Washington, D.C. — In anticipation of the impending sequestration deadline, the Center for American Progress released “10 Ways the Sequester Will Expose Americans to Greater Health Risks and Other Perils” by Daniel J. Weiss, Michael Conathan, and Jessica Goad. This column shows that the major—and negative—impacts on energy and environmental management agencies will affect all Americans.
For public health and clean energy programs, the sequester means less protection from air pollution, more families exposed to the heat and cold, less assistance after severe extreme weather events, more oil imports, and reduced accessibility to our national parks. In short, it’s clear that sequestration will harm middle- and lower-income Americans.
Some negative effects on American families if the sequester is not avoided include:
- More families will be exposed to heat and cold by axing an estimated $180 million in funding from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Since the average household received $450 from the program in 2011, this would mean preventing some 400,000 households from receiving aid from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
- Funding reductions under sequestration will reduce by more than a thousand the number of homes that would be weatherized under the Weatherization Assistance Program in FY2013 and could result in the unemployment of 1,200 skilled weatherization professionals.
- Air quality would be endangered by conducting 1,000 fewer inspections of power plants, oil refineries, and other major polluters to ensure that they comply with pollution limits.
- Less investment in drinking water and waste-water treatment facilities, imperiling public health.
- Less assistance for extreme-weather recovery efforts and future community-resilience efforts and reduced weather forecasting capability, even though the 25 most severe extreme weather events in 2011 and 2012 caused 1,100 fatalities and up to $188 billion in damages.
- The Department of Agriculture would complete as many as 200,000 fewer acres of hazardous fuel treatments, resulting in an increased risk to communities from wildfires.
- Approximately 300 fewer onshore oil and gas leases would be issued in Western states such as Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, delaying prospective production from those lease tracts.
- Closures of parts or all of certain parks, elimination of some park rangers, and fewer visitor services such as educational programs. In 2011 the country’s national parks stimulated $31 billion in economic activity and supported more than 258,000 jobs.
- Coast Guard air and sea operations would be curtailed by as much as 25 percent, exposing America to a greater risk of maritime terrorist attacks, and reducing the number of first responders to hurricanes.
The looming budget sequester will harm American families and seniors and children in particular. The critical services provided by agencies that protect our air and drinking water, provide crucial aid after extreme weather, help those Americans who are least well off pay their energy bills, and protect our national parks require that Congress takes a balanced approach to reducing the federal budget deficit. Across-the-board budget cuts to these and other public health, energy, and environmental programs is not the solution.
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