The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Christopher Lancette, The Wilderness Society (202) 429-2692
Shannon Andrea, National Parks Conservation Association, (202) 454-3371
Kelly Trout, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0722
Jessica Brand, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0239

Congress Should End Tax Breaks for Polluters, Invest in Green Economy

Conservationists, public interest groups call on Congress to cut $20 billion in wasteful spending


As President Obama calls for fiscal restraint in domestic
spending, a coalition of conservation and wildlife organizations echoed
the call and released a "Green Budget" report today outlining what
Congress can do to create jobs while strengthening key environmental
programs -- including cutting wasteful spending by nearly $20 billion
per year. (Click here to see a short video about the need to invest in a green economy, find full report, obtain photos, etc.)

"We heard President Obama and we recognize the need for the federal
government to tighten its belt, which is why we're calling on Congress
and the administration to eliminate wasteful spending," said William H.
Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society - one of 34 organizations
that sent 2011 spending recommendations to Congress in the form of its
"Green Budget". "The president and Congress have some tough decisions
to make but we believe sound economic and environmental policy go
hand-in-hand. So while frugality is key, we must continue to invest in
the kind of environmental initiatives that create jobs and protect our
natural resources."

The wide-ranging spending cuts indentified would save billions of
dollars per year by ending tax breaks and other giveaways to the oil
and gas industry and other big polluters that are enjoying
record-breaking profits. For example, closing the loophole that lets
big corporations write off oil and gas production would save $13.3
billion over nine years. Cutting taxpayer subsidies for dangerous and
expensive new nuclear technologies would save more than $220 million in
2011 alone. Congress could also save billions in subsidies to corporate
agribusinesses that destroy land and pollute our water and instead
invest in cost-effective programs like conservation, nutrition and
deficit reduction. The savings outlined in the Green Budget are just a
sampling of the ways our tax dollars subsidize pollution and could
instead be invested in environmental protection and clean, renewable

"Last September, President Obama pledged to end subsidies to fossil
fuels," said Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica. "The Green
Budget provides him a way to start delivering on that promise. There's
no reason billions of our taxpayer dollars should be going to
ExxonMobil and other polluting corporations. Eliminating these
giveaways will unleash resources we can use to build clean energy jobs
and a stable, healthy future for our country."

The organizations producing the Green Budget believe the money saved
by eliminating wasteful spending can be used to invest in creating a
green economy - one that creates jobs and protects natural resources.
Their plan details what federal agency funding is needed to sustain
clean air and water, protect lands, oceans and wildlife, and solve
energy and transportation problems. They're also quick to remind
Congress and the administration of the vital economic role public lands
play in the economy: The Outdoor Industry Foundation estimates that
outdoor recreation -- hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing, and similar
activities -- contribute $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy and
supports 6.5 million jobs across the country. A study by the National
Parks and Conservation Association, meanwhile, found that $13 billion
flows annually into gateway towns, creating 250,000 private sector jobs.

Key recommendations from the Green Budget:

Lands and Wildlife: After years of budget cuts, more funds are
needed to aid the National Wildlife Refuge System, National Park
System, National Forests and land managed by the Bureau of Land
Management. All are faced with critical backlogs on projects needed to
preserve and maintain existing sites and stop environmental damage
they're experiencing.

"We look to Congress and the Administration to provide funding for
our national parks and public lands that the American people deserve,"
said National Parks Conservation Association President Tom Kiernan,
whose organization estimates that every federal dollar invested in
national parks generates at least four dollars economic value to the
public. "By investing in our national parks and public lands, we can
improve the experiences of visitors, benefit local economies, and
protect our national heritage for our children and grandchildren."

Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen shared that sentiment.

"Wildlife refuges provide around $1.7 billion in revenue annually,
thanks to the 40 million people who visit these spots each year" he
said. "Protecting these treasures is not only vital to our natural
heritage, it is a sound economic investment that creates jobs and
stimulates local economies."

Oceans: Congress should invest in our oceans including supporting
programs that protect our coasts, responsibly manage fisheries,
conserve marine wildlife, sustain coastal economies and observe and
predict climate change. Additionally, Congress should support the Ocean
Policy Task Force President Obama formed in June 2009 to develop a
national ocean policy and coastal and marine spatial planning
framework. That plan will develop recommendations for better managing
U.S. oceans, which are now under the domain of 140 laws and implemented
by 20 federal agencies.

Health, Air & Water: Congress should strengthen the
Environmental Protection Agency's ability to reduce toxins in our air
and water. Regulatory programs should be enhanced, and investments in
the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund should be

Education: Congress should support greater environmental education
efforts. "As America moves toward a clean energy economy, Congress must
make significant investments in environmental and sustainability
education," said Patrick Fitzgerald, director of education advocacy at
the National Wildlife Federation. "By better educating our citizens and
workforce, we will create the human capital America needs to strengthen
our economy, achieve energy independence, and secure a clean energy

Energy: Congress should invest in programs that can increase the
amount of energy generated by wind and solar technologies. It should
also continue to prioritize the Building Technologies Program that
yields great energy savings from a variety of energy efficient building
techniques. Congress should also expand the scope of the Energy
Efficient and Conservation Block Grant Program, which encourages states
and large communities to invest in initiatives such as retrofitting
existing buildings and facilities with energy efficient technologies.

"We need to put our fiscal house in order to remain the world's
leading economy," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural
Resources Defense Council. "We also need to lead, not lag, in
developing the clean energy and conservation technologies that will
strengthen our economy at home, make us more competitive abroad and
position American workers for success in the fast-growing global market
for wind, solar and other renewable power sources. The Green Budget
supports these vital goals by increasing investment in environmental
priorities while marking wasteful programs that should be cut or
eliminated to save taxpayers money. It strikes the right balance. It
deserves our support."