A report from a broad group of environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, describes the adverse impacts of the budget cuts already instituted and the expected impacts of the sequester on key programs intended to protect the environment and our quality of life. Usually, these groups band together to produce a “Green Budget” that details how these programs could better protect public health, preserve our environment and natural resources and improve our energy and transportation policies by increasing investments in those areas. This year, instead of an aspirational green budget, reality required us to instead describe how starving these programs for funds has jeopardized our parks, slowed clean up at Superfund sites and delayed protective regulations to protect our land, water, air, wildlife and people. The report also details the devastating impact of the additional sequester cuts that are now rolling into effect.
The report is not just about budget cuts. The first section of the report highlights more than $760 billion in savings that could be gained by ending many tax and spending policies that encourage bad environmental behavior, such as the unneeded $8 billion in loopholes for the oil and gas industry. If the deficit hawks are serious, they cannot continue to ignore revenues as part of a budget compromise.
The programs that protect our health and environment are small: environmental and conservation programs make up only 1.25% of the federal budget. Even zeroing out money for our parks, the Environmental Protection Agency or wildlife refuges wouldn’t make a noticeable dent in the budget deficit. But every cut, particularly of the size of the sequester, has a devastating effect on these very small but critical programs. With the sequester now in force, EPA’s budget, adjusted for inflation, has been cut more than 25% from 2010 levels, not counting the emergency repair money funneled through EPA included as part of the Sandy Relief Emergency legislation. 25% is not a haircut but part of a strategy intended to cripple the Environmental Protection Agency and allow polluters off the hook.
The report entitled “Losing Our Heritage: Budget Cut Impacts and our Environment” is a reference document that has been sent to all offices in Congress. You can read the full report or check the Table of Contents, page x and xi for agencies or departments of special interest to you.
Theses budget cuts are not needed and are unwise. As NRDC President, Frances Beinecke recently wrote:
"We can reduce the deficit without sacrificing our health and natural heritage. Congress must move immediately to end the "sequester" for the sake of our economy and our communities. With a balanced approach of targeted spending cuts and increased revenues, Congress could steer us out of this mess and start investing in the long-term health and vitality of our nation."