Environmental enforcement cuts proposed

May 29, 2008 9:38:38 AM PDT
A proposed $500,000 budget cut that would eliminate the criminal investigations arm of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has prompted complaints from environmentalists and concern from a federal environmental regulator. The money was stripped from next year's budget in the House after lawmakers said the investigation division didn't handle many cases, and the environmental enforcement work could be handled elsewhere.

The cut would shutter the division, which investigates accusations of solid waste crimes like illegal dump sites and improperly stored medical waste, in the new fiscal year that begins July 1st.

Senators are considering whether to restore the criminal investigation money to DEQ as they comb through the House-passed budget bill. The DEQ cut was one of a series of reductions, totaling millions of dollars, made by the House to the 30 billion dollar budget that will pay for state government operations.

An official with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pushing for the continuation of the criminal investigations unit.