Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cutting Environmental Budgets

Republicans are on a mission to cut the budgets of environmental agencies at the both the federal and state levels. The budget just agreed to by the Republican House and Obama cut funding to the EPA by $1.6 billion. Cuts to state environmental agencies are being made all over the country. The people behind these cuts seem to think that these are "pro business" moves that will reduce red tape and make development easier.

Alas, it doesn't work like that. What state environmental agencies mainly do is review permit applications to make sure projects conform with environmental law. If you reduce the number of reviewers in the agency without changing the law, what happens is that the remaining reviewers are overwhelmed and the time needed to get permits approved just gets longer, much to the frustration of developers. This happened in Maryland under the recent administration of Republican Bob Ehrlich, and the result was such long delays in project approval that many developers deserted him and supported Democrat Martin O'Malley in the next election. Now in some states Republicans may now have the clout to rewrite environmental laws, but the most burdensome regulations are the Federal ones, and they are not even trying (yet) to change the Clean Water Act or the Endangered Species Act. So these budget cuts are not nearly so "pro business" as the Republicans seem to think.

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