Sequester would cut funding for environment and energy

February 27, 2013

A White House report detailing the impacts of cuts scheduled to take effect March 1 if Congress does not avert the sequester (part of the "fiscal cliff") named environmental funding among the hardest hit in Illinois:

“Illinois would lose about $6.4 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Illinois could lose another $974,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.”

Illinois EPA declined to comment on the looming budget reductions.

Congress appears unlikely to strike deal that would avoid the mandatory spending cuts totaling $85 billion, to say nothing of the second, albeit much smaller, cuts scheduled for March 27. The cuts are meant to help close a $4 trillion budget deficit.

While the belt-tightening measures on track to begin Friday amount in aggregate to roughly 2.5 percent of all federal spending, a report released Tuesday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that the sequester will slash more than twice that proportion (5.1 percent) from discretionary non-military programs. (Defense programs actually have it worse, looking at about 7.7 percent cutbacks.)

Nationwide environmental programs will take a big hit. The National Science Foundation will issue almost 1,000 fewer research grants, and several thousand research personnel could lose their jobs as a result of cuts to The National Institutes of Health. Many national parks will face partial or full closures.

The sequester would slow down oil and gas permitting, due to cutbacks at the Department of the Interior and other agencies with a hand in that process. Permitting for solar and wind power plants on federal lands could also slow down.

The cuts would affect energy efficiency, too, perhaps counting 1,200 home weatherization professionals among those laid off as a result of the sequester.