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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Bush Budget

Air Date: Week of

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CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. President Bush is not only planning to cut taxes this year, he's also looking to reduce federal environmental protection services by more than ten percent. According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, the cuts amount to more than two billion dollars, small in terms of the overall federal budget, but large in terms of political capital. And joining us now to look at some of the details is Elizabeth Shogren, who covers the environment for the Los Angeles Times. Hi, Elizabeth.

SHOGREN: Hi, it's nice to be here.

CURWOOD: Elizabeth, I think perhaps the best way to talk about this is just go department by department here. So let's start with the Environmental Protection Agency. What stands out for you, looking at the Environmental Protection Agency budget?

SHOGREN: Well, one thing is clear, that the Bush administration wanted to send a strong signal that they were interested in having the states have more control over both funding for pollution cleanup programs, and also for enforcing those programs. There is a shift, it's just a tiny percentage of the overall budget for enforcement, but there is a shift of money that now the federal government controls for enforcing pollution controls. And that, instead, the states will control it. Also, there is another part of the overall Bush budget plan is visible in the EPA budget, which is that they are slashing Congressional pet projects. And a lot of these end up being clean and safe water programs that are part of EPA. And overall, it means that the money available for clean and safe water programs will be much less.

CURWOOD: Let's move over now to the Interior Department, you know, the folks that handle a lot of the public lands, including the national parks. What's the message from the White House about the priorities here? What's the message that's being sent with this budget?

SHOGREN: At the Interior Department, the new administration is saying that they are going to stand up and fulfill some of the campaign promises that the president made. He's going to give more money to help the parks fix their broken buildings and build new bathroom facilities and things like that. And he's also going to give the states more money for their land and water conservation fund, so they can make decisions about what they want to conserve in their own state.

CURWOOD: What about the resource extraction part of the Interior Department's mandate?

SHOGREN: Well, the fascinating thing that you see in this budget for the interior is that it's adding money to give more leases for drilling and for oil and gas. And so, there's more money in it, about $15 million, to both give more leases in these various public lands programs where they do allow leasing, and also they're putting money already in the budget for leasing for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, even though Congress has not approved drilling or development of oil or gas there. And they're really putting down their marker with this. They're saying: We want the public lands to be more open for more drilling. We want more fuel coming from them.

CURWOOD: In fact, the fossil fuel exploration seems to be the focus of the Energy Department budget as well under this, with the increases and cuts. I'm wondering if you could walk us through some of those.

SHOGREN: Yes, I think that the Bush administration said a lot in the new budget for the Energy. And one of the things that they said is, they want a more diverse energy source, and yet they're decreasing the budget for renewable energies. Solar energy is down more than half. Same for wind energy. Meanwhile, the fuel that has the tradition of being the dirtiest fuel of all, coal-powered plants, are getting a big boost. It's not coal in general, but it's the development of new technologies to try to make coal cleaner, and this is getting a boost of more money, $150 million more in next year's budget than before. And I've looked a little bit into these clean coal technologies, and the cleanest of them still pollute the environment much more than, say, natural gas plants or other plants.

CURWOOD: To wrap this up, Elizabeth, what do you think the White House budget says about the White House environmental policy?

SHOGREN: I think there are a couple of clear philosophies that are wrapped up in this budget. And one of the things that we see about the Bush administration from this budget is that they want to give the states more control over whether or not to conserve lands, and how to enforce pollution rules. And this we see both in the EPA and in the Interior Department. We also see is that the Bush administration is very interested in using public lands. They want Americans to use public lands the way they want to use them for their parks. And they want to help the National Parks be in better shape for Americans to use them. They also want oil and gas companies to be able to use the public lands for drilling. And so, we see new efforts by the administration to encourage those activities by supporting them in the budget.

CURWOOD: Elizabeth Shogren is environment reporter with the Los Angeles Times. Thanks so much for talking with us today.

SHOGREN: Thank you.



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