Budget 09: How’d the Environment Do – the Bad
Yesterday we touched on the good things that came out of the White House Budget request for the Fiscal Year of 2009. One could be mistaken for thinking, looking at the length of yesterday’s “good” article and the length of today’s “bad” article, that there is equality between the good and the bad; one would be mistaken. I spent a lot of yesterday’s post introducing the budget, looking at science as a whole, before I even got near the good.
But once again, I will repeat, you cannot weigh the good against the losses.
I finished yesterday’s post without mentioning the $2.4 million increase in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) enforcement budget. I did that not because I want to hide any of the good things that the Bush budget did for the environment, but because it is so outweighed by what was taken away from the EPA that it simply isn’t funny.
In total, the budget cuts to EPA programs came to over $330 million. You can see why a measly $2.4 million seems to pale into insignificance. In specifics, the cuts include the elimination of $5 million to restore the San Francisco Bay, cuts in air pollution programs including over $31 million for grants to states, and a further elimination of a $10 million program that would help clean up the air in some of California’s most heavily polluted areas.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said that the budget request hurts California. “The EPA’s job is to protect the health of our families, but with this budget the president is once again sending a clear message that cleaning up our environment is not a priority for the Bush administration.”
I would say “worst of all” but I’m not yet done, global climate change research came in at only $16 million. To be entirely dramatic, that is .000516%. That’s right, I’m going totally out of my way to focus on the fact that George W. Bush and his advisors literally believe that the planet’s greatest threat only deserves .000516% of their attention.
The US national resource agencies took a hit as well, according to Jamie Rappaport Clark, currently executive vice president of Defenders of Wildlife, and once director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Clinton administration. She believes that the $410 million budget cut for the Department of the Interior, as well as numerous other cuts, will damage the country’s national resources.
“The president’s final budget deals a huge blow to the agencies and programs charged with safeguarding our nation’s natural resources,” she said. “The next administration will be burdened with mending the damage caused by President Bush’s disastrous policies.”
“For example, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the principal source of funds for acquisition of lands for parks and wildlife refuges, would be crippled by a budget cut of nearly $104 million, wiping out more than 67 percent of its funding,” Clark warned.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors threw in as well, with President Douglas Palmer, mayor of Trenton, New Jersey, saying the nation’s mayors are “disappointed” at the administration’s failure to fund the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, which the president signed into law late in 2007.
“With gas prices on the rise, a renewed national focus on energy independence, and more and more Americans wanting to reduce energy use to preserve the planet,” Palmer said the mayors want funding to initiate and expand local efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
“As CEOs of the nation’s cities, mayors know all too well that America’s families are struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis,” Palmer said, calling the Bush budget “unwise and misguided.”
Next and perhaps most depressingly, is the White House’s increase in finances for nuclear energy and weapons. Setting aside the fact that the US apparently feels the need to create more nuclear weapons while at the same time trying to keep North Korea and Iran from them; the increases to nuclear energy in the budget boggles the mind.
The Department of Energy’s budget found itself a 79% increase in funding for the Nuclear Power 2010 program in Bush’s final budget in office. This increase also extends the period in which companies that are involved in the production of new nuclear power plants can apply for federal loan guarantees in order to lower the debt-financing costs associated with such projects.
The Nuclear Power 2010 program would thus receive $241.6 million in the fiscal year that starts October 1; this is an increase of $106.6 million over the current fiscal year figure.
This budget also requests a 27% increase in funding for the Energy Department’s used nuclear fuel management program. While one can rest happy that they are spending more money on ensuring that the waste is treated carefully, the allowance for an increase in this field only increases the surety with which this field will take hold.
While I won’t dwell on the subject of ‘Nuclear Energy; Good or Bad,’ I will just point out that while the emissions from such a power plant are minimal, the produced waste is not. You can’t just hope no one notices the tons of nuclear waste that is expelled while we all gaze up at the pretty clear skies free of plumes of smoke.
I really thought I’d manage to get all of this in to two articles, but I have reached the end of this and still need to discuss, nay, rant about the effects this budget has on the Great Lakes and the Arctic. So stay tuned for tomorrow’s third part, Budget 09: How’d the Environment Do – the Ugly.