Federal Water Tap, March 10: Water Spending Is Mixed in President Obama’s 2015 Budget

Like with any spending plan, water programs, because of their diversity, seesawed in the president’s budget request. Some programs were down, some up.

Two programs that tipped way down were the state revolving funds, which provide low-interest loans to drinking water and sewer projects. President Obama requested a 25 percent cut. The president also requested a steep cut for 2014, but Congress restored funding in the compromise spending bill that passed in January.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a headline environmental program that Obama established his first year in office, would see a $US 25 million cut, to $US 275 million. The restoration plan, however, anticipated that $US 475 million per year would be allocated, which has not occurred.

For the Environment Protection Agency, the president carries the House Republicans’ axe, requesting a 3.7 percent cut. The budget summary refers to a “streamlined EPA” that reflects “an era of data driven analysis.”

Programs to address climate change fared better. The president requested $US 1 billion for a new climate adaptation fund, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s climate science program is slated for a 37 percent increase, to $US 67.6 million.

The USGS budget request also includes an increase of $US 2.4 million for a groundwater monitoring network, and $US 2 million for water-data grants to the states. As a whole, the USGS water budget would increase by 1.5 percent, to $US 210 million.

Climate Change and National Security, Part I
Reiterating what U.S. military leaders and diplomats now commonly assert, the Defense Department argues in its quadrennial strategic review that a warming planet has consequences for national security.

“The impacts of climate change may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities, while at the same time undermining the capacity of our domestic installations to support training activities,” the report states.

Adequate water supplies and food security in the Middle East are two areas of concern, according to the 88-page report: “Competition for resources, including energy and water, will worsen tensions in the coming years and could escalate regional confrontations into broader conflicts – particularly in fragile states.”

Two years ago, the State Department published the first cabinet-level report on global water crises, and since 2008, the director of national intelligence has testified that climate change, water availability, and food security are consequential issues for U.S. foreign policy.

Climate Change and National Security, Part II
John Kerry continues barnstorming for climate action. In his first policy guidance as secretary of state, he ordered U.S. diplomats to think hard about climate change in daily business:

“Climate change has special significance for the work we do here at State, and so do clean water, clean air, sustainability, and energy. We’re talking about the future of our earth and of humanity. We need to elevate the environment in everything we do.”

Kerry’s top priority – setting an example abroad by acting at home – is beyond his reach. His second priority – a binding international climate treaty in 2015 – still needs work. He also directs his subordinates to advocate against public money for high-carbon energy projects.

Climate Sleepover
More than two dozen Democrats will command the Senate floor Monday for an all-night climate change rally. They want Congress to act. When do they want it? By 9 a.m. Tuesday, preferably, when the assembly adjourns.

Drought Legislation Signed
President Obama signed legislation to renew support for a federal drought warning and research program. The National Integrated Drought Information System is authorized at $US 67.5 million over five years, though Congress will need to sign off on the funds each year.

Rural Water
The Bureau of Reclamation will hand out $US 27 million to five rural water supply projects already under construction in the western U.S. The projects are in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

Climate and Energy
The federal government plays in indirect role in adapting the nation’s energy infrastructure to a climate-changed world, argues the Government Accountability Office, an internal watchdog. Nonetheless, Congress and the agencies can influence adaptation through regulation, funding research and development of new technology, and market incentives, the report states.

Flood Insurance
The House passed a bill to undo federal flood insurance reforms that were signed into law in 2012, McClatchy reports. The House bill allows houses that met old building codes to be grandfathered in, and it allows federal insurance subsidies to stay with a property once it is sold. Both practices were nixed in the 2012 law.

The House bill will need to be reconciled with a Senate version that simply delayed premium increases for four years. Several key conservative groups, including the Club for Growth, opposed the House bill.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

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