The head of the EPA’s environmental justice program resigned Thursday over concerns President Donald Trump might slash funding for the 24-year-old project.
Mustafa Ali, a former senior to the administrator responsible for directing the agency’s actions protecting minority communities, stepped down in a letter to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. He also voiced concern the Pruitt plans on gutting the project.
“I wonder if our new leadership has had the opportunity to converse with those who need our help the most,” Ali wrote in the memo. “I strongly encourage you and your team to continue promoting agency efforts to validate these community’s concerns, and value their lives.”
Ali, who helped found the program in 1992, leaves as Democrats and activists continue to bicker about the agency’s reduced impact during the Trump-era.
Recent reports indicate Trump will cut the EPA’s $8 billion budget by $2 billion and cut the agency’s beefy staff by 20 percent. Funding for Ali’s department in particular would decrease 78 percent, from $6.7 million to $1.5 million, according to a report published earlier this week by The Oregonian.
Civil rights have criticized the EJ for years. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (CCR) complained last year that the EPA failed to carry out effectively its environmental justice objectives.
CCR’s complaints come on the heels of last year’s Flint water scandal.
Nearly 2,000 citizens in the predominantly black Michigan town sued the agency claiming it failed to ensure state and local authorities were addressing the crisis.
The scandal happened after officials switched Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in a bid to save money. But the state applied the wrong regulations and standards for drinking water, which ultimately resulted in corroded pipes.
The defendants are seeking a civil action lawsuit for $722 million in damages.
Recent reports appear to indicate that much of the crisis could’ve been avoided if the applicable agency acted more quickly to enforce regulations governing Michigan’s water supply.
One report published in 2016 claims the EPA only acts to enforce clean drinking water regulations when public outrage reaches a deafening pitch, implying negligence on the part of agency officials.
Another report conducted in February 2016 by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) details how the EPA fails to force state regulators to comply with federal drinking water laws.
Ali will become the senior vice president for the Hip Hop Caucus, a nonprofit group that promotes activism for young voters through music and culture.
He is scheduled to speak Thursday at an environmental conference in Flint, perhaps to quell concerns the agency refused to take the tainted water scandal seriously.
“What I’m hoping to do is highlight that environmental justice needs to continue to happen,” Ali said, “that there are opportunities to make it happen, and that if we don’t do it there will be huge public health impacts.”
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