Environmental Protection Agency grants will keep flowing for Pima County air monitoring, despite Trump administration orders to freeze EPA grants for a review.
Colleen McKaughan, an EPA official in Tucson, emailed Pima Department of Environmental Quality officials Thursday that, “the good news is that we are proceeding to process your grants.” The same email was sent to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and environmental agencies in Maricopa and Pinal counties that get EPA grants, said Beth Gorman, a program manager for the county agency.
“The review … was completed very quickly,” wrote McKaughan.
On Tuesday, media outlets reported the Trump administration had ordered EPA to freeze grants to local governments for additional review. This caused consternation among environmentalists and some agency officials because many local and state environmental agencies spend EPA grants to carry out crucial functions.
Pima County’s environmental agency annually gets about $500,000 in EPA grants. The majority goes to operate air quality monitors and to pay staff who check the monitors. The county agency notifies the public when air pollution readings are high or health standards are violated. Routine air quality data is posted on the county agency’s website.
“We were on pins and needles all day” Tuesday, Gorman said.
The freeze could have shut the county air monitors down in a week or two had it continued, said Ursula Nelson, the county environmental agency’s director. “It’s a relief to know the grants will continue.”
ADEQ gets 13 percent to 15 percent of its total annual budget from EPA, said department spokeswoman Caroline Oppleman.