WASHINGTON, D.C. — Anna Aurilio, director of Environment America’s Washington, D.C. office, issued the following statement in response to President Obama releasing his annual budget proposal:
“We are thankful the president’s budget fulfills last year’s promise to fully fund our nation’s premier conservation fund, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, giving our parks and public lands the critical protection they need from development and pollution.
“The president’s budget also takes an important step in keeping our parks open to the public and protected this summer while investing in the National Parks Centennial Initiative. Last summer, years of budget cuts forced places like Yosemite National Park and the Florida Everglades to reduce staff, close campgrounds, and shorten the tourist season.
“We are also thankful that the president has reiterated his commitment to tackle global warming in his budget by providing the additional resources needed to implement his Climate Action Plan as well as providing increased resources to enforce laws to protect our air and water.
“However, we are very disappointed in the deep cuts to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and the Great Lakes restoration efforts, which will restrict our ability to protect our waterways and our communities from sewage overflow and runoff pollution.”
Parks and Conservation
During the September government shutdown, all national parks were forced to close their gates to visitors for 16 consecutive days, when an average of 7.8 million people would have been visiting them. This led to $414 million in lost visitor spending.
This past March, sequestration forced our National Park Service to cut more than $100 million of their annual budget, resulting in places like Yosemite National Park and the Florida Everglades reducing staff and shortening the tourist season. In some instances, this meant a loss of more than $1 million a day in revenue for local communities.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has permanently protected nearly 5 million acres of public lands, including land in and around some of America’s most treasured assets, such as Grand Canyon National Park, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and the White Mountain National Forest. But just last year, Congress moved to zero out funding for the LWCF. In his FY14 budget, President Obama called for $600 of the $900 million the LWCF is meant to receive. He also announced he would start calling for full funding once again in FY15.
Clean Air and Clean Water
From the Chesapeake Bay to the Puget Sound and all the smaller waterways in between, Americans strongly support protecting their drinking water and treasured waterways. Recent extreme weather events — from Superstorm Sandy to this fall’s floods in Colorado — showed that outdated water infrastructure can lead to serious problems for our waterways and for the health of our communities. The president’s FY15 budget reduces funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds by $581 million dollars, from $2.36 billion in 2014 to $1.78 billion in FY15. With such critical needs for infrastructure improvements, we are disappointed that the president is cutting the funds available for this program, which provides low-interest loans to communities across the country for water infrastructure improvements.
Investing in restoring the Great Lakes is both wildly popular and makes good economic sense. Millions of Americans travel to enjoy the Great Lakes each year, and the Lakes are critical parts of life in the communities which surround them. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a proven program with a track record of success bringing federal agencies, states, tribes, municipalities, and universities together to tackle the most significant problems in the Great Lakes and deserves robust funding. In FY14, the program is funded at $300 million dollars, while the president’s budget would include only $275 million.
We need EPA cops on the beat for our air and water, enforcing existing laws and holding polluters accountable. But budget cuts have unfortunately restricted the EPA’s ability to investigate and crack down on violators, with less pollution reduced from enforcement in 2013 than in 2012. In 2013, the EPA’s enforcement actions resulted in 1.3 billion pounds of pollution reduced, a decrease from more than 2 billion pounds reduced in 2012. We are encouraged that the President’s budget includes an increase of $76 million above the FY14 levels in grants to States and Tribes to implement rules that protect our air and water, bringing the FY15 total to $1.1 billion.