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Bush Record-Splitting Budget Cuts Environment, Funds Nuclear Weapons
WASHINGTON, DC, February 5, 2008 (ENS) - The White House budget request released Monday for Fiscal Year 2009 is historic as it is the first budget in U.S. history to crack the $3 trillion mark. It takes the United States deep into deficit spending - the deficit is predicted to be $407 billion in FY09. Even so, President George W. Bush requests less money for environmental measures and more for nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.

Bush asked Congress to fund the first new U.S. nuclear weapons in two decades and requested additional funding to build a new nuclear bomb making plant.

Components of a Peacekeeper missile are subjected to a wall of fire to test how aging weapons will perform in the future. (Photo courtesy DOD)

The budget requests $10 million for the Reliable Replacement Warhead, RRW, program and $100 million to begin construction on a new plutonium pit facility. Plutonium pits are the cores of atomic weapons.

"This administration just doesn't seem to get the message. Congress and the people of this country do not want these new weapons," said Devin Helfrich, a lobbyist on nuclear disarmament for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Quaker peace lobby that helped lead lobbying efforts to defeat the RRW program in Congress.

Last year, Congress zeroed out funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program and did not fund a previously proposed nuclear bomb plant. "Yet," Helfrich said, "the administration is again requesting funding for RRW and a new bomb plant."

"The arms control community has consistently opposed these nuclear weapons as immoral, unnecessary, and inconsistent with U.S. international commitments to work toward universal disarmament," Helfrich said.

National Nuclear Security Agency officials believe the RRW program is needed. They see the ability to adapt to changing military needs rather than maintain additional forces for unexpected contingencies as a key program driver.

The Department of Energy's budget request seeks a 79 percent increase in funding for the Nuclear Power 2010 program and that extends the period during which companies that build new nuclear power plants can apply for federal loan guarantees to lower the debt-financing costs associated with the projects.

The Nuclear Power 2010 program - a cost-sharing, industry-government partnership designed to reduce the technical, regulatory and institutional uncertainties associated with construction of new nuclear power plants - would receive $241.6 million in the fiscal year that begins October 1 - an increase of $106.6 million over the current fiscal year.

Industry also would fund the program with $241.6 million, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry association.

The budget request also seeks a 27 percent increase in funding for the Energy Department's used nuclear fuel management program. The program receives $390 million this year and would receive $494.7 million in FY09.

Of DOE's request, $247.3 million would come from the Nuclear Waste Fund that is financed by electricity customers who use nuclear power. The remainder would come from Defense Department accounts to support disposal of high-level radioactive waste from U.S. defense programs.

The budget request extends by two years, through fiscal 2011, the period during which companies could seek a limited federal financial backstop for new clean generating plants, including new nuclear plants, under the loan guarantee program authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The legislation empowers the Secretary of Energy to provide loan guarantees for up to 80 percent of the cost of "innovative technologies" that "avoid, reduce or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases."

The budget request would increase funding for the administration's Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative by $120.5 million, a 66 percent increase, to $301.5 million.

The program is researching methods to "provide for proliferation-resistant technologies to recover the energy content" in used nuclear fuel and reduce the volume and toxicity of byproducts from reactor fuel.

Nuclear Energy Institute chief executive Frank "Skip" Bowman said, "Nuclear energy enhances our energy independence, and new nuclear power plants are essential if the United States hopes to meet its energy and environmental challenges. The promise of nuclear energy technology extends beyond electricity production to include production of hydrogen and process heat for other applications."

President Bush again has cut the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this time by $330 million to a total of $7.14 billion.

The cuts include over $270 million dollars from EPA programs that would clean up and restore lakes, rivers and streams. Global climate change research comes in at $16 million.

The budget request hurts California, says U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The black line in the water in San Francisco Bay is from the collision of the M/V Cosco Busan with the San Francisco Bay Bridge on November 7, 2007. (Photo courtesy NOAA)

The Bush budget eliminates a $5 million EPA program to restore the San Francisco Bay. It cuts air pollution programs, including over $31 million dollars for grants to states, and eliminates a $10 million dollar program that would help clean up the air in some of California’s most polluted communities.

It eliminates funding for a new national registry to track global warming pollution.

