Obama gets an A- for environmental budget items

Media Contacts

Environment Massachusetts

“Overall, President Obama’s budget gets an A-. It is fantastic news for climate action, clean energy, and our national parks; but there is one piece of bad news that really stings: the proposal decreases clean water funding just as the Flint crisis makes clear that we can’t take safe drinking water for granted.” – Ben Hellerstein, Environment Massachusetts

Boston — Today the president released his last proposed budget to Congress. Below is statement from Ben Hellerstein, State Director of Environment Massachusetts, followed by a breakdown of how Environment Massachusetts’ top 10 priorities fared in the proposal.

“Overall, President Obama’s budget gets an A-. It is fantastic news for climate action, clean energy, and our national parks; but there is one piece of bad news that really stings: the president’s budget decreases clean water funding just as the Flint crisis makes clear that we can’t take safe drinking water for granted.

“In this proposed budget the president is doubling down on his commitment to climate action and continuing his strong track record on park conservation by proposing funds to repair facilities and increase rangers at our national parks for their 100th birthday.

“One of the biggest highlights is a massive proposed investment in clean car, solar, and wind technologies to make them affordable for all Americans. But a notable lowlight is reduced funding overall for local communities to replace outdated pipes, upgrade their infrastructure, and stop pollution before it starts to protect their rivers, lakes, and drinking water.”

1-The nation’s most important land conservation program.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has created or expanded 40,000 parks and other projects in all 50 states for Americans to hike, fish, paddle, or just enjoy the great outdoors. Parks that have received funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund include Bash Bish Falls, the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, and the Cape Cod National Seashore, along with dozens of urban parks and playgrounds. Revenue from offshore drilling leases is dedicated to fund the program, but Congress has consistently raided those funds, and last year even allowed this critical conservation program to expire. We’re calling for a green budget that fully funds the Land & Water Conservation Fund at $900 million. Conservation projects that hang in the balance include protecting lands around the Connecticut River as part of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

RESULT: The president’s budget fully funds the Land & Water Conservation Fund at $900 million.

2-Protecting our parks on their 100th birthday.
This August marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service—the agency tasked with the maintenance and protection of our nation’s nearly 500 parks, trails, and recreation areas, from the Grand Canyon to the Cape Cod National Seashore. Yet since 2005, the National Park Service’s budget has been cut by half a billion dollars – leading to long term staff losses, closed facilities, and the growth of the $11.3 billion backlog for deferred regular maintenance. More Americans than ever before are likely to visit our parks for the Centennial, but will our parks be ready with adequate facilities and enough rangers? A green budget should include at least $1 billion for the Centennial to address thousands of facility needs, facilitate volunteer and ranger coordination, and ensure that we and future generations can enjoy our parks like the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Minute Man National Historical Park for the next 100 years.

RESULT: The president’s budget includes $860 million to address the repair and maintenance backlog, $135 million to leverage private donations to our parks, and $20 million to support the effort to get every fourth-grader and their families to a national park.

3-Safe drinking water. 
All Americans deserve safe drinking water.  Yet as the unfolding crisis in Flint, MI, makes clear, we can no longer take this basic public health expectation for granted. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that communities will need $384 billion in drinking water infrastructure between now and 2030. A green budget should fund the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund at $2 billion to ensure that all communities can provide safe, clean drinking water to their residents. The revolving fund should give clear priority to repairing existing infrastructure and water efficiency and conservation.

RESULT: The president proposed a meager increase in this fund over last year, bringing the total to $1.02 billion.

4-Sustainable, green communities.
  Each year, billions of gallons of sewage overflows and stormwater runoff pollute our waters, close beaches, or make people sick. Across the country, communities are eager to fix their wastewater treatment systems and prevent pollution with rain barrels, rooftop gardens, permeable pavement, open space, and other “green infrastructure” techniques that capture stormwater on-site before it causes pollution. But our communities need at least some federal resources to implement these solutions, with EPA estimating local needs at $271 billion over the next 20 years. A green budget should fund the Clean Water State Revolving Fund at $4 billion, with at least 20 percent of the funds dedicated to green infrastructure projects to prevent water pollution. These funds will be put to particularly good use in Massachusetts, where stormwater runoff remains a major source of pollution in the Charles River, the Connecticut River, and other waterways.

RESULT: The president proposed only $980 million for this fund, a major decrease over the enacted level for FY16 of $1.4 billion.

5-Saving energy in buildings and appliances.
The buildings where we live and work consume 40 percent of our energy and contribute to nearly 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution — not to mention a substantial amount of health-threatening smog and soot. Much of that energy is wasted through air leaks and outdated, unnecessarily inefficient appliances. The Department of Energy’s Office of Building Technologies has played a critical role in advancing energy savings by promoting more energy efficient buildings, lighting, appliances and industrial equipment.  Through research and technical assistance to local and state governments and manufacturers, the program has generated tremendous progress on energy efficiency, from 90 percent efficiency improvements in refrigerators, televisions and lighting, to dramatic improvements in local and state building energy codes. A green budget should provide at least $250 million to DOE’s Office of Building Technologies.

