U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson testified on Tuesday before the members of the Environment and Public Works Committee regarding the proposed EPA FY 2010 Budget request. Tuesday’s discussion concentrated on how the budget request of $10.5 billion (USD), proposed by President Barack Obama, is designed to both contribute to the U.S economic recovery while also addressing today’s environmental challenges.

The FY 2010 budget is an increase of 37 percent over the budget for FY 2009, providing for a greater opportunity for the EPA to address environmental challenges by way of EPA programs. According to Jackson, this budget increase “reflects President Obama’s commitment to usher in a new era in environmental stewardship and puts us on a clear path to a cleaner and safer planet.”

In its press release issued yesterday, the EPA outlined the budget allocations addressing U.S. environmental protection priorities. Receiving the largest allocation in the FY 2010 funds are the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds with $3.9 billion – marking an increase of 157 percent over FY 2009. These Funds will finance water infrastructure projects across the United States including 1,000 clean water and 700 drinking water projects.

Particular to the threat of climate change, the FY 2010 budget allocates an additional $19 million over FY 2009 budget provisions toward President Obama’s efforts to slow global warming. This funding will help the United States develop a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and collaborate with industries to provide greenhouse gas emission data reporting. Specifically, the money from this budget increase supports the development of the data management system, guidance and training materials, and sources measurement technologies as well as provides for the conducting of industry-specific workshops.

The allocation of ‘merely’ an additional $19 million toward slowing the progression of global warming seems small in comparison to the $3.9 billion allocated to water infrastructure projects. This may partially reflect public attitudes regarding environmental priorities within the United States. According to a recent Gallup Poll released in March 2009, issues regarding water pollution or contamination ranked highest amongst eight major environmental issues listed while climate change ranked last (see my previous post regarding this issue here).

Alternatively, the funding and implementation of such necessary repairs to U.S. water infrastructure may be better suited under the umbrella of the EPA in order to achieve the attention that it requires. Energy and climate change legislation are currently under development which could lead to the establishment of a new cap and trade or carbon tax program in the United States. A separate funding request for emissions reduction programs may lead to similar or greater financial provisions than the $3.9 billion that the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds will receive under the FY 2010 EPA budget.

Which environmental concern deserves greater support is speculative and not up for debate at this time. Regardless of whether public attitudes or political strategy are motivating the budget allocations, the environment comes out on top. As stated by Obama and reiterated by Jackson in her testimony, “now is the time to make long overdue investments in clean energy and new infrastructure to create a platform for entrepreneurs and workers to build an economy that will lead us into a better future.” I’ll cheers to that.

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