"We have a responsibility to act now and sufficiently fund the programs that help ensure the water we drink is clean, the air we breathe is pure, the energy we use is renewable, and the pristine lands and wildlife we care about are protected."
Washington, DC (PRWEB) March 7, 2011
As congressional debate keeps the federal government funded for two weeks at a time, a coalition of conservation organizations is calling on the U.S. Senate to resist the assault on public health and economic growth passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and turn its attention toward adopting a far-sighted vision for investing in public lands and natural resources in fiscal year 2012.
The annual “Green Budget” report, delivered to Congress today by 35 organizations, details how to eliminate subsidies for wealthy oil and gas companies in order to fund investments in protections for land and natural resources.
“As stewards of our surroundings we have a responsibility to act now and sufficiently fund the programs that help ensure the water we drink is clean, the air we breathe is pure, the energy we use is renewable, and the pristine lands and wildlife we care about are protected,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society – one organization behind the report.
If congressional leadership is looking for wise budget cuts to make, the Green Budget report points to billions of savings that could be achieved by eliminating a variety of tax breaks for oil and gas companies. The House missed that opportunity when it passed a 2011 budget extension which refused to stop oil companies using royalty-free leases from getting new government leases. The House also chose not to eliminate subsidies to the five largest oil companies.
“Just by ending giveaways to Big Oil and King Coal, we can save over $60 billion,” Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica said. “It’s outrageous that politicians are trying to cut everything from environmental protection to education to Social Security, while giving away tens of billions to some of the most profitable companies with CEOs making million dollar salaries.”
Those savings are a sharp contradiction to damaging funding cuts in the recent House-passed continuing resolution that proposes to keep the government operating this fiscal year.
The Green Budget recommendations benefit America’s health, safety, energy and economic sectors. They also have the ability to enhance public welfare, accelerate the growth of our economy, create millions of well-paying jobs and protect the limitless value of our natural capital and ecosystems.
Highlights of the conservationists’ proposal include:
- A $900 million investment from offshore drilling revenues in the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to protect hunting and fishing access, provide outdoor recreation, and strengthen local economies.
- Maintaining funding for our national parks will ensure rangers and other staff can protect our national treasures and enhance the safety and enjoyment of more than 280 million annual visitors from around the world whose spending supports local communities. National parks support $13.3 billion of local private-sector economic activity and 267,000 private-sector jobs.
- Supporting the aggressive expansion of funding for transformative clean technologies that will play a vital role in ensuring the continued health and global competitiveness of the U.S. economy.
- Sustaining funds for ocean conservation, restoration, science, and management that is critical to protect and restore coastal and marine ecosystems and the economies that depend on them. The ocean and coastal economy contributes more than $138 billion to the nation’s annual GDP from living marine resources, tourism, recreation, transportation, construction, and mineral extraction.
- Supporting the EPA's State Revolving Funds, which provide funding to states and local governments to repair failing water infrastructure. These programs create jobs while preventing raw sewage from entering our rivers and other sources of drinking water. The Green Budget also recommends investment in programs to restore the health of our rivers, such as the Community-based Restoration Program and Open Rivers Initiative at NOAA, which provide funds to local communities to remove structures like outdated dams. These modest programs at NOAA create jobs while allowing rivers and the communities they support to thrive.
- Finally, simply keeping our national wildlife refuges on an even funding keel so these iconic places can continue to protect America’s wildlife. With a refuge in every state and within an hour’s drive of most major American cities, 41 million visitors each year generate nearly $1.7 billion and 27,000 private sector jobs in local economies.
“The investments we make today to protect our health, by giving us cleaner air and water, also will improve our environment and the economy for decades to come,” Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke said. “President Obama and Congress face tough choices when it comes to cutting spending in fiscal year 2012, but this budget shows the way to continue to work in the public interest without crippling environmental programs.”