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ASU Students, Local Lawmakers Protest Proposed EPA Cuts

Arizona State University students, buttressed by local leaders from government and environmental groups, gathered to speak in Tempe’s Mitchell Park Monday morning.

They assembled to protest cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency proposed by the Trump administration.

Nick Petrusek is the state director for Defend our Future, a nonprofit, non-partisan, student-led climate advocacy group.

“This could translate to a loss of over $60 million a year for our state, greatly limiting our ability to keep chemicals out of our water supply, reduce the amount of ‘Code Red dead air days,’ clean up toxic waste sites and hold polluters responsible, just to name a few," he said.

Petrusek said air pollution is the largest environmental problem currently being faced by residents in the Phoenix metro area.

Martín Quezada, Democratic state senator for District 29, who was also at the event, said the proposed cuts are irresponsible.

“These cuts are being proposed in order to fund corporate interests and to increase military spending. One of the hardest-hit agencies that is receiving these cuts is the one that affects one of the things we value the most and that is our environment. The cuts to the EPA are irresponsible and they will harm everybody in the state of Arizona," Quezada said.

Quezada said individuals and groups like Defend Our Future should continue to be vocal about their advocacy for the environment by reaching out to their representatives in Congress.  

Another lawmaker on hand, Tempe City Councilwoman Lauren Kuby, said EPA grants cover almost 30 percent of Arizona’s air quality monitoring. The agency also helps mitigate water pollution.

“We have a backlog of 750 leaking underground storage tanks. They’re leaking harmful chemicals into our groundwater and into our soil. In the past five years we’ve received $13 million in funding to detect those leaks of those petroleum products and address the causes of the leaks to repair the damage and go after the polluters who cause those leaks," Kuby said.

ASU student Sabrina Woo, who was also at the event, said educating family members about environmental concerns and voting for eco-friendly representatives is important to her.

“A lot of people have their own private beliefs but they don’t actually spread it to other [family] members that could actually bring about change. Voting for representatives that reflect your values, that’s the most important part," Woo said.

The Phoenix metro area was ranked the fifth-most polluted region in the country for air quality by the American Lung Association.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story and audio have been modified to clarify Nick Petrusek's position at Defend our Future.

Tom Maxedon was the host of KJZZ’s Weekend Edition from 2017 to 2024.