Bush Budget Clearcuts Environment

The Bush Administration released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2005 on Monday. As Environmental and energy spending plans are generating considerable concern, BushGreenwatch examined the impact of the Bush environmental budget.

Arctic drilling

In his budget projections, President Bush includes $2.4 billion in revenues from oil lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the year 2006. Such sales have been repeatedly blocked by the Senate, but Administration officials said they would push Congress again this year to open the refuge to drilling.

"When he assumes, yet again, that oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is going to be a big money maker, the president is ignoring the clear will of the American people, who don't want to trash one of the wildest places left in America," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife.

The policy director for REP America, the national grassroots organization of Republicans for Environmental Protection, questioned whether it is fiscally responsible to include money in the budget that is unlikely to be realized. He urged the president to focus instead on conservation and efficiency to meet the nation's energy needs.

"Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling is not the answer to our nation's energy problems," Jim DiPeso, policy director of REP America, told BushGreenwatch. "Arctic or no Arctic, we will remain on the foreign petroleum treadmill as long as we continue using so much oil so inefficiently."

Superfund

The Superfund program to clean up the nation's most toxic waste sites would increase about 10 percent under the Bush budget, to $1.38 billion in FY 2005. But the entire amount would come from the general treasury, rather than continuing the 24-year practice of requiring polluting industries to contribute to a trust fund that picks up the tab when a site's polluter cannot be located or is defunct.

Since Superfund was created in 1980, every administration has supported the principle of "polluter pays" for the hazardous waste trust fund. Mr. Bush is the only president not to ask Congress to reauthorize the tax on polluting industries and instead put the burden on taxpayers.

Environment targeted for Greater Cuts than Other Domestic Spending

Conservation groups yesterday accused the Bush Administration of singling out environmental spending for larger cuts than other domestic programs in the 2005 budget, putting at risk environmental and public health protections under the guise of fiscal constraints.

"The Bush administration's budget reveals a ballooning environmental deficit that is growing even greater than the fiscal deficit," said Wesley Warren, a former official in the White House Office of Management and Budget, now with Natural Resources Defense Council.

Looking at the budget's five-year spending projections, Warren said the deficit shows the "degree to which the Bush Administration has singled out environmental protection for a disproportionate reduction -- not just next year, but for the next five years."

From forest protection to Everglades restoration to oceans, the budget President Bush has proposed to Congress puts protection of the nation's air, land and water at risk, say environmental leaders who analyzed the budget this week.

Total spending on environmental programs is slated for a $1.9 billion reduction, nearly 6 percent below FY 2004, falling from $32.2 billion to $30.3 billion. But the cuts do not stop there; the environment takes another whack in the President's long-term budget plan, dropping to only $29.6 billion in FY 2006, with significant additional cuts falling on land conservation efforts.

Funding for EPA would shrink by more than $600 million, with the biggest impacts on water quality and science and technology programs. Land conservation would fall far short of current needs, with the greatest deficiencies occurring in land acquisition, wildlife protection and parks funding.

The largest cut is in water-quality infrastructure funding for reducing sources of pollution. This category includes a broad range of activities, including sewage plants, water purification facilities and targeted pollution-prevention investments. The total investments drop from $2.6 billion to $1.8 billion, an $822 million cut that represents more than 30 percent of the total for water infrastructure investments. This is despite $450 billion in needs identified by EPA in the Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis of 2002.

National Parks: A Promise Not Kept

One of President Bush's few environmental campaign promises in 2000 was to eliminate the huge maintenance backlog in America's national parks. But since taking office, the Bush Administration has only increased funding to address the problem by about $350 million.

President Bush's proposed budget for fiscal 2005 provides just 7 percent of the $4.9 billion he pledged for the maintenance backlog, according to an analysis by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). As a result of these continued shortfalls, the public is losing access to American treasures like the Statue of Liberty, which has been closed for more than two years.

"One of the few environmental commitments President Bush made was to eliminate the maintenance backlog in the national parks," Ron Tipton, senior vice president of NPCA, told BushGreenwatch. "Regrettably, the Administration has not come close to meeting this pledge."

Endangered Species: An Act Endangered

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is severely underfunded, with Fish and Wildlife Service biologists estimating that about 200 species currently listed as endangered are on the verge of extinction primarily due to a lack of funding. The president's own Department of the Interior cites a lack of funds whenever it is criticized for failing to fully implement the act.

Yet the president's budget cuts ESA recovery by a whopping $9.8 million, or 14.4 percent below FY 2004 levels. Moreover, the budget for ESA implementation is cut by $7.5 million, or 5.5 percent below 2004 levels. Instead of reductions, experts say an increase of at least $50 million for recovery programs is needed.

The president's budget does include a $5 million increase for programs that list new species as endangered, which is sorely needed, but it is offset by the cuts to the other endangered species accounts. Even that increase will not begin to cover the $153 million listing backlog, which includes more than 250 candidate species in need of protection. Some have been awaiting listing for years.

"The Bush Administration cries poverty when it comes to implementation of the Endangered Species Act, claiming the 'ESA is broken,'"said Mary Beth Beetham, director of legislative affairs at Defenders of Wildlife. "Yet it is trying to transform this statement into a self-fulfilling prophecy by refusing to request the funds needed to carry out its responsibilities under the law to protect imperiled wildlife."

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