Statement by Heather Taylor, NRDC Deputy Legislative Director

WASHINGTON (May 4, 2005) -- Clean water and land conservation programs took a big hit today, as the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee approved a $26.2 billion bill for fiscal year 2006. The bill provides $435 million more than President Bush's FY06 proposal but falls $800 million short of last year's enacted level. The full appropriations committee is set to mark up the bill next week.

The following is a statement by Heather Taylor, deputy legislative director at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):

"Today's action is a disappointment to all Americans who value a healthy environment, particularly clean water and land conservation. Without much needed federal funding, states and communities will have a much harder time protecting their clean water, precious lands and imperiled wildlife.

"Under this bill the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides low-interest loans to upgrade sewage treatment plants and improve water quality, suffers a $241 million cut. That's on top of a big cut last year. This popular and effective program will have lost approximately half a billion dollars over the last two years.

"While it's worth noting that the subcommittee did provide $120 million more for clean water than the president's budget requested, the Environmental Protection Agency projects that nearly $20 billion per year is needed to plug the nation's clean water funding gap, and instead Congress is cutting the funding. Our elected leaders need to step up by investing in clean water.

"It's also troubling that the subcommittee cut $212 million out of the federal land acquisition fund. That means states and communities will have its hands tied in preventing the development of environmentally sensitive and culturally significant lands that otherwise might be purchased and preserved.

"On the positive side, the National Park Service is slated to receive a modest boost to address its growing maintenance backlog.

"Overall, however, this year's appropriations bill provides a drop in the bucket in terms of what is needed to fund important programs that safeguard our health and environment.

"We urge the full committee to get serious about America's environmental needs by increasing funding, particularly for clean water and land conservation."