Supercommittee failure portends yearlong limbo for energy, environment programs

11-29-2011 // Elana Schor, E&E News

The excerpt is from E&E Daily

After four months of pressure campaigns and prognostication, the failure of the so-called congressional "supercommittee" to agree on $1.2 trillion in long-term spending cuts leaves energy and environmental programs in much the same position that they were after the August debt-limit deal: an uneasy limbo.

The flameout of the 12-member panel, created in the hopes of surmounting political acrimony to slash both parties' prized programs, puts domestic discretionary agencies -- such as U.S. EPA and the Energy Department -- in line for two rounds of automatic cuts, both potentially punishing. The first would come about three months into the 2013 fiscal year, when an estimated $39 billion sequester of already-approved spending would hit all agencies in equal proportions. The second would take the form of lower budget caps until 2021.

Whether the threat of the Pentagon taking a hit as sizable as EPA or the Interior Department compels leaders of both parties to make progress where the supercommittee could not remains an open question. But environmentalists most active in pushing the defunct panel to pursue new revenue, chiefly through the repeal of oil tax breaks, appear unlikely to change their strategy, with another year of more unpredictable fiscal maneuvers remaining before the sequester starts.

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The National Wildlife Federation's Washington director, Adam Kolton, urged a brighter spotlight on the fallout from the supercommittee's discord on balancing spending cuts with revenue.

"The Grinch stole Thanksgiving for those of us who care deeply about clean air, clean water and the outdoor recreation economy," Kolton said in an interview, adding that greens "are not out there saying, 'Solve the problem, but don't focus on us.'"

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