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The news today are consumed by the US “fiscal cliff“, and its implications for the economy (and the environment) of the US and the world. The environmental implications could be enormous. But there are other important environmental deadlines today.

The “fiscal cliff,”  created by the Budget Control Act of 2011, will severely limit the growth in government expenditures.  The $917 billion in cuts in phase one will come as spending caps over the next 10 years. According to the White House, it will amount to an 8.2% cut in discretionary government spending:

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect the water we drink and the air we breathe would be degraded. The National Institutes of Health would have to halt or curtail scientific research, including needed research into cancer and childhood diseases. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ability to
respond to incidents of terrorism and other catastrophic events would be undermined…”

. Congress argues that discretionary government spending would still increase year to year but would increase by significantly less than under current policy. The bill does not define which agencies would take what cuts. That will be up to Congress, presuming that they can agree on that much. Given the Republicans’ hostility to the Environmental Protection Agency, it is a likely target.

Although forced fiscal compression in the US could also provide environmental benefits if environmentally harmful subsidies are cut. Less money for highways or corn-based ethanol, anyone?

Other important environmental deadlines today:

  1. The first (and only?) action period for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change expires today, with nothing taking its place. Canada and the US have turned their backs on the Protocol for some time, but it was the best and the brightest hope for real international change on the climate crisis.
  2. The new duty of care under the Safe Drinking Water Act, s. 13, comes into force today, putting a huge, unprecedented and unwise burden on municipal elected officials and staff. Expect taxes and water rates to go up even farther, as if drinking water were municipalities’ only important public duty. See Dianne’s presentation: Drinking water costs.

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