RESULT: The president’s Mission Innovation initiative doubles investment overall in clean energy advancements, and we’re confident this initiative will continue DOE’s commitment to making buildings more efficient and affordable.

6-Advancing solar energy.
By supporting research, innovation and partnerships to promote residential and commercial photovoltaics and utility scale solar, the Solar Energy Technologies Office has helped lay the foundation for the recent rise in solar across the country and in Massachusetts, where solar grew by 274 percent between 2012 and 2014. A cornerstone of the office is the SunShot Initiative, with a goal of making solar energy technologies cost competitive with conventional energy sources by 2020. Solar is nearing a tipping point. By expanding resources for the Solar Energy Technologies office to $275 million, millions more Americans will be able to go solar in the next decade, putting us on a path to 100 percent clean energy.

RESULT: The Mission Innovation initiative includes over $500 million to increase the use and reduce the costs of clean renewable power from solar, wind, water, and geothermal energy, including $213 million to support the SunShot Initiative mission.

7-Advancing clean electric vehicles.
We can power our cars entirely with clean, renewable energy, dramatically curbing global warming pollution and ensuring cleaner air for our communities. But we need advanced technologies to deploy electric vehicles widely and affordably across the country. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Vehicle Technologies is meeting this challenge head-on. It implements the EV Everywhere program, which has a goal of making electric cars as affordable and convenient as conventional gasoline cars in the next five years. The office encourages charging stations at workplaces like Biogen and EMC Corporation, provides grants to cities to convert their fleets to cleaner cars through the Clean Cities Initiative, and is partnering with private entities to research and develop lower-cost vehicles without compromising safety. Now more than ever we need a big boost to advance the cause of clean electric cars, which is why a green budget should include at least $350 million for the Office of Vehicle Technologies.

RESULT: The Mission Innovation initiative includes $880 million for affordable advanced vehicles. The president also proposed a $10/barrel fee oil to help support a comprehensive clean transportation program. We should be advancing clean vehicles and getting off fossil fuels to protect public health and solve the climate crisis, so we support charging the oil companies more and using the funds to promote clean transportation.

8-The Green Climate Fund
was established by the United Nations to assist developing nations in reducing their carbon footprints and making the transition to clean, renewable energy. The Green Climate Fund is a critical component to the successful implementation of the Paris agreement, which sets a goal of preventing global warming above 2 degrees Celsius—the benchmark scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The U.S. has pledged $3 billion to the fund; this year a green budget should accomplish a quarter of that with $750 million. Meeting the goals set in Paris have plenty of implications here in Massachusetts, where some counties have seen up to 10 weather-related disasters since 2010. Scientists say these events will become more severe and frequent without action to curb pollution.

RESULT: The president’s budget proposes funding the Green Climate Fund at $750 million.

9-Advancing wind power.
  By supporting research and development, reducing financial, institutional, and technical barriers to deploying wind energy, the Wind Power Technologies Office has been able to accelerate the wind industry’s technical progress, making turbines more efficient than ever, and award funding to begin development on America’s first offshore wind farm. Continuing research and development and investment in technology will help grow the U.S. offshore wind industry, reduce the cost of onshore wind, and facilitate the deployment of environmentally sited wind turbines. The Wind Power Technologies Office has a goal to grow wind energy by nearly five-fold, making it 20 percent of America’s energy supply by 2030. Investment and growth in America’s onshore and offshore wind industry will allow for enough wind capacity for millions more Americans to power their homes with this pollution-free energy source. Funding for the Wind Power Technologies Office is especially important as Massachusetts looks to harness the winds off its shores, which have the potential to provide up to 11 times the electricity used in the state each year. A green budget should include $150 million for the Wind Technologies Office.

RESULT: The Mission Innovation initiative includes over $500 million to increase the use and reduce the costs of clean renewable power from solar, wind, water, and geothermal energy.

10-Ending oil subsidies.
With nearly limitless potential for wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy; the impending climate crisis upon us; and special places like the Arctic and the Outer Banks threatened by drilling; a green budget should move us away from fossil fuels and toward 100 percent clean energy. Yet for nearly a century, the federal government has subsidized U.S. drilling activities, polluting the environment and costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. A green budget should eliminate these subsidies, ending tax credits for domestic manufacturing and the practice of drillers writing off the expense of 15 percent of their income (the “depletion allowance”) and their so-called “intangible costs,” and more. Ending the worst of these subsidies would save at least $6 billion.

RESULT: The president’s budget eliminates the tax credits for domestic manufacturing, the depletion allowance, and “intangible costs.” Because of reduced drilling activity and low prices this year, eliminating these subsidies and others is projected to save just over $2 billion.