CNT Responds to 2011 Federal Budget

President Obama’s reform-minded federal transportation budget released earlier this week gave us a lot to respond to (Read it here). Of course the federal budget deals with much more than transportation, including issues that CNT staff research and advocate for on a daily basis. Read on for our initial thoughts on the Obama Administration’s proposals for energy efficiency, electric vehicles, green infrastructure and climate change.

CNT and its CNT Energy affiliate is heartened to see the proposed budget’s emphasis on energy efficiency, which is the cheapest, fastest, cleanest way to address our nation’s energy needs. The energy budget contains some hard choices. But it also recognizes that energy efficiency is an excellent investment that pays economic and competitive returns. Programs like HomeStar and the PowerSaver loan guarantee program will help American families improve the efficiency of their own homes. The Better Buildings Initiative, which sets a goal to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020, will help businesses be more competitive, and doubling the Government Services Administration’s annual investment in energy and water conversation will save taxpayers on government building operating costs for years to come. These programs will ultimately make American budgets leaner and more competitive.

Electric Vehicles
I-GO supports the President’s plans to promote electric vehicle (EV) adoption. We specifically like the plans to convert the $7,500 tax credit to a rebate, as this will assist all consumers with EV purchases. Also the plan to provide grants to communities for EV infrastructure and regulatory streamlining could benefit Chicago which is well positioned to support EV adoption. Earlier this week, the Chicago Tribune covered the city’s plans to install electric vehicle powering stations throughout the city. I-GO will have 36 electric charging stations dedicated to its car sharing vehicles.

Natural Resources
CNT is disappointed that the EPA budget proposes cuts in several programs that will have a clear return on investment within a few years. For example, we are particularly concerned about the Administration’s cuts in grants for the State Revolving Funds. Failing to fund wastewater and stormwater projects that repair or replace failing systems will result in contamination of our waterways and damage to property that will cost far more than the amounts being cut. We believe the Administration should either restore the original funding levels of the State Revolving Funds or ensure that the money that remains in the funds is used first for projects that repair or replace failing systems and for green infrastructure projects that are more cost-effective and sustainable over the long-term than conventional water resource management systems.

Climate Change
There are some positive signs for climate action in the budget. The President’s EPA budget includes $25 million to help states implement forthcoming greenhouse gas regulations for large emitters, a signal that the process of regulating climate change impacts under the Clean Air Act is expected to be ongoing. The proposed budget also supports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in implementing greenhouse gas standards for vehicles. But this budget does not get us to the stated goal of greenhouse gas emissions at 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. It also fails to do enough to support state and local climate action. Specifically, the budget makes no mention of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, which has been used to successfully increase sustainability by creating energy and greenhouse gas savings in communities around the country in the past few years.