Follow-up

by Laura Paskus

President Bush is ready to "meet the environmental challenges of the future": If approved by Congress, his $2.4 trillion proposed budget will cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 7.2 percent. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which administers the National Marine Fisheries Service, will receive $300 million less than it did in 2004. The Interior Department will see cuts to its endangered species programs; and while the Agriculture Department’s budget will be boosted to $19.1 billion, $760 million of that will go toward logging under the president’s Healthy Forests Initiative.

Thought the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was safe from drillers? Think again: In President Bush’s 2005 budget, projected revenues from ANWR’s drilling leases are buried in the Interior Department’s budget plan — despite the fact that the Senate has consistently voted against drilling in the refuge (HCN, 8/18/03: Energy bill will likely boost drilling in the Rockies). To reduce the nation’s "reliance on oil and natural gas imports," the Interior Department’s $10.8 billion budget also includes increased funding for drilling on all public lands, "with particular emphasis on coalbed natural gas."

New Mexico isn’t going to the pits — yet. The National Nuclear Safety Administration has delayed "indefinitely" its decision to build the Modern Pit Facility, which would manufacture replacement plutonium "triggers" for the nation’s nuclear bombs (HCN, 9/1/03: Rocky Flats, the sequel?). Last June, the agency released a draft environmental impact statement naming five potential sites, including two in New Mexico. Although the final decision was expected this April, and Congress has already set aside $11 million for the project, the agency says it must "address congressional concerns" before going any further with its plans.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced new safeguards to protect consumers from the spread of mad cow disease (HCN, 1/19/04: Have another pig-brain/beef-blood/chicken-spine hamburger). These guidelines — which will strengthen the "multiple existing firewalls" that already protect beef-eaters — include banning mammal blood, restaurant meat scraps and "poultry litter" (feathers and chicken droppings) from cattle feed. © High Country News