Boxer said, "The EPA’s job is to protect the health of our families, but with this budget the president is once again sending a clear message that cleaning up our environment is not a priority for the Bush administration."

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson tried to put the best face on the reduction of his agency's budget by recognizing "the challenge of managing in a time of tight fiscal constraints."

"President Bush's budget request will continue to deliver environmental results today, as well as keep EPA on course to deliver a cleaner, healthier tomorrow," said Johnson.

Even so, Johnson said, "The proposed 2009 spending plan proposes the largest enforcement budget ever: an increase of $9 million for a total budget of $563 million. This includes the largest criminal enforcement budget ever: an increase of $2.4 million for a total of $52 million."

"This budget represents government at its best," Johnson said. "It helps EPA meet our environmental goals, while being responsible stewards of taxpayers' dollars."

The EPA budget proposes to strengthen the agency's efforts in energy and homeland security, especially in urban areas around major ports, Johnson said.

Nanotechnology research targets are another priority. The Bush budget contains an additional $4.5 million for a total of $14.9 million for nanotechnology research to better understand the processes that govern the environmental fate of nano-materials and to obtain data for accurate nano-material assessments, Johnson said.

The budget proposes an additional $14 million to meet the increased permitting and environmental review responsibilities that have come with the upsurge in proposed energy projects in response to higher energy prices.

The additional funding will provide more workers with the required technical expertise, and grants will provide money for EPA's state partners to increase their capacity to review and assess proposed projects.

EPA will invest $3 million to help build an International Trade Data System to track imported goods and their environmental impacts.

For the Superfund bank account, to help pay for cleaning up the country's worst hazardous waste sites, the budget requests an increase of $10.2 million for a total of $1.264 billion.

Natural resources agencies are being starved of funds by Bush's FY2009 proposal, says Jamie Rappaport Clark. Currently executive vice president of Defenders of Wildlife, Clark served as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Clinton administration.

The $410 million budget cut for the Department of the Interior, as well as other cuts in the President's 2009 budget will damage the country's natural resources, she says.

"The president's final budget deals a huge blow to the agencies and programs charged with safeguarding our nation's natural resources," she said. "The next administration will be burdened with mending the damage caused by President Bush's disastrous policies."

Snow geese on the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge contains over 9,000 acres, situated on and around a thin strip of coastline typical of barrier islands found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

"For example, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the principal source of funds for acquisition of lands for parks and wildlife refuges, would be crippled by a budget cut of nearly $104 million, wiping out more than 67 percent of its funding," Clark warned.

U.S. Conference of Mayors President Douglas Palmer, mayor of Trenton, New Jersey, said the nation's mayors are "disappointed" at the administration's failure to fund the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, which the president signed into law late in 2007.

"With gas prices on the rise, a renewed national focus on energy independence, and more and more Americans wanting to reduce energy use to preserve the planet," Palmer said the mayors want funding to initiate and expand local efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

"As CEOs of the nation's cities, mayors know all too well that America's families are struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis," Palmer said, calling the Bush budget "unwise and misguided."

The Water Resources Coalition today expressed "extreme disappointment" in President Bush's budget proposal for the 2009 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program.

The fiscal year 2009 proposed budget of $4.74 billion demonstrates "a failure to invest in the nation's water resources infrastructure," said the coalition of state and local governments, and representatives of conservation, engineering and construction, ports, waterways and transportation services organizations.

It represents an additional $800 million cut below what was enacted by Congress for the Corps in fiscal year 2008.

The Bureau of Reclamation fared no better, receiving only $968 million - $183 million less than fiscal year 2008.

This year, the administration did include an additional $5.8 billion in emergency funding for flood and hurricane damage reduction projects in New Orleans and Louisiana.

More than half of this appropriation would fully fund project construction with no local cost-share. The rest would be cost shared on 65 percent federal and 35 percent state and local basis.

Clark, the former Fish and Wildlife Service director, says the Bush budget disregards the health of the planet. "This budget, which emphasizes continued pursuit of damaging, unsustainable energy sources, while failing to adequately address the needs of public lands and wildlife increasingly threatened by global warming, once again shows that this administration remains determined to neglect our children's future and our nation's natural heritage."

More information on the White House FY 2009 budget request for EPA is online at: epa.gov/ocfo/budget/index.htm

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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