Environmental Leaders React to President Obama's $3.8 Trillion Budget
The Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) is proposed to get $15 million in the President's budget. DERA helps public and private vehicle fleet owners clean up old, dirty, diesel engines.
"We are pleased the President proposes to fund DERA," states David R. Celebrezze, director of air and water special projects at the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC). "We do have concerns that the amount and change from a grant program to a loan and reimbursement program may deter some fleets from cleaning up their act, though."
According to government scientists, diesel exhaust contains harmful pollutants including more than 40 air toxins. This toxic stew contributes to a host of health ailments including asthma attacks, painful breathing, cancer and preventable deaths. In Ohio, $3.6 billion in additional health care costs are associated with diesel soot according to the Clean Air Task Force. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that for every dollar invested in DERA, $20 is realized in health benefits.
According to the EPA, diesel exhaust can:
• Trigger asthma attacks and cause lung damage, heart disease, cancer, and early death.
• Cause acid rain, ozone smog, haze, and global climate change.
• Drive up costs for business from lost work days caused by air pollution-related illness and by forcing counties in non-attainment areas to offset increases in emissions.
The President's proposed 2013 budget would make significant changes in the Farm Bill programs. Most important is the proposed elimination of the "direct payments" to farmers. These subsidy payments have been made annually to farmers, regardless of their actual production, and regardless of the commodity price levels.
Eliminating "direct payments" could save some $4.5 billion annually. The 2013 budget also proposes additional reductions in the crop insurance subsidies to insurance companies. Unfortunately, these proposed crop insurance reductions have been widely criticized by members of Congress from both sides of the isle, and are extremely unlikely to survive.
The proposal also includes reductions of $400 million in conservation programs, including the elimination of several important conservation programs, such as the Wetlands Reserve Program and the Grassland Reserve Program.
"At a time when many waterbodies across the country, including Lake Erie and Grand Lake St Marys, are overcome with toxic algal blooms it makes no sense for the administration to reduce funds for conservation programs that will reduce farm-field runoff," said Joe Logan, director of agricultural programs for the OEC.
"The administration had an opportunity to revitalize the Wetland Reserve Program and the Grassland Reserve Program, which were eliminated by Congress in earlier budget agreements. These important and effective programs will dampen the effectiveness of national conservation efforts."
The administration also missed an opportunity to require farmers to comply with conservation programs in order to qualify for subsidies like crop insurance, said Logan. "This linkage between conservation and crop subsidies, would carry very little cost, and could drive many additional farmers toward conservation efforts."
President Obama's budget proposes $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which supports solutions to some of the most urgent threats facing the Great Lakes.
Over the last three years Ohio has received more than $48.5 million to reduce nutrients running into our waterways, clean-up toxic contamination, stem the tide of aquatic invasive species, and restore vital wetlands and habitat while sustaining and creating Ohio jobs.
Recognizing the dire situation that has been blooming in Lake Erie, the U.S. EPA, in-conjunction with their sister agencies, will be targeting the Maumee River watershed for fiscal year 2012 funds.
Last summer the toxic algal bloom was 1,000 times the World Health Organization's recommendations for recreational contact. Each year the bloom starts earlier and stays longer.
"We are encouraged by the administration's commitment to restoring Lake Erie and the Great Lakes," said Kristy Meyer, director of agricultural and clean water programs at the OEC. "We are starting to see results and know that these programs are working. We look forward to working with Ohio's Congressional delegation to continue to make restoring Lake Erie and the Great Lakes a priority."
Oil & Gas Exploration
The Administration is proposing $14 million to support U.S. EPA research in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy that will "begin to assess potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on air quality, water quality and ecosystems." This allocation is a three fold increase to the $4.2 million requested for fiscal year 2012.
The President's proposal on Fracking is a potential two-edged sword, said Trent Dougherty, director of legal affairs. "We are encouraged that increased funding is going toward studying all potential impacts of the shale gas boom. However, with the current speed of permitting under less protective regulations, this comprehensive analysis may be but a post-script to an environmental bust."
At the same time, the Department of Energy is ending its decades-long subsidies to dirty fossil fuels, including oil and gas. The Budget slashes more than $4 billion per year in tax-payer funded subsidies to oil, gas and other fossil fuel producers. The Administration's Budget Synopsis states that these subsidies impede investment in clean energy sources and undermine efforts to address the threat of climate change.
"The President has sent a clear message that the days of coddling Big Oil and King Coal, are a thing of the past," added Dougherty. "Ending these handouts will finally put clean energy on an even playing field with dirty power."
The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF) programs are slated to see a combined $359 million reduction under President Obama's proposed budget. The budget calls for a nearly 20 percent reduction (from the FY 2012 level) in the Clean Water SRF program alone. These programs provide valuable financing to municipalities to fund much needed water infrastructure projects.
Water infrastructure is necessary for providing communities with safe drinking water, properly treating wastewater and keeping our rivers and lakes clean and free from untreated sewage.
"We were very disappointed to learn that Ohio will receive $16 million less in critical SRF as a result of the significant reductions to the programs in the President's proposal," said Kristen Kubitza, director of water policy and outreach at the OEC.
"Our nations' water infrastructure is outdated, failing, and as a result contaminates our waterways and drinking water each year. Reducing this vital funding puts at risk not only the health of the environment, but the health and safety of our communities. We are pleased, however, that the administration understands the benefits of green infrastructure and set aside a portion of SRF funds for development of green infrastructure."
Green infrastructure is less costly than traditional infrastructure and effectively filters storm water before it reaches our streams and groundwater.
Each year more than 10 billion gallons of untreated sewage is dumped into Lake Erie and water resources across Ohio according to a 2007 report by Environment America.
Furthermore, the U.S. EPA reports that each year 3.5 million Americans become sick from swimming in contaminated waters. In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our nations' water infrastructure a 'D minus', the lowest grade of any public infrastructure.
The mission of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is to secure healthy air, land, and water for all who call Ohio home. The OEC is Ohio's leading advocate for fresh air, clean water, and sustainable land use. The OEC has a 40-year history of innovation, pragmatism, and success. Using legislative initiatives, legal action, scientific principles, and statewide partnerships, the OEC secures a healthier environment for Ohio's families and communities.
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By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
The irony hit Katherine Kehrli, the associate dean of Seattle Culinary Academy, when one of the COVID-19 pandemic's successive waves of closures flattened restaurants: Many of her culinary students were themselves food insecure. She saw cooks, bakers, and chefs-in-training lose the often-multiple jobs that they needed simply to eat.