Bush Budget 'Broke, Busted and Can't Be Trusted,' Says NRDC

Remarks of Wesley Warren, Deputy Director of NRDC's Advocacy Center,
During Today's Environmental Budget Briefing

WASHINGTON (February 9, 2005) -- This week President Bush unveiled his fiscal year 2006 budget, which proposes wide-ranging cuts in discretionary spending for domestic programs. Funding for public health and natural resource protection is particularly hard hit. (Click here for the joint environmental backgrounder.) The following is a statement by NRDC's Wesley Warren:

"On environmental issues, the Bush FY 2006 budget can be summed up quite easily. It's 'broke, busted and can't be trusted.'

"Without a doubt, this year President Bush has sent to Congress the most anti-environment budget blueprint ever proposed by his administration.

"President Bush has singled out Social Security as an issue that he believes the government must 'fix' because of its profound importance to our nation. Unfortunately, his fiscal agenda fails to address another kind of security for our nation: America's environmental security.

"Ensuring that our environment is protected is important to all Americans. Environmental security helps to safeguard the public's health by reducing harmful air and water pollution, manages natural resources in a way that permits sustainable economic growth, and reduces our nation's dangerous dependence on oil.

"The administration's budget demonstrates a stunning and irresponsible disregard for environmental safeguards. While total domestic spending would be nicked by less than 1 percent, programs that invest in the environment get slashed by a whopping 10.4 percent. Indeed, the administration's hostility toward the environment is best illustrated by what the administration has done to three key trust funds created by Congress to address significant environmental needs. To borrow a phrase from the president, these funds are being 'exhausted and bankrupted.'

"The Superfund Trust Fund has been drained and is now crippled, leaving a toxic legacy for future generations. The administration no longer collects a 'polluter pays' fee on industries. Now that the fund's billions of dollars have been used up, American taxpayers are now forced to cover the huge costs for toxic waste cleanup. Under this administration, the pace of annual cleanups has fallen from 87 in 2000 to only 40.

"The administration also has broken its promise to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is paid for through oil and gas royalties. That fund was supposed to receive $900 million a year for land acquisition and protection, but the president's budget proposes only $132 million -- a new low for this administration.

"In addition, the administration proposes whacking the federal contribution to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund by one-third and capping the amount of money eventually being loaned out of the fund at only $3.4 billion per year -- far below the $19.4 billion EPA has identified as the annual need to meet this Clean Water Act mandate.

"The administration's debilitating funding cuts for the environment are compounded by its disingenuous use of the budget process to throw open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling in return for what amounts to an illusory conservation bribe. The budget's promise of using a portion of speculative oil revenues to fund conservation efforts would not even materialize until after the president leaves office -- if at all. It is more likely that this cynical maneuver would be added to the long list of this administration's broken conservation promises.

"As far as good news, we do actually support a few proposals in the president's budget. These include tax credits for renewable energy and energy efficient vehicles, reductions to some environmentally destructive Army Corps of Engineers water projects, and reforms for agricultural subsidies. Unfortunately, and as might be expected, these few positive proposals are more than offset by the president's support for subsidies for polluting energy industries and crippling reductions to water quality and land conservation funding."

"Finally, and perhaps most alarmingly, this year's budget proposes granting to the executive branch the authority to sweep aside innumerable environmental, consumer, and labor protections under the guise of government 'effectiveness.' This proposal would set up two commissions that could automatically let programs expire (or 'sunset') or even eliminate them based on a skewed White House scoring process, with little or no Congressional oversight."