The Environmental Impact Of The Sequester Cuts

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The failure of elected officials in Washington, D.C. to reach a deal on the “sequester” led to an automatic $85 billion cut to the federal budget on March 1st.  And, unfortunately, environmental initiatives and other projects were the first to be placed on the chopping block.

Environmental programs within the United States – everything from wildlife refuges to clean air and water programs – have already been grossly underfunded for years, and the sequester cuts are only going to make things much, much worse for our environment.

One program that was gearing up to be cut less than 24 hours after sequester took effect was the Bureau of Labor Statistics green jobs survey.  This program allowed the administration to track the creation and tally of jobs within the clean energy and other “green” sectors, a program that many Republicans in Washington had wanted to cut from day one. 

But those cuts are just the beginning.  Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that the mandatory cuts are going to severely hurt investment and research into lightweight automobile construction and fuel cell technology, investments that were aimed at helping increase automobile fuel efficiency and reducing our gasoline consumption.  Those programs will now have to wait to receive funding.

Chu said that the cuts the Energy Department is facing would significantly slow down the country’s quest to become energy independent, a goal that 64% of Americans (from both sides of the political aisle) favor.

Frances Beineke, president of the NRDC, said that the sequester cuts will force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cut back on their air quality monitoring across the United States, as well as their programs to monitor drinking water.  This puts all Americans at risk of breathing polluted air and drinking contaminated water. 

Jobs in the environmental sector will also take a significant hit, as the Department of the Interior is now having to plan job cuts for park rangers in state parks, as well as reduced hours for those who manage to hold onto their jobs.

Never a group to allow an opportunity to bash the EPA to slip away, the dirty energy industry-funded Heritage Foundation has used the sequester cuts to highlight how wasteful (and intrusive) the EPA is for American taxpayers:

Heritage experts Jack Spencer, Nicolas Loris, and Katie Tubb argue instead for freedom-based reforms, writing that Congress should:

Prohibit the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide, saving families who rely on the 82 percent of the energy used in the United States that produce greenhouse gases;

Stop the EPA’s regulatory overreach, which is artificially driving the cost of energy higher, harming job creation, and providing little to no environmental benefit; and

Repeal the EPA’s energy efficiency initiatives, which drive up gas prices and restrict consumer choice.

Such reforms would save taxpayers money by reducing the scope of the EPA’s ever-expanding mission, and they would also serve the needs of the economy by lightening the heavy regulatory burden on America’s businesses.

The spin from Heritage underscores the severity of the cuts facing the country.  Not only will the sequester cuts put a tremendous strain on our economy as a whole, but the health effects that will result from more pollution and less monitoring will become a second wave of economic (and of course, environmental) impacts that should leave us all worried about the future.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Progressive Magazine. He has worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, and Sam Seder since August 2004, and is currently the co-host and producer of the program. He also currently serves as the co-host of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV, a daily program airing nightly at 8:30pm eastern. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

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