- Robert Montgomery
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WASHINGTON, D.C. Although President Bush is being praised by some for proposed increases in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget, he's also being criticized by others for favoring polluters at the expense of the environment and public health.
"It's outrageous that the Bush administration's 2004 budget rewards the nuclear, coal and timber industries at the expense of clean, renewable energy and wildlife habitat protection," said Anna Aurilo, legislative director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG).
"Furthermore, while the administration has proposed increasing the budget for toxic-waste-site cleanup, it guarantees a shortfall in the future by giving polluters a $1 billion annual tax holiday, and slashing environmental enforcement."
The PIRG added that important funding for environmental enforcement has been targeted for significant cuts in each of the Bush administration's proposed budgets, but, in the past, Congress restored some funding.
"Incredibly, the agency (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) is once again proposing to cut those funds," PIRG said. "The agency proposed to cut funding for clean water programs under their Science and Technology budget, as well as under Environmental Programs and Management a difference between Fiscal Year 2002 and Fiscal Year 2004 of $77 million
"(The) EPA's budget announcement demonstrates that enforcement of fundamental protections for public health and the environment is not a priority for this administration."
The PIRG added that Bush's budget would increase cleanup funding for Superfund sites by $450 million, but that money would come mostly from "regular taxpayers and does not provide continuous funding for the program."
Instead, the watchdog group said, the administration should support reinstatement of Superfund's polluter-pays fees and use those funds, rather than money from taxpayers, to help completely clean up toxic waste sites that threaten public health and environmental quality.
The PIRG also charged that the President's budget fails to adequately protect public lands, while subsidizing timber companies at the expense of conservation funding.
"For example, under the guise of fighting forest fires, the President's budget would promote increased logging by decreasing opportunities for public involvement and environmental analysis," PIRG said.
"In addition, the Forest Service budget lacks clarity and blurs the line between funding for commercial timber production and funding for noncommercial activities to restore or conserve our national forests."
In energy areas of the budget, the PIRG criticized the President for continuing to fund a "clean coal" program, and for increasing funding for existing and new nuclear power plants, "which produce deadly waste with no safe disposal option."