Remarks of Heather Taylor, Deputy Legislative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council at Today's Budget Briefing

WASHINGTON (February 8, 2006) -- President Bush this week unveiled his government spending plan for FY2007, which cuts overall environmental funding by 13 percent hindering efforts to keep our air and water clean, and make sensible use of our nation's natural resources, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

(Click here for the joint environmental backgrounder, a detailed whitepaper on the environmental impacts of the FY2007 budget.)

The following is a statement by NRDC's Deputy Legislative Director Heather Taylor:

"This year, most federal agencies received a half a percent reduction to their budgets on average, however the Environmental Protection Agency was cut 4 percent. That may not sound like a lot, but it's eight times more than what the other agencies faced. The President made this cut at the same time he is creating many new programs by robbing other important environmental spending categories.

"Although the overall budget is cut, the agency adds $184 million in new spending for homeland security. There is no dispute over the need for this kind of funding. But, this work shouldn't come at the expense of other programs, such as Superfund, when 25 percent of the population lives within four miles of a Superfund toxic cleanup site.

"Our nation's premier agency tasked with protecting human health and the environment shouldn't be forced to make these hard decisions because of a lack of funding.

"Hit particularly hard is the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides states with low-interest loans for water infrastructure. He proposes a cut of $200 million from last year's enacted level, and nearly $1.4 billion has been stripped away since 2002. These cuts keep coming despite the fact that the Agency says it needs $19 billion annually for the next 20 years to solve the country's clean water infrastructure problems.

"Not only is clean water in danger, breathing clean air may also become a thing of the past. Almost 150 million Americans now live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution. The administration's budget brags about funding to reduce the harm of diesel emissions. It doesn't mention that it had to steal the money from other programs.

"The money for reducing diesel emissions was taken away from State and Tribal Air Grants. Thirty-five million dollars was taken from local communities who need it to improve and preserve healthy air quality under the Clean Air Act.

"In addition, the wheels on the bus are grinding to a halt because the budget zeroes out funding for the Clean School Bus Initiative. So the government will no long work to reduce diesel exhaust exposure for the 24 million children who ride the bus to school each day, despite a $43 million need.

"But water and air aren't the only environmental issues slighted in the President's budget.

"Although Superfund receives a slight increase over last year's enacted level, the president actually asked for $20 million less than his budget request last year, and $131 million less than his request three years ago. This falling request comes when staff levels are decreasing and funding shortfalls for sites ready for cleanup have grown to a record $250 million. The budget request even notes that the lack of resources will impact the pace of cleanup.

"What's more, the President continues to ignore a proven funding mechanism for cleaning up these toxic sites - the Superfund Trust Fund. Taxpayers are now solely responsible for cleaning up toxic messes left by irresponsible polluters.

"The EPA claims that it is trying to be a good steward of taxpayer funds. Unfortunately, that claim doesn't hold up. If they were really trying to be good stewards, they would call for the reauthorization of the Superfund tax, which would save $1.5 billion each year and hold polluters responsible for cleaning up their mess.

"This budget gives to some programs with one hand, and takes away even more from environmental and public health safeguards with the other. It's not the first time that the President has demonstrated his disregard for the environment. But this is the most troubling budget we have seen from his White House yet. Congress must reject this proposal."