Trump, seeking to funnel $54 billion more into military spending next fiscal year, wants to cut about a quarter of EPA's $8 billion budget next fiscal year, half of which goes to Iowa and other states that have agreed to enforce federal rules and regulations.

The proposal, leaked to environmental groups, seeks to cut by 30 percent state grants for pollution control. It also would chop funding for brownfield redevelopment, money that's played a key role in some downtown Des Moines projects.

Altogether, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources expects to receive about $19.5 million this fiscal year through EPA programs, about 15 percent of the total budget.

"Any federal cuts to state-implemented programs like the Clean Water Act would allow the already polluting industry to further go unchecked," Mazour said.

Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill cutting $118 million in spending this fiscal year because state revenue is lower than projections. Branstad proposed covering added budget shortfalls with cash reserves.

Budgets this fiscal year and next are expected to inch 2-3 percent higher.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources declined to comment on possible federal cuts until the Trump administration releases details.

Broad federal budget guidance is expected Thursday, but a detailed budget proposal that outlines specific cuts might not be available until May.

"States cannot tolerate additional cuts. We've seen the federal share has been slowly declining for a long time," said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, executive director of the Environmental Council of the States, a non-partisan group representing state environmental agency leaders.

"States rely on it (funding) to do work for the federal government," Dunn said. "Everything will be touched."

The cuts are similar to taking "cops off the beat," said David Goldston, director of government affairs at the National Resources Defense Council. "At the level of cuts being contemplated, you would see significant degradation in the ability to protect the environment everywhere."

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