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Economy & Business

Coalition Urges Cuts to Environmentally Harmful Programs to Save Cash

A coalition of liberal and conservative organizations is calling on the special Congressional debt reduction panel to cut environmentally harmful programs.

President Ryan Alexander of D.C.-based Taxpayers for Common Sense said the combination of saving money and helping the environment is something both parties could agree on.

Alexander cited the coalition's "Green Scissors" report, which outlines more than $380 billion in savings achieved through cuts to a score of federal subsidies. She said the plan targets "wasteful spending" in several sectors, including energy and agriculture, representing a quarter of the country's debt reduction goal of $1.2 billion.

Ben Schreiber, an energy tax analyst for the environmental group Friends of the Earth, said the coalition is touring the country in hopes of reaching lawmakers on the debt reduction super committee — like Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican.

"Every corporate lobbyist in Washington is trying to speak with Toomey as well," said Schreiber, "and so there's a great competition to get his time and his energy. That's why efforts like this, reaching across the aisle, are so important, because the corporate lobbyists are definitely pounding the pavement in Washington right now."

The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank from Chicago, is also getting behind the "green cuts." Heartland Vice President Eli Lehrer said his group wants to see the federal government phase out "pure subsidy" programs like flood insurance.

"It encourages environmental destruction by incentivizing development in places it simply should not happen," said Lehrer. "It encourages the destruction of wetlands, reduces natural barriers to storm surge, and destroys important wildlife habitat."

Lehrer said the federal flood insurance program owes the Treasury about $18 billion, a figure that could rise after recent storms on the east coast. Flood and crop insurance are programs that couldn't be stopped right away, said Lehrer; the Green Scissors plan said its $380 billion in savings would come over a five-year period.

The report also suggests ending coal, oil and gas subsidies, as well as a 45¢ per gallon tax credit on corn ethanol for gasoline. Schreiber said ethanol emissions are, in some cases, worse for the environment than those of traditional gasoline. He said cutting that subsidy would save taxpayers $5.7 billion each year.

The full report can be viewed at the Green Scissors website.