(Summary of Remarks of Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and EPA Advisor Christie Todd Whitman at 11:30 a.m. Joint News Conference on the President's Environmental Budget)

President's Environmental Budget Promotes Stewardship and Produces Results

      President Bush's proposed FY 2004 request for the natural resources and environment budget function is

$30.4 billion, an increase of $1 billion, or 4 percent higher than requested in FY 2003. As the President said in his State of the Union address, government spending should not grow faster than the budget of the American family, which means 4% in FY 2004. The environment, conservation and natural resources agencies have met that standard without sacrificing environmental results.

 

      By focusing on getting results, the President's budget meets his commitment to enhancing environmental protection through initiatives that will cut power plant air pollution by 70%, reduce the flammability of 2.5 million acres of overly dense forests, and clean up more hazardous waste sites and brownfields.

 

      The President's budget recognizes that to meet these goals, Americans must invest in new technologies and new partnerships, involving all Americans in environmental progress.

 

      Our approach to environmental and natural resource conservation adds to traditional tools a suite of innovative policies and programs that employ partnerships, performance standards, and incentives for stewardship.

 

                  To ensure cleaner air, the President's budget provides:

 

                     A $7.7 million increase in funding for EPA to implement Clear Skies legislation that, when enacted, will cut air pollution from power plants by approximately 70 percent, resulting in 35 million fewer tons of pollution over the next decade alone, over and above future pollution reduction projected under the current Clean Air Act. This initiative will produce the greatest results for the least amount of money in the budget.

                     $128 million, a $7 million increase for EPA's air toxics program. The increase will be devoted to state grants to more effectively measure actual air toxic exposure.

 

                  To restore our forests and rangelands to their natural, healthy, fire-resistant conditions and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, the President's budget provides:

 

                     $91 million, an increase of $21 million, for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Legacy program. This grant program allows states and conservation groups to facilitate the protection of privately owned forestland. The increase will fund an additional 41 projects that protect an estimated 250,000 acres of land.

                     $416 million for the President's Healthy Forests Initiative to improve forest health, reducing the flammability of 2.5 million acres of overly dense forests, with an emphasis on work within the wildland-urban interface.

                     $2.2 billion for the Interior Department and USDA's Forest Service's firefighting programs, an increase of $219 million over FY 2003. Last year was the second worst fire season on record.

 

                  To ensure cleaner energy, the President's budget provides:

 

                     $182 million in FY '04 and a total of $1.2 billion called for over 5 years for the Freedom Fuel Initiative to develop hydrogen production, storage, and distribution technologies to advance commercial introduction of fuel cell vehicles, which emit no pollutants or greenhouse gases.

                     Freedom Fuel complements the FreedomCAR initiative which is aimed at developing viable hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technologies by 2015 and supporting other advanced automotive technologies that can help to improve fuel economy. The Budget includes $169 million for FreedomCAR, a $19 million increase, and a total of $274 million for the combined Freedom Fuel and FreedomCAR initiatives.

 

                  To ensure greater land conservation, wildlife habitat, and recreation opportunities, the President's budget provides:

 

         $3.5 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in mandatory farm conservation funding and $432 million for technical assistance to support these programs. The total level of $3.9 billion is $582 million over the FY 2003 level and more than double the funding for these activities when the Bush Administration came into office. This level of funding includes:

 

            $250 million for the Wetlands Reserve Program to restore and enhance 200,000 acres of wetlands;

            $850 million for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a $255 million increase over FY 2003 to install conservation measures (such as erosion control and water quality enhancement) on more than 17 million acres of agricultural land;

            $51 million for Ground and Surface Water Conservation, a $13 million increase over FY 2003 to conserve water on more than one million acres of agricultural land;

            $42 million for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, an increase of $16 million over FY 2003 to improve over 800,000 acres of wildlife habitat for priority species;

            $112 million for the Farmland Protection Program, an increase of $27 million over FY 2003 to protect over 150,000 acres of valuable farm and ranch land from development;

            $2 billion for the Conservation Reserve Program for rental and other costs on new and old acreage, an increase of approximately $140 million over 2003;

            $85 million for the Grassland Reserve Program, a $13 million increase over 2003;

            $19 million for the new Conservation Security Program; and

            $8 million for water conservation and water quality enhancements in the Klamath Basin of Oregon and California.

