Recently, the federal budget process has gotten attention from the environmental community for proposed cuts in environmental programs. While the outcome of the budget process is not yet official (as of this posting), many of the proposals deserve mention.
President Obama made good on the State of the Union promise to cut energy subsidies by proposing to eliminate tax breaks open only to the oil and gas industry, a cut that saves the US $43.6 Billion over the next decade. The President also increased the budget of the agency responsible for offshore energy management (BOEMRE, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) by $119 million. This increase is designed to give the agency the funds it needs to expand oversight of oil and gas drilling operations in the ocean.
Not all news from Washington on the budget gives hope to ocean advocates – both the President and Congress have suggested huge spending cuts to many programs vital to the protection of coastal ecosystems. NOAA’s budget could be reduced by $56.8 million and the EPA’s by $1.3 billion. Congress’s proposed budget amendment would make it illegal for EPA to regulate or enforce programs ranging from hazardous materials and water quality to climate change and urban sprawl. Finally, Congress proposed that all oil and gas drilling operations in the ocean be approved regardless of environmental consequence – thereby saving the money allocated for the environmental review of energy development.
These fights over funding bring into focus the need for the Clean Ocean Zone legislation (http://www.cleanoceanzone.org/). Because Congress can easily fund or de-fund environmental protection programs this easily (and without public review and participation, impacts analyses, or real foresight), we need a lasting law that once and for all protects the NY/NJ Bight from industrialization and new sources of pollution. With a clear set of policies and principles in place for our corner of the ocean, we’d be more insulated from the vagaries of Congressional (and Presidential) budget whims.
COA is monitoring the outcome of these budget negotiations and will report back once this budget battle is concluded!