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Budget Winners and Losers: What Died, Survived and Thrived

The government shutdown-dodging deal that shaved $38 billion in federal spending won't be nearly as painful as many predicted thanks to some creative smoke and mirrors. But there are still some winners and losers.

And the losers are ...
Wolves and other endangered species: Legislators from Montana and Idaho attached a rider that would take wolves in Montana and Idaho off of the endangered species list. This isn't just about the Rocky Mountain wolf. This small budget item also sets a precedent that allows Congress, and not scientists, to decide what species should be on the list. Environmentalists fear other endangered animals may unwittingly find themselves on the losing end of political battles.

Climate science and some czars: Words like climate science and global warming aren't welcome on Capitol Hill these days. They've been know to raise blood pressure levels a notch or two. So, it's not surprising that a program aimed at aggregating up-to-date climate data for the public and lawmakers got the ax. (see page 218)

The Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration really never got off the ground. But it would have looked a lot like NOAA's weather service. But it's death isn't all bad. This really a cosmetic cut, as Mother Jones blogger Kate Sheppard noted. NOAA will keep on monitoring and assessing climate data, it just won't be sharing it the way it had planned.

The climate czar position once held by Carol Browner has also been eliminated under the budget deal (page 423). Actually, four czars had their jobs defunded, including health care, the car czar and the urban affairs czar -- all positions that were already vacant.

High-speed rail: President Obama's lofty plans for high-speed rail died in the budget agreement (page 409). And it's doubtful there's the political will to try and revive it when lawmakers prepare to dig into next year's budget. Not only has financing for high-speed rail been eliminated this year, it also took back some of the money Congress approved for it last year. These cuts will likely kill a number of rail projects throughout the United States, including California's $43-billion megaproject.

And the winners are ...
Oil and gas: The budget agreement blocks the Interior Department from using fund to implement the wild lands policy through the end of the fiscal year. And that could help the oil and gas industry. As the Wonk Room notes:

The inclusion of this rider is a victory for western GOP lawmakers who have been pushing to open up more western lands to oil and gas development.
Drilling regulators: The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement will get $42 million more this year than it did in fiscal 2010. The agency didn't get the entire spending boost it requested, but compared to others, they made out like bandits. It's no wonder that the agency responsible for offshore drilling regulations received a bump in spending. The bureau's workload has increased considerably since the Gulf oil spill last year as it tries to implement new safety and environmental mandates.

You win some, you lose some
EPA: How can an agency that had its 2011 budget reduced by 16 percent be considered a winner? Well, it could have been worse. A lot worse. The GOP wanted to strip the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases and other pollutants. In the end, lawmakers agreed to cut $1.6 billion from the agency and punt on the question of regulatory authority. Most of the spending cuts will make it harder for states to implement public health and environmental laws.

Photo from Flickr user Brooks Elliott, CC 2.0
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