Feb. 13, 2006 – Continuing a four-year trend, the White House budget proposal for 2007 would cut 80 percent of the Environmental Protection Agencyâ€™s library budget, drastically reducing the amount of information available to government scientists and the public. The library cuts come on top of funding reductions for several other EPA programs that environmental groups maintain are vital to the global ecosystem and the national interest.
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The $7.3 billion proposed EPA budget would trim $2 million from the $2.5 million EPA library fund, which, according to the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), may cause many regional libraries to shut down. The pared-down library budget would de-fund the agencyâ€™s electronic catalog and pull $500,000 from the EPA headquarters library coordination network, according to EPA documents released by PEER.
The cuts come even as the president has called on the EPA to become more aggressive in researching and adopting cutting-edge technology, PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch noted. Ruch asked, "How are EPA scientists supposed to engage in cutting-edge research when they cannot find what the Agency has already done?" PEER is an advocacy organization representing local state and federal resource professionals
"Access to information is one of the best tools we have for protecting the environment," Ruch said. "Closing the Environmental Protection Agency libraries actually threatens to subtract from the sum total of human knowledge."
Overall, the Bush administrationâ€™s budget proposal would cut EPA funding by nearly $400 million from last year.
Environmental groups began raising alarms over the budget shortly after it was unveiled last Monday. In a group report released last week, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Wildlife Society and several other organizations noted that the proposed EPA budget does have a few high spots. But overall, they said, "America is not keeping up with its investment in core safeguards for protecting the health of our communities."
The budget plan does call for increased funding for cooperative conservation measures as well as improvements in diesel-fuel emissions and the management of underground storage tanks.
But among the slated cuts are $199 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a program that provides loans to communities for drinking water. The Fund has been subjected to over $1.4 billion in reductions since 2002.
The proposed budget would also slash $4 million from Energy Star, a voluntary energy-efficiency improvement program, and $1.8 million from the Environmental Justice program, which serves low-income communities adversely affected by pollutants.