 

                     $1.136 billion, a $100 million increase, in USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service technical assistance including funds to implement farm conservation programs.

         $900 million to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund to support federal, state and local conservation and recreation programs, emphasizing partnerships and cooperative conservation.

                     $402 million, a $26 million increase over last year's $57 million increase, for the National Wildlife Refuge program. This will be used to combat invasive species and improve habitat.

                     $1.08 billion, a $180 million increase, to continue to fulfill the President's commitment to eliminate the National Park Service maintenance backlog. This includes a $135 million, or 82%, increase for maintenance of roads in our national parks.

                     $76 million, a 12 percent increase, for the National Park Services Natural Resource Challenge program to establish 25 of 32 monitoring networks that track the "vital signs" of the health of national parks, bringing total increases in the program since 2001 to over $100 million.

                     $38.4 million, a $9 million increase, for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. The additional funds will restore an additional 19,200 acres of wetlands, 83,000 acres of native grasslands and uplands, and 241 miles of riparian and stream habitat over 2003 levels.

                     $49.6 million, an increase of $6 million or 14%, for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund to support wetlands and migratory bird conservation activities.

                     $10.4 million, an increase of $2.9 million or 40%, for joint ventures to implement the North American Waterfowl Management Plan to restore and protect migratory bird populations.

                     $58 million, an $8 million or 16 percent increase, to restore and improve the nation's fish hatchery system.

                                             $113 million for the Cooperative Conservation Initiative, $13 million over last year's $100 million request, to provide public land managers tools to partner with others in conservation projects.

                     A 50% capital gains tax exclusion for conservation easements and related sales by willing private sellers to qualified conservation organizations.

 

      To ensure cleaner, safer water, the President's budget provides:

 

         $200 million, a $20 million increase for state water pollution control programs.

         $105 million, a $12 million increase for drinking water state grants.

         Increases from $500 million to $1.2 billion the long-term revolving goal of the Drinking Water SRF, a level sufficient to close the drinking water infrastructure gap assuming economic growth.

         Increases from $2.0 billion to $2.8 billion the long-term revolving goal of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a level sufficient to close the wastewater infrastructure gap assuming economic growth. This will provide $21 billion in additional funding and finance 15,000 new projects over 20 years.

         $256 million, a $12 million increase, in the Department of Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers' budgets for environmental restoration and conservation work in the Everglades. This includes $40 million toward fulfilling the President's commitment to protect Big Cypress National Preserve from oil and gas development.

         $8 million for Puerto Rico drinking water treatment to address nation's most serious remaining drinking water problem. When all upgrades are complete, this will provide 1.4 million people with safer, cleaner drinking water.

         $20 million in EPA for 20 additional watershed pilot projects.

         $15 million for the newly authorized Great Lakes cleanup program.

         $20 million for wetlands grants, including a $5 million increase for isolated wetlands.

 

                  To ensure cleaner lands, the President's budget provides:

 

                     $211 million for cleanup of brownfields, almost 130 percent higher than when President Bush took office. This includes $60 million, a $10 million increase for brownfields state grants.

                     $1.39 billion for the Superfund program, which includes a $150 million increase for Superfund cleanups. This will enable the program to address the remaining more complex and expensive cleanups, allowing 10-15 new construction starts in 2004 and 10 new completions by 2006.

                     $7.2 billion, a $244 million increase and the highest level ever, for the Department of Energy's Environmental Management program to accelerate hazardous and radioactive waste cleanup projects at federal facilities.

 

                                          To ensure a cleaner, healthier world community, the President's budget provides:

 

         $4.4 billion for federal climate-related programs, a commitment unmatched by any other nation. This includes a significant investment of $1.75 billion in climate change science research to address critical gaps of understanding our global climate system and $524 million in tax incentives to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

                     $500 million over the next four years for the Global Environment Facility, which is the primary financial mechanism for transferring energy and sequestration technologies from the developed to the developing world under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The United States continues to be the largest donor to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a multilateral fund that helps developing countries mitigate environmental problems with potential global impact.

 

-DOI-