Statement of Senator Max Baucus
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Hearing on the Administration=s Fiscal Year 2003 Budget Proposal for the EPA
February 13, 2002
Good morning Mr. Chairman. I would like to welcome Administrator Whitman and thank her for being here today to talk the Administration=s Fiscal Year 2003 budget proposal. I look forward to hearing about the priorities of the Environmental Protection Agency and I look forward to working with Administrator Whitman to make sure that we are doing the best job we can to allocate our scarce federal dollars in a manner that best protects public health and the environment.
First, let me say I am very pleased that the Administration has proposed a substantial increase in the budget for brownfields programs. The Administration=s commitment to cleaning up brownfields complements the hard-work Congress did last year in getting a brownfields revitalization bill passed, and signed into law by President Bush just last month. Montana has its share of sites that communities, private individuals and public interest groups have been wanting to clean up for years. With the Administration=s support, I hope we=ll finally have the resources to help them do that.
However, I am concerned about the substantial cuts in the Clean and Safe Drinking Water accounts proposed by the Administration, including a flat funding request for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and a significant decrease from the FY 2002 levels for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. These are extremely important and highly successful programs. They are a very efficient way to leverage federal dollars for maximum benefit. Folks in Montana tell me that the State Revolving Funds have done Aamazing@ things on the ground, for communities, for the environment and for public health and safety. They tell me we need to increase our support for these programs, so that more communities can benefit from them. I hope we will be able to work with Administration on this.
I also want to make it clear to Administrator Whitman and to the Administration that Libby, Montana continues to be one of my top priorities. I want to make sure that Libby will continue to be a top priority with the EPA until the community finally gets a clean bill of health. EPA so far has done a remarkable job on the ground in Libby, and I can=t thank those folks enough. If we all stay the course here, we can finally do right by the people in Libby who have suffered terribly for so many years.
Finally, as I know Administrator Whitman is aware, EPA is considering declaring a public health emergency in Libby so that EPA can go in and take the asbestos-contaminated vermiculite from peoples= homes. I hope EPA does the right thing here, because this decision shouldn=t be about anything other than protecting the health and lives of the people in Libby.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, and thank-you Administrator Whitman for your time.