Environmentalists Decry White House Budget Proposal

White House photo by Eric Draper

Much to the chagrin of conservationists hoping that the Bush administration would start considering its environmental legacy during its second term, the White House budget proposal for 2006 calls for a six percent cut in funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The majority of the cuts at EPA would come from slashing a billion-dollar revolving fund that states use to upgrade public sewage, septic and storm-water run-off systems. The White House hopes to save $361 million by scaling back the program by a third.

Environmentalists are crying foul that the proposed cut would significantly impair cities’ abilities to upgrade aging systems. “This year’s cuts are really bad for clean water,” says Rob Perks of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But according to the EPA, federal funding of the program in question was never meant to be permanent, and the proposed cuts offset increases voted in by Congress in 2004 and 2005, meaning that overall funding levels will remain constant through 2011.

On the bright side, the proposed budget would maintain funding levels for clean drinking water programs, and would increase funding to clean up toxic sediments, “brownfields” and Superfund sites.

However, with cuts or elimination of many popular programs, many Democrats are calling the proposed budget “dead on arrival.” Federal officials counter that the same was said about the White House budget proposal last year, which Congress only tweaked in minor ways before passing. Congress will debate and adjust the White House budget proposal for a few months before settling on a federal spending plan to kick into effect next October.

Sources: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=7560498, http://www.adn.com/front/story/6134875p-6016557c.html, and http://www.nrdc.org/media/pressreleases/050209a.asp