When President Barack Obama put his signature on the federal budget bill on April 15, he implemented budget cuts that may be good for the bottom line but are likely to have a detrimental effect on the environment. Here are a few of the implications to consider:
EPA budget cut, but it could have been worse
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a 16 percent haircut. The cuts to the agency budget will amount to about $1.6 billion for the rest of the fiscal year, and most of those cuts are expected to affect state and local governments, which rely on the EPA for funding to improve wastewater treatment plants and drinking water facilities. Still, this is not as bad as it could have been. Over the last year, several high-ranking Republicans have expressed the desire to eliminate the EPA, so a haircut isn’t that bad when you consider that implosion was an option. Still, it’s likely that the fiscal debate about the EPA will continue as we approach the 2012 elections.
Climate is still a bad word in Washington
Ever since the EPA began regulating carbon emissions, the agency has been a target. But it doesn't stop there — it seems anything related to climate is fair game. The New York Times reported that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) plans for creating a climate service went down the tubes once the budget deal was finalized. Essentially, the service would be a centralized information center that would streamline the process of getting the word out about climate change — how to deal with it and what threats are most likely to impact Americans. Seems like a useful tool to me, but that doesn't give it budget-cut immunity. On a somewhat related topic, NOAA also saw budget cuts that would delay the launch of its weather forecasting satellites, which may lead to a forecasting gap between 2016 and 2018.
Global climate negotiations at risk — again
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) is another frequent target of budget hawks in Washington. U.S. funding for UNIPCC has remained in place, but that trend isn’t likely to last long. Expect UNIPCC funding to come up in new debates about raising the debt ceiling and setting the next budget. This may not sound a big deal in terms of the domestic policy, but uncertainty about U.S. climate policy tends to have a ripple effect in the international community. The lack of U.S. cooperation over the last decade has proven that point, and cutting UNIPCC funding would only make matters worse.