Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Ryan, and Minority Leader Pelosi,
On behalf of our millions of members and supporters nationwide, we urge you to ensure that our nation’s environmental and public health needs are prioritized in any discussions regarding budget and funding levels for the remainder of FY 2018 and beyond. We urge you to pursue a budget deal that lifts the sequester caps for nondefense discretionary spending at parity with defense spending, and allows for realistic and sufficient investment in the programs and agencies that protect our land, air, water and wildlife. Furthermore, damaging environmental policy riders should not be a part of the negotiations over charting a responsible path forward on federal spending.
It is critical that funding for environmental and public health needs are prioritized in any budget or funding negotiations. Budget caps for non-defense discretionary priorities must be increased to levels that take inflation into consideration and adequately meet the modern environmental and public health challenges our country faces.
Environmental and public health oriented discretionary funding is not the driver of deficits and should not be the focus of cuts purported to address deficit concerns. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) represents only two-tenths of one percent of the federal budget, its lowest share of federal spending in history. The National Park Service receives one fifteenth of one percent of the federal budget. Key investments in climate research, wildlife conservation, clean energy R&D and public land and ocean protection, among many other important investments, represent even smaller fractions of federal spending. These upfront investments pay dividends, and avoid costlier outcomes in the long-term. Whether working to understand and avoid the costliest impacts of climate change, avoid costly pollution clean-ups or prevent costly national health problems, continued cuts to these investments will not only have negative impacts to our environment, but to our health, economy and budget balances as well.
If Congress is successful in reaching an agreement to avoid damaging sequestration cuts, it is critical that discretionary funding allocations accurately meet the needs that these valued investments require. Without updated caps and allocations, the FY 2018 proposed levels do not meet that standard. The House-passed omnibus appropriations bill should be a non-starter, slashing funding to unsustainable levels across a broad array of accounts. The Senate’s proposed Interior and Environment appropriations bill would give the EPA the lowest operating budget since the mid 1980’s, when adjusted for inflation. The proposed FY18 funding levels for numerous other priorities across several appropriations bills cut valuable accounts in an attempt to fit arbitrarily imposed budget caps and 302(b) allocations. Important environmental and public health priorities have been funded at lower than responsible levels for far too long, and Congress’s inability to adequately make up-front responsible investments is having long-term negative impacts on associated agencies and our nation as-a-whole.
Lastly, any budget deal or further FY18 appropriations package should be free of damaging anti-environmental policy riders. Important issues that impact broadly our people and environment should not be included in important funding decisions.
As Congress discusses changes to the funding caps set in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011, we urge you to reach agreement on multi-year sequester relief that includes parity between defense and nondefense discretionary spending. We respectfully ask that you use this relief to more adequately fund our nation’s critical environmental and conservation priorities. As you revisit these bills, we ask that you reject environmentally damaging policy riders.
We thank you for your consideration of our views,
Alaska Wilderness League
Center for Biological Diversity
Clean Water Action
Defenders of Wildlife
Elders Climate Action
Endangered Species Coalition
Environmental Law & Policy Center
Green Science Policy Institute
League of Conservation Voters
Los Padres ForestWatch
National Audubon Society
National Parks Conservation Association
Natural Resources Defense Council
Restore America’s Estuaries
The Trust for Public Land
The Wilderness Society
WE ACT for Environmental Justice
World Wildlife Fund