Last week, when Barack Obama announced a budget deal with Speaker of the House John Boehner, he assured America that environmental protections were not sacrificed. “At the end of the day, this was a debate about spending cuts, not social issues like women’s health and the protection of our air and water,” he said.
An anti-wolf provision of the budget deal, however, had nothing to do with spending cuts. The provision will de-list the grey wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act, regardless of whether the legal standards for delisting have been met and even if grey wolf populations are not scientifically found to have recovered. The deal allows politics, not science, to determine environmental policy. That’s the opposite of what Barack Obama promised during his 2008 presidential campaign.
Other anti-environmental riders in the budget deal agreed to by Obama are not substantially about deficit reduction, because the programs and positions they create are related to only a very small expense. Republicans oppose them because of their contribution to environmental protections, not because of spending issues. These riders include:
– a ban on climate information services from NOAA, which had been designed to “provide a reliable and authoritative source for climate data”. Big business organizations that Obama and Republican politicians will seek money from in the 2012 elections find this data to be inconvenient.
– defunding the position of a coordinator for climate change information and policy, a very small expense that would have nonetheless provided some movement forward on efforts to deal with climate change, an agenda detested by corporate executives
– taking millions of acres of undeveloped land out of consideration for federal wilderness protection. The exemption of these lands from environmental protection will not be based on science at all, but rather on the politics of oil. Oil companies would not be able to profit from drilling on these public lands if they were protected, but protection would not contribute to the federal spending beyond the level of a few days’ paperwork.
The more Americans find out about the content of this budget deal, the more clear it becomes that Barack Obama was not being honest when he said that it is merely about spending issues. Obama has allowed himself, through poor negotiation skills and through plain lack of resolve to be pushed into agreeing to legislation that amounts to an advance of the Republican political agenda, with very little savings on spending, when compared to the deficit impact of last December’s deal to extent tax cuts to millionaires and billionares.