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Monday
Aug012011

The impact of the debt ceiling deal on the environment

In the wake of the debt ceiling crisis that has held our economy hostage over the past few weeks, the outlook for environmental conservation looks increasingly grim.

Many people have bemoaned the lack of shared sacrifice in the deal between the Democrats and Republicans and this applies to the environment as well.

The debt ceiling deal will likely force congress to cut billions from environmental programs and agency budgets aimed at cleaning our water and air, protecting endangered species, and keeping our parks open. Meanwhile the deal leaves huge tax subsidies for oil and gas companies untouched without any guarantee they will be removed in the future.

The Wilderness Society says, "The debt ceiling deal puts the U.S. on the brink of defaulting on its environmental debt."

What do they mean by the term "environmental debt?"

Our elected representatives have passed laws like the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act which obligate the government to prevent companies from polluting and destroying the environment. Yet over the years, funding for environmental programs and agency budgets have been cut to the bone making it difficult if not impossible for the government to meet these responsibilities to the people. 

This is the environmental debt that Congress has created, and it is causing great harm to our health, natural resources, and economy.

By forcing further cuts to environmental protection while allowing subsidies to polluters to continue, the debt ceiling deal is a huge step backwards for conservation.

According to Ben Meadows, President of the Wilderness Society, “Congress continues to turn the thumb screws on our natural resources and on conservation funding. Congress had to reach an agreement on the debt ceiling issue but this is no cause for celebration. Now we’ll suffer the consequences of its failures to solve our fiscal and environmental problems before they reached crisis levels.”

--by Rob Goldstein

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