We know how much the Bush administration hates science. We know how the EPA under Christie Whitman and the White House declared the air around Ground Zero safe, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary (and leading to countless deaths and long term health problems for workers and people who spent time around Ground Zero after 9/11). We know the disdain that these criminals have for the environment. And we know how much more important tax cuts for the ultra wealthy are than actually doing something to keep our environment, well, protected.
And just as the Bush Administration has recently waived any whistleblower protections under the Clean Air Act and the Solid Waste Disposal Act, proposed $300 million LESS in funding for the EPA from FY 06 to FY 07 (and a full $1 Billion less than in FY 2004), a record $100 million of which Congress is still reviewing, we now hear that the FY 2008 budget cuts for the EPA will be even greater than in past years.
Because who needs that pesky environmental tree hugging nonsense? Besides, it frees up more money to divert to killing all them terra-ists...
Not to sound like one of them crazy lib'ruls again, but the environmental issues facing the US and the world really are the key to so many things. A less polluted environment leads to less health issues, which leads to less cost in the area of health care. A less polluted environment would be a to the overall global economy. A less polluted environment leads to less global warming which leads to, well, president Al Gore says it so much better than I can. But you get the picture.
So why am I bringing this all up now? Well, a memo from Lyons Gray, the CFO of the Environmental Protection Agency to EPA leadership dated June 8, 2006 outlines the additional "disinvestments" (and yes, that is the word they are using) that will be made over the next few years. And this just so happens to be the week that the cuts are being presented to the Office of Management and Budget.
The first page of the memo already had an ominous tone, by indicating that the need will be to
[e]valuate our priorities across the Agency to identify priorities, reduce duplication and identify opportunities for consolidation and streamlining.
On the surface, that would sound like something that we should be proud that a governmental agency would be looking into. With all of the redundancy and wasteful spending that we hear about, you would look at this as a step in the right direction. However, the phrase that sticks out is the one bolded above. If there is truly a way to consolidate and streamline, that is great. But the first page of the memo also notes that these cuts would have "long term consequences" on the Agency, which doesn't sound too promising. But of course, there has never been any long term plan from this administration, other than to pump as much money to the ultra wealthy and their cronies as possible.
So what are the major cuts, or should I say "disinvestments"?
Well, for starters, there will be a 20% reduction over the next five years in the EPA's labs and research centers. Doesn't really sound like it is "consolidating" for the better, nor does it sound like this is "reducing duplication" either. And according to a press release by PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility):
The plan calls for closing 10% of EPA's network of laboratories and research centers in which much of the agency's basic and applied science concerning pollution monitoring, toxicological effects and other public health issues is conducted. By 2011, the laboratory network, comprised of approximately 2000 scientists, would shrink by 20%.
And PEER's Executive Director Jeff Ruch hits the nail right on the head with the following assessment:
"EPA planning is now driven entirely by external fiscal targets without regard to the effects upon public or environmental health. The Bush administration seeks to `disinvest' in environmental science, pollution control and global sustainability."
"The Bush administration is trying to spin this lobotomy as a diet plan for a trimmer, shapelier EPA," Ruch added. "In fact, it is a plan to cut and run from historic standards of environmental protection under the guise of deficit management."
I will disagree with one of Ruch's comments - there has never been any real "guise of deficit management" under this administration, considering that the record surpluses have turned to record deficits, with deficits each year under Bush, billions of dollars in "supplemental emergency spending bills" which aren't even included in the willfully distorted budgets. Not to mention the "cost estimates" for Iraq, Medicare bills and many other spending "initiatives" which end up costing billions more than the price tags that were initially slapped on them.
Other cuts include increased buy outs of senior level staff, which is in addition to the extremely high level of EPA staff which are eligible to retire in the next three years. This would further gut the staffing of the EPA - most likely to a level which would make it very difficult to accomplish anything meaningful. Additionally, there are slated "savings" which would be accomplished by reducing the oversight of state and Indian tribal environmental agencies. Because, as the government and business community have consistently shown over the past six years - we can always do so well by "self policing".
Just look at the wild successes of the mining industry, the financial industry, the oil and gas industry and any of the other industries that have done oh-so-much to make sure that they were operating for the greater good without taking advantage of the system to maximize profits at the expense of screwing over anyone and everyone that they can get away with screwing over.
Why should a pesky thing like the environment be any different?