A reported freeze on Environmental Protection Agency granted by the Donald Trump Administration leaves Michigan Democrats wondering what will happen to the $100 million allocated for Flint water infrastructure.
The Trump staff has also ordered a temporary media blackout, prohibiting EPA staff from external communications.
Several congress members, including Reps. Debbie Dingell (D–Dearborn) and Dan Kildee (D–Flint), released a joint statement voicing their concern for Flint families and other communities in need.
“President Trump’s directive to freeze EPA grant funding is very concerning,” the statement read. “Just last month, Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together in a bipartisan fashion to pass long overdue aid for the people of Flint, Michigan. Flint families have waited long enough for help and President Trump’s EPA directives should not jeopardize or delay real aid from reaching Flint or any other community in need.”
Kildee, along with Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and (D) and Gary Peters (D), also released a letter written to Trump requesting clarification on whether the order applies to Flint.
“We write to request clarity on a reported freeze imposed on all new Environmental Protection Agency grants and contracts, and in particular, to inquire as to whether this decision applies to the funding Congress approved with strong bipartisan support to help address the City of Flint’s drinking water crisis,” the letter read. “We are concerned that your directive to halt all EPA grants and agreements may jeopardize much-needed federal funding, already passed by Congress, from quickly and directly reaching Flint families recovering from this crisis.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, Doug Ericksen, the communications director for Trump’s transition team at EPA, said the freeze on grants will not affect infrastructure construction, though no statement has been made with specific regards to Flint.
Congress passed a bill in December that included at least $120 million for Flint to help the city replace its aging water infrastructure including the lead pipelines. Because the bill was specifically made for cities in a state of emergency due to lead contamination, a description that currently only fits Flint, it is not likely that Flint funding will be cut altogether.
Since the legislation was already passed, Engineering freshman Lincoln Merrill, publicity chair of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, said he believes Flint funding is most likely secure.
“The $120 million that’s going to Flint is legislation that’s already in place,” Merrill said. “This freeze is temporary, and it’s not going to reverse something that was already passed for a city in a state of emergency.”
Even if the legislation was not in place, Merrill speculated that Trump has no intentions of cutting funding for Flint.
“Trump is trying to cut unnecessary programs that don’t help anyone and add to our $20 trillion debt,” Merrill said. “He is not trying to cut programs that saves lives. He visited Flint on his campaign and said that he wants to help those people.”
Merrill’s argument mirrors the one of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who said in a press conference the freeze is not necessarily to constrain but to review.
“I don’t think it’s any surprise that when there’s an administration turnover, that we’re going to review the policies,” he said.
However, LSA junior Tegwyn John, member of the environmental honors fraternity Epsilon Eta, pushed back against claims that a funding freeze is normal for new administrations.
“To my knowledge there haven’t been full funding freezes,” Johns said. “There have been re-evaluations, but no administration has set the tone of halting money to our environment.”
Additionally, Johns said the implications of the EPA halt could set a precedence that could affect student’s hometowns.
“Students who have been hurt by Flint — indigenous students, students from disadvantaged or polluted areas — all need funding from the EPA.”