Greenwire reports on EPA budget and priorities:
EPA: Record request boosts infrastructure, enforcement (05/07/2009)
President Obama today laid out the details of his plans to ramp up funding for programs at U.S. EPA, an agency facing an increasingly heavy workload from an administration pledging to bolster environmental protection and tackle global warming.
The Obama administration's proposed fiscal 2010 budget would increase the agency's total funding by nearly $3 billion, from the $7.6 billion in the fiscal 2009 omnibus to $10.5 billion, according to the proposal issued in February. The agency saw a series of budget cuts under President George W. Bush's administration.
The detailed proposal issued today includes increased funding for air, water and climate programs, and would slash several local and regional programs seen as duplicative of broader federal efforts.
Climate change and clean air programs would receive a significant boost under the proposed budget. The White House requested $249 million for clean air and climate change research and development, a $13 million increase from fiscal 2009. The agency's science and technology programs will include research on criteria air pollutants to develop federal clean air standards, studies of the effects of toxic air pollutants on human health and implementation of the renewable fuels provision of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, according to the budget request.
The administration also requested $481 million for clean air and climate programs and management, a $19 million increase from fiscal 2009. Those programs will include efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses and support the development of a comprehensive climate change strategy, the development of a mandatory greenhouse gas reporting rule, and strategies to attain federal clean air standards.
The budget proposal also raises funding levels for EPA's compliance and environmental stewardship programs. Compliance programs and management would receive $586 million for fiscal 2010, a $24 million increase. Compliance and environmental stewardship research funding would receive $47 million, a $4 million increase.
The White House proposed a massive increase for water infrastructure, including $2.4 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a low-interest wastewater loan program that helps states construct water treatment facilities. The fund received $689 million in fiscal 2009. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund would receive $1.5 billion, up from $829 million this year.
The administration proposes requiring at least 20 percent of the cash for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving funds be used for "green" infrastructure or water and energy-efficiency improvement projects.
The fiscal 2010 budget request also would increase funding for science and technology related to clean and safe water initiatives from an estimated $146 million in fiscal 2009 to $168 million. The funding would help small communities meet new drinking water standards for arsenic, microbial contaminants and disinfection byproducts. Money also would go toward research aimed at managing water risks associated with carbon capture and sequestration activities, a high priority for many lawmakers.
The Obama administration's plan also would use some of the science and technology cash for research on beach evaluation tools, following an outcry over the lack of funding for beach renourishment projects in the economic stimulus package.
Science and technology funding for land preservation and restoration would increase from an estimated $24 million in 2009 to $36 million. Some of the funding is slated for groundwater research focusing on the transport of contaminants.
Funding for healthy communities and ecosystems related to environmental programs and management would rise sharply in the White House budget plan, from about $660 million in 2009 to $981 million in fiscal 2010. Much of that increase can be attributed to a massive influx of cash for the Great Lakes by way of Obama's $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The project would combat major problems in the Great Lakes including aquatic invasive species, contaminated sediment and nonpoint source pollution. Money also would go toward brownfields programs.
Cash for clean and safe water initiatives related to environmental programs and management would rise by $20 million under the White House proposal, from $479 million in 2009 to $499 million.
The White House plan would continue EPA's focus on local watershed management, supporting ecosystem management and partnership collaborations in estuaries across the nation. Funding also would go toward helping states implement water monitoring programs aimed at helping the agency develop water quality standards and total maximum daily loads.
Cash for EPA's Superfund program would increase slightly from $1.29 billion in fiscal 2009 to $1.3 billion in the White House proposal. Funding for EPA's Office of Inspector General would remain roughly level at $45 million, as would money for EPA's leaking underground storage tank cleanup, which would receive $113 million.
Obama has indicated he plans to reinstate the Superfund excise taxes that expired in 1995. Though the taxes would not kick in until 2011, the administration says they could generate more than $1 billion per year.
Obama's proposed budget would terminate a competitive grant program for local communities to slash greenhouse gas emissions, arguing that the program duplicates more substantial federal emission reduction programs. The program lacks focus and the scope is too broad to effectively compare competing grant proposals and target funds, according to the White House. Congress provided $10 million for the new program in 2009.
The administration also seeks to eliminate $15 million in earmarked funds for California to retrofit existing diesel engines. The budget proposes to maintain funding for the nationwide Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, which addresses the same issue for all states including California. The nationwide program is more effective at reducing diesel emissions because it provides resources based on merit rather than arbitrarily restricting grants to a specific area, the budget proposal states.
The administration's proposal would eliminate homeland security grants for drinking water and wastewater systems, citing declining obligations and decreased state demand. The budget plan notes many high-priority activities have been completed.
Funding for grants to rural Alaskan tribal communities for the construction of new or improved drinking water and wastewater systems was sliced by $8.5 million. The program will receive $10 million under the White House proposal. The budget notes the program has a history of management problems and said infrastructure funding increases in other portions of the budget would subsidize the cut.
About $145 million in water infrastructure earmarks also were eliminated in the budget proposal. The administration said the state revolving funds formula program would be a more effective way to allocate funds.
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