NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Creating Environmental Harm Through Government Subsidies

April 21, 1997

Prior Democratic congresses are coming under fire for enacting a host of subsidies -- costing billions of dollars a year -- which harm the environment. The GOP Congress is now being chided for its failure to repeal those same subsidies.

What are they?

  • The U.S. Forest Service spends $300 million to $400 million more each year managing forests -- primarily building logging roads -- than it takes in from timber sales.
  • Subsidies to the hardrock mining industry in the form of virtual give-aways of rights to mine on public lands -- followed by accepting responsibility for $33 billion to $72 billion worth of clean up at abandoned mines.
  • Then there are the billions in federal agriculture subsidies which encourage growers to pollute through over-use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, critics charge.
  • They also cite the fact that charges for federal irrigation water never cover more than a fraction of the delivery costs.

It has been estimated that since 1873 the federal government has given away more than $242 billion in rights to gold, silver and other metals. And in California's Imperial Valley, farmers are trying to sell water to San Diego for 15 times what they paid for it.

Source: David Roodman (Worldwatch Institute), "End Subsidies that Harm the Environment," Investor's Business Daily, April 21, 1997.


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