The news today are consumed by the US "fiscal cliff", and its implications for
the economy (and the environment) of the US and the world. The
environmental implications could be enormous. But there are other
important environmental deadlines today.
The "fiscal cliff," created by the Budget Control Act of 2011, will severely
limit the growth in government expenditures. The $917
billion in cuts in phase one will come as spending caps over the
next 10 years. According to the White House, it will amount to an 8.2% cut in
discretionary government spending:
"The Environmental Protection Agency's ability to
protect the water we drink and the air we breathe would be
degraded. The National Institutes of Health would have to halt or
curtail scientific research, including needed research into cancer
and childhood diseases. The Federal Emergency Management
Agency's ability to
respond to incidents of terrorism and other catastrophic events
would be undermined..."
. Congress argues that discretionary government spending
would still increase year to year but would increase by
significantly less than under current policy. The bill does
not define which agencies would take what cuts. That will be up to
Congress, presuming that they can agree on that much. Given the
Republicans' hostility to the Environmental Protection Agency,
it is a likely target.
Although forced fiscal compression in the US could also provide
environmental benefits if environmentally harmful subsidies are
cut. Less money for highways or corn-based ethanol, anyone?
Other important environmental deadlines today:
The first (and only?) action period for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change expires today,
with nothing taking its place. Canada and the US have turned their
backs on the Protocol for some time, but it was the best and the
brightest hope for real international change on the climate
The new duty of care under the Safe Drinking Water Act, s. 13, comes into
force today, putting a huge, unprecedented and unwise burden on
municipal elected officials and staff. Expect taxes and water rates
to go up even farther, as if drinking water were
municipalities' only important public duty. See Dianne's
Drinking water costs.
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