THE BUCKS START HERE: President Obama unveiled a $3.55 trillion federal budget today, emphasizing that $1.2 trillion of that was inherited from the Bush administration, and much of the rest comes from economic stimulus measures — many of which will also stimulate the environment. Obama is requesting $10.5 billion for the EPA, for example, the agency's largest budget request in eight years and nearly 50 percent more than President Bush asked for last year. That includes tripled funding — $3.9 billion — for infrastructure projects that protect waterways and drinking water, such as $475 million for a Great Lakes cleanup plan. And, as I mentioned this morning, the budget also banks on future revenue from a carbon-trading system. (Sources: Washington Post, Associated Press, Chicago Tribune)

NEW ERA FOR EPA: Michelle Obama stopped by the EPA today as her husband was rolling out the new budget, her sixth in a series of visits to federal agencies. She told hundreds of EPA employees that their agency is "at the center of President Obama's highest priorities," which was made clear by his $10.5 billion budget request. "Your work will not only save our planet and clean up our environment," she said, "it's going to transform our economy and create millions of well-paying jobs." (Sources: ABC News, AP, New York Times)

NUKE REBUKE: Obama will scrap 20-year-old plans to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, the Department of Energy announced today; he plans instead to come up with a better idea. A DOE spokeswoman says nuclear-waste storage at Yucca Mountain "is not an option, period," and that the budget Obama released today "clearly reflects" that. The Wall Street Journal considers what this means for the future of nuclear power. (Sources: Bloomberg News, WSJ)

CAVING IN: Black fungus stains are steadily growing over prehistoric cave paintings in France's Lascaux cave, and global warming is speeding up the process, experts say. The encroaching fungi drew a swarm of geologists, biologists and other scientists to Paris today for a two-day conference aimed at finding a solution. Rising temperatures associated with greenhouse gas emissions are stagnating air inside the cave, increasing humidity and making it especially attractive to various fungi, bacteria and algae. The cave is currently sealed in hopes "it will heal itself," thus salvaging the paintings, which are between 15,000 and 17,000 years old. (Source: AP)

DIRTY BOMBS: Hundreds of unexploded bombs are corroding on the Caribbean sea floor, leaking toxins and poisoning nearby aquatic life, according to a University of Georgia marine ecologist studying the problem. The old bombs are left over from U.S. Navy training exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, and tests reveal that feather duster worms, sea urchins and various coral in the area contain high levels of carcinogenic material — in some cases 100,000 times more than what's considered safe for commercially edible seafood. (Source: CNN)

BEYOND A REASONABLE DROUGHT: Increasingly severe droughts could "lay waste" to parts of the United States, disrupting commerce and making cities uninhabitable, a group of prominent climate scientists warned Congress Wednesday. It was a blunt and bleak projection, but similar in tone to a recent warning from DOE chief Steven Chu that climate change could end agriculture in California by 2100. Water shortages are already severe in California and many other states throughout the West and Southwest, which is the focus of a feature today in Bloomberg News examining some extreme measures being considered by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which manages dwindling water resources such as Lake Mead. (Sources: The Guardian, Los Angeles TimesBloomberg News)

Russell McLendon

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