by J.R. Pegg
taxpayers are spending $58 billion to fund wasteful and environmentally damaging federal programs, charges a new report released May 8 by a coalition of environmental, taxpayer and consumer groups.
The Green Scissors 2003 Report says eliminating these 68 federally funded programs could put the nation on a path toward fiscal and environmental responsibility, but warns that Congress and the Bush administration are taking the nation down a different road.
"Congress continues to fund industries and programs that put undue on our health, our environment and our economy," according to the report. "At a time in history when security is on the minds of all Americans, our leaders appear to be actively working to cultivate financial and environmental insecurity."
This is the eighth year Friends of the Earth, Taxypayers for Common Sense and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) have released its lists of wasteful and environmentally harmful programs. Over the last eight years, $26 billion in spending programs targeted by the Green Scissors Campaign have been cut or eliminated from the federal budget.
Congress and the administration, according to the report, have turned the nation's $5.6 trillion surplus into a projected deficit of $1.8 trillion over the next decade.
"This massive and continuing draw on the federal treasury undermines our economic security and threatens the stability of essential government programs that many Americans rely on for their basic needs," the report says.
It slams much of the nation's existing energy policy, in particular the Energy Department's fossil fuel research and development programs, which it says could cost taxpayers $1.7 billion over the next five years. Subsidies to the coal, oil and gas industries should be cut, the report finds, because of the environmental damage these industries cause.
"These subsidies are going to some of the nation's wealthiest and dirtiest companies, leaving a trail of pollution in their wake," according to the report.
The government should reject proposals to restart the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) Browns Ferry nuclear power plant, according to the report, a move that would save at least $2.1 billion. It recommends the elimination of the Energy Department's Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, a nuclear fuel reprocessing program that will cost taxpayers $315 million over the next five years.
"With the country facing the worst deficits in history, politicians need to dam the river of red ink," said Aileen Roder, program director at Taxpayers for Common Sense. "By blocking the tracks of the special interest gravy train, we can get our fiscal ship in shape and preserve the environment at the same time."
The energy bills under discussion in the House and Senate do little to curb many of these harmful program, the coalition says.
"The Senate energy bill is based on 19th century energy policy that will cost taxpayers at least twenty billion 21st century dollars and will harm public health well into the next century," said U.S. PIRG environmental advocate Navin Nayak.
The report criticizes Congress for not reauthorizing the Superfund tax on polluters. Polluters benefit from tax breaks, the report finds, and the expiration of this tax has come as cleanup has dropped dramatically.
Reinstating the tax would earn $5.8 billion for current and future Superfund cleanups.
Green Scissors suggests cutting the U.S. Forest Service's timber roads construction program, which would save $170 million over five years.
The Forest Service has built more than 380,000 miles of roads in national forests to subsidize the timber industry. These roads have had negative impacts on water quality and wildlife habitat, and has left the federal government with a $10 billion backlog in needed road maintenance.
"Logging, mining, road building, and other developmental activities have destroyed more than half of our national forest," says the report.
Congress should cease assistance to large factory farm operations through an Agriculture Department program that provides assistance to farmers and ranchers seeking to improve the environmental quality of their operations, according to the report.
A change in last year's Farm Bill lifted the cap on who could access a pool of $11.6 billion over 10 years, allowing the nation's largest livestock operations to receive up to $450,000 over six years.
Curbing irrigation subsidies to agricultural industries could save up to $1.1 billion a year, according to Green Scissors. Other ill advised water policies -- such as dredging and flood control -- waste some $9 billion.
The $1.2 billion Freedom CAR initiative is a waste of money, the report finds, because it lacks any meaningful benchmarks to ensure action.
Terminating it could save $634 million over the next five years, says the report.
"Now is a critical time for federal and state budgets," said Erich Pica, senior policy analyst at Friends of the Earth. "It is inconceivable that members of Congress and the administration are actually proposing more handouts to industries that drill and mine our public lands, pollute our air and contaminate our waters."
The full report is available at www.greenscissors.org
May 2, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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