According to the Bush Administration, the budget supports the EPA’s core work of protecting public health and improving the environment, as well as addressing needs identified in the EPA’s Strategic Plan and increasing resources for the agency’s critical role in security against terrorist attacks.

In a statement, EPA spokesman Steve Johnson said the budget would ensure the agency would be able to “continue to pick up the pace of protecting the public and the environment”.

However, drastic cuts to spending have been made across the board, and conservationists have confirmed their fears that the budget would help to push drilling for oil in the environmentally sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The budget includes highly speculative revenues from drilling in the Arctic Refuge, as well as severe cuts to the EPA, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and other important conservation programmes.

Funding for Amtrak, which previously relied on one third of its US $3 billion budget coming from a federal subsidy, has been stopped completely.

“With this budget, President Bush has shown once again that protecting the health and safety of our communities and families are not his top priorities,” said Carl Pope, executive director of green group the Sierra Club.

As well as proposing fuel switches to diesel to reduce carbon emissions from trucks and other mobile sources and slashing sewage treatment funding by 30%, meaning the programme has now virtually been sliced in half over the last two years, the 2006 budget also calls for a 6% cut to the EPA and a US $47 million funding cut for science and technology.

In stark contrast, the Administration’s budget assumes US $2.4 billion in revenues from potential oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge to be split between the state of Alaska and the federal government. Given the historic average for oil leases on the North Slope of Alaska, these figures are speculative.

Despite overwhelming public support for protecting the area, considered by most US citizens to be a precious and fragile national treasure, drilling proponents in Congress will try to attach controversial Arctic drilling provisions to the upcoming Federal Budget Bill.

“The vast unspoiled wilderness of America’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is more than a line item in the Federal Budget,” Mr Pope concluded. “This controversial provision has nothing to do with the budget or with generating revenues for America.”

By Jane Kettle

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