By Rachel Spacek and Gabriel Selbig
Last month, President Donald J. Trump proposed a 31 percent budget cut to the Environment Protection Agency, a move that even Republican lawmakers in Washington are expected to fight. Nevada is already seeing the effects of climate change according to University of Nevada, Reno researcher Maureen McCarthy, and the proposed budget cuts could have significant impacts in the state.
More than that, even the City of Reno could be seeing effects of these cuts sooner rather than later.
“Some of the more significant issues in the long run, if the EPA is gutted, specifically are the city’s plans to launch a better building program, which asks commercial building owners to voluntarily benchmark their energy efficiency,” said Lynne Barker, sustainability manager at the City of Reno.
Better Buildings is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy, proposed by President Barack Obama in 2011, that is designed to make homes, commercial buildings and industrial plants more energy efficient.
In a press release from the White House in 2011 they said, “The President’s Better Buildings Initiative will make commercial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade by catalyzing private sector investment through a series of incentives to upgrade offices, stores, schools and other municipal buildings, universities, hospitals, and other commercial buildings.”
The Better Buildings initiative is used in over 100 cities in order to help cities and communities work with building owners to reduce energies in the commercial and building industry.
In addition to affecting the City of Reno’s plans to launch the Better Buildings initiative, the EPA cuts could also disproportionally affect the city’s low-income families, Barker said.
“Some impacts already identified in Reno are increased heat waves and air quality,” Barker said. “If the Clean Power Plan is cut, low-income families, seniors and other vulnerable populations will feel the effects first.”
McCarthy, a senior researcher in physics at UNR and the Desert Research Institute, told KNPR that Nevadans need to start worrying about the effects climate change will have in the state.
McCarthy said the major floods in Elko and the record-breaking amounts of snow in the Reno/Tahoe area are evidence of the local effects of climate change.
McCarthy said Nevadans should not expect the weather to change steadily, she believes the next few years will experience temperatures that are 20 degrees higher than normal with more record-breaking amounts of snowfall, rain and floods.
“That average is going to come from much more extremes – very low years followed by very high years. Unstable communities, whether they are here in the U.S. or abroad, they are a source of instability,” McCarthy told KNPR.
In Washington, Nevada Congressman Mark Amodei released a statement in which he discussed his commitment to a resolution expressing his commitment to “conservative environmental stewardship.”
“In order to legislate effectively, Washington must have a willingness to have frank and honest discussions on the issues that affect us all,” Amodei said in a statement. “I’m pleased to be joining the Climate Solutions Caucus with Congresswoman Bonamici and I look forward to joining the rest of my colleagues in examining fact-based policy and research.”
The Trump administration’s proposed cuts would shrink the EPA’s spending from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion. The cuts would also eliminate a quarter of the agency’s jobs.
Along with Amodei, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the chairperson of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee is skeptical of the cuts and reminded Trump last month that his budget request is only the first step in a long process of decision-making.