Bush Budget Would Undermine Environmental Protection, says NRDC

WASHINGTON, DC (April 10, 2001) - President Bush's budget poses a significant threat to the environment and public health, according to an analysis by experts at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) released today. The proposed budget would slash overall spending for environmental and natural resources departments by $2.1 billion, or 11 percent, in fiscal year 2002 -- from $28.8 billion to $26.7 billion. Hardest hit would be energy efficiency and environmental cleanup programs.

"This budget undercuts what little credibility President Bush had on the environment," said Wesley Warren, NRDC senior fellow for environmental economics and former associate director for natural resources, energy and science at the Office of Management and Budget. "As a presidential candidate, he made a handful of promises to protect the environment and public health. In this budget he has turned his back on nearly all of them."

During the campaign, Bush pledged $100 million a year for the bipartisan Tropical Forest Conservation Act, but his budget only proposes $13 million for fiscal year 2002. He promised full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but has funded it in part by moving earmarked monies from other programs. He promised to eliminate the $4.9 billion national parks system maintenance and construction backlog in five years, but his budget defers action on half of it until fiscal year 2004, and makes only a token contribution toward the rest. Finally, he said he would regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants as a pollutant. He abandoned that pledge a month ago.

The Bush budget also backpedals on energy efficiency at a time when many Americans are experiencing rising energy prices. "The Bush administration has been hyping up an energy crisis, but its first budget proposes to slash federal energy efficiency and renewables programs by hundreds of millions of dollars," said David Doniger, an NRDC senior attorney who headed the climate change office in the Clinton administration's Environmental Protection Agency. "The president also wants to increase reliance on coal when we need to address the pressing problem of global warming."

Despite claims by the administration, Department of Energy's energy efficiency standards have been cost effective and should be expanded, not decimated. Doniger pointed out that these standards have saved businesses and consumers some $180 billion over the last two decades -- more than $200 for every dollar of federal money spent to develop them. Yet the administration proposes to cut the budget for developing appliance efficiency standards by more than half, from $9.4 million to $4.4 million.