U.S. House Passes Budget Bill that Slashes Programs to Restore Great Lakes and Prevent Sewage Overflows

Clean water programs remain in the cross-hairs of Congressional budget-cutters.

Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee passed its fiscal year 2012 Interior-EPA funding bill. It cuts funding for the primary federal program to restore the Great Lakes and slashes funding to a national program to help communities halt stormwater and sewage overflows.

Said Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition:

“Cutting spending on the Great Lakes won’t save money. Problems like outdated sewage treatment, algal blooms, and invasive species are getting worse and becoming more expensive to solve with every day that we wait. Simply, the nation cannot afford not to restore the Great Lakes—more than 30 million people depend on them for drinking water. We’re counting on the Great Lakes leaders in the U.S. House to restore funding for Great Lakes restoration.”

The spending bill funds the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $250 million for fiscal year 2012, a reduction of 50 million (17 percent) from fiscal year 2011 and whopping $225 million reduction (52 percent) from fiscal year 2010.

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund fares worse. The federal program to prevent sewage waste from entering our waters (and closing beaches and posing a risk to human health) receives $689 million in the fiscal year 2012 budget. That’s a cut of $836 million (55 percent) from the fiscal year 2011 budget and more than $1.4 billion (67 percent) from the fiscal year 2010 budget.

The following chart explains how these and other clean water programs fared in the House budget, which passed on a vote of 28-18.

As if that’s not bad enough, the bill contains a laundry list of bad riders that undermine important clean water protections. (Riders are amendments that have nothing to do with the bill, but have a huge impact on the programs funded in the bill, as you can read in the following summary of riders).

All told, the bill is bad news for the millions of people in the Great Lakes region and around the country who live with beach closings, drinking water restrictions and fish consumption advisories—daily reminders of the huge amount of work that still needs to be done to restore our waters and our communities.

The next step for this bill is for the full House to consider it, which is expected the week of July 25.

The bill is a wake-up call for Great Lakes advocates. The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition will work to restore funding for these important programs and to defeat bad amendments that roll-back protections to our drinking water, public health and way of life.

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