During a stop in Butte Wednesday, Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte said he wants Congress to “put funding back in” for the Environmental Protection Agency.
One of the House of Representatives’ newest members, Gianforte sits on the House Committee on Natural Resources as well as the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Travis Hall, communications director for Gianforte, said by phone from his Washington, D.C., office Wednesday that when House members return in early September, the House Appropriations committee will recommend coming close to restoring EPA’s general budget to current levels and increasing the Superfund budget.
President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts include a 31 percent reduction to EPA and an estimated 30 percent cut to the Superfund program. Trump wants EPA’s general fund reduced to $5.7 billion from its current $8.2 billion. Trump has also proposed slashing the Superfund budget to $762 million from its current $1.089 billion budget.
During his presidential campaign, Trump said the agency's regulations and mandates were holding back growth in the oil and coal industries. He also said any cuts would not compromise air and water quality.
Hall said the House Appropriations committee will recommend the Superfund budget for fiscal year 2018 at $1.116 billion, which wouldn’t just restore Superfund but increase its budget.
EPA’s operating budget, if the House Appropriations recommendation is passed by both the House and the Senate, would still be lower than EPA’s current funding levels. But the House Appropriations recommendation of $7.53 billion would be a less significant hit to EPA.
“It’s hard to make a blanket statement but we need to make sure we have funding to clean up Superfund here in Montana,” Gianforte told members of the media outside of MR’s office. MR is one of the responsible parties for the Berkeley Pit, the largest contaminated water body in the U.S. and part of the Silver Bow Creek-Butte Superfund site.
Gianforte made his remarks while visiting Montana Resources Wednesday, part of a 56 county tour of the Treasure State during the congressional August recess.
Gianforte said he chose to tour MR for his Butte stop because it is, “the lifeblood of Butte-Silver Bow County” and it was “important to get an update on operations.” After leaving MR, he visited the Community Hospital of Anaconda, and Barrett Mines in Dillon.
Gianforte’s tour of MR brought him to where the shovels are working on the east wall in the Continental Pit. He got a glimpse of the Berkeley Pit while driving through the mine site.
After the tour, Gianforte took questions from the local media. He sidestepped criticizing Trump for blaming "both sides" for the Charlottesville, Virginia violence Saturday. But he called white supremacy “domestic terrorism.”
Trump has been criticized for his response to the Charlottesville violence. Three people were killed and 19 injured when a group of white supremacists and neo-Nazis called Unite the Right marched Saturday to protest the removal of a Civil War statue. U.S. Speaker of the House Republican Paul Ryan has called the Charlottesville violence “repulsive” and said “there can be no moral ambiguity,” according to The New York Times.
Gianforte said he had not seen Ryan’s comment, but he said he was “appalled” by what he saw unfold on Saturday.
“I’ve been really clear: Neo-Nazism, racism, white supremacy, it's domestic terrorism. We should have no tolerance for it,” he said.