Undermining the environment through budget cuts and policy earmarks, Round 2

Late Friday, the House Republican leadership yielded to the Tea Party newcomers and proposed a budget strongly at odds with the views of the American people.  (By previous blog detailed some of the serious environmental impacts of that proposal; my colleague Cai Steger discussed some of the energy provisions) The House of Representatives will vote on the budget next week, starting on Tuesday.  The budget, for the rest of the current fiscal year, would:

  • Make it more difficult to  protect our health from toxics in our air and water by slashing funding at EPA to update safeguards and enforce existing laws; 
  • Prevent communities from building needed drinking water and sewage systems by cutting almost $2 billion from the revolving loan funds that make these systems affordable.  These funds are critical to  prevent sewage from fouling beaches and endangering health and providing financing so these communities can provide clean potable drinking water.  (My colleague Jon Devine rightly criticized the previous proposal of $1 billion cut proposed in Chairman Rogers first proposal; the adverse impact is now doubled); 
  • Decimate efforts to establish a clean energy economy by slashing funding for research on energy efficiency, renewable energy and alternative fuels and even for the Energy Star program, which provides consumers with information to enable them to buy cost-saving, energy efficient appliances.  These cuts will harm our ability to compete for the jobs of the 21st century as counties as different as Spain, China and Germany race ahead to address the needs of their economies.  As Senator Frank Lautenberg recently noted: “China is building railroads that will be going hundreds of miles an hour, while America retreats more towards the rickshaw.”

 But that is not all.

 In addition to the budget cuts, the bill also inserts policy earmarks to boost special interests.  These provisions would all but repeal basic parts of the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act:

  • Hunters in the Northwest want an easier time competing with grey wolves in killing elk.  The rider will remove the grey wolf from the protections they have had under the Endangered Species Act.  This precedent-setting provision has Congress, for the first time, overruling courts on which animals deserve protection under the law. This bill will lead to states allowing hunters to kill the now endangered wolves as detailed in Andrew Wetzler’s recent blog.
  • Industries -- including developers, livestock factories, and mining operations -- that dump waste into waters of the United States (or fill them entirely) will benefit from a provision gutting EPA’s ability to clarify the reach of the Clean Water Act.
  • Utility, refining, and coal interests have an earmark relieving them from controlling the carbon pollution (discussed in Dan Lashof’s blog) they spew in the air as the bill as well as cuts virtually all money from numerous climate change research, outreach and assistance programs.
  •  Agriculture interests have an amendment removing their responsibilities to protect the waters of San Francisco Bay to the direct harm of the salmon and the fisherman who depend on those waters for their livelihood.  Many of these agricultural interests will use the additional water to sell this water to fill swimming pools in Southern California.

These all but hidden policy earmarks have a clear beneficiary and they are not the American people. 

Americans agree fiscal discipline is a must.  But targeting the 16% of the budget for domestic discretionary programs is a sham that does next to nothing to reduce the deficit but is a cover for special interest giveaways and legislative earmarks to protect big polluters.   Putting health protection on the chopping block means dirtier air, dirtier water, and more children and seniors lives at risk.    Gutting investments in the clean energy technologies of tomorrow increases our dependency on foreign sources of oil while exporting clean energy jobs overseas not creating them here at home.  Congress should be investing in America’s future, not moving it backwards. 

We are trying to come out of a period of high unemployment as companies make record profits but fail to increase employment.  In response we have a budget proposal targeting jobs, health, the environment and the future.