When Appropriations Chair David Obey (D-Wisc.) caught wind of a “dear colleague” letter addressed to him and asking him to up the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from the President’s proposed $300 million back to last year’s $475 million he fired off a harsh response. The letter obviously hit a partisan sore spot that HOW isn’t interested in digging into, but we are encouraged that Obey’s reaction appears to leave the door to increased funding cracked and not shut.
After acknowledging that the GLRI is one of Obey’s “highest priorities” he writes, “The Administration notes that because a large amount of that funding (the $475 for FY 2010) is not yet obligated, they may not be able to commit a similar amount this year. Our committee will look very carefully at the Administration’s request to determine whether their proposed cutback is justified or whether it is not.”
If that is the case, then there is an opportunity for the GLRI to be restored to this year’s funding because it is clear the only reason that the money has not been doled out yet is because it was hung up in the appropriations process for such a long time.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has defended the cut saying that the EPA can’t spend the $475 million fast enough, which simply isn’t true. The Great Lakes restoration effort has needed this money and much more ($26 billion in all) to reach goals set in 2005. We know exactly where to plug the money in and how to make it work. The EPA sent out Request for Proposal’s (RFP’s) and the applications for that money are in with the expectation that the FY2010 money (from last year’s budget process) will begin flowing in May. So, how is that slow? We are talking FY2010 dollars here – not FY2009.
President Obama pledged to provide $5 billion over the next ten years for Great Lakes restoration. We have a strategy to get the work done with a much higher price tag, so spending less next year and arguing that there are unspent funds for this year (which started one month ago) just doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense.