Senator Joe Lieberman
Opening Statement: Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing
2002 EPA Budget Proposal
February 13, 2002
Welcome, Administrator Whitman, and thank you for being here today. From what I have heard, you have worked hard within the Administration to advance many of the right priorities against what I believe have been daunting odds.
We’re here today to discuss the administration’s 2003 EPA budget proposal—a proposal about which I must admit I am troubled. I understand that as our nation faces war abroad and increased security demands here at home, we have no shortage of budget requirements. As a result, some government agencies have to learn to accomplish more with less. But I regret that in this budget proposal, the Bush Administration is asking EPA to do less with less. And ultimately, the lack of budgetary resources to accomplish EPA’s critical goals threatens the natural resources all of us care about: our air, our water, and our land.
The Bush Administration proposes providing the EPA with about $300 million less than the enacted level for the present fiscal year. The number, itself, says a lot — but the decisions behind the dollars are also important still. I would like to talk about a few decisions this morning.
Specifically, I share with many of my colleagues a deep concern about the significant reduction in clean water funds of about $525 million, which may seriously impact our state and local authorities’ efforts to improve water quality that people depend on for their health, as well as the health of our waters for fish, other aquatic organisms, and recreation.
In my own state of Connecticut, we are faced with enormous infrastructure improvement needs, including a necessary upgrade of our wastewater treatment plants in the Long Island Sound—a goal we share with our neighbors from New York. This budget will make that important task much more difficult to accomplish.
In the area of clean air, the budget appears to dedicate about the same resources as last year. But the focus of the funding is suspect. I am troubled by the mere passing mention of multi-pollutant legislation in your budget justification document. That’s consistent with the Administration’s ongoing backslide on this issue. A year ago, President Bush was talking about putting forward his own proposal to reduce emissions of the four primary pollutants—sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and carbon dioxide—emitted by the electric power industry. Then, in March of last year, the President abandoned his pledge to seek carbon dioxide reductions from power plants. In May, the President’s National Energy Plan called on the EPA to develop a proposal to reduce the other three pollutants. We are still waiting for that proposal to arrive here on Capitol Hill.
The EPA budget justification also gives glancing treatment to New Source Review. As you know, there is a great deal of concern about the potential weakening of this important program under the guise of so‑called “reform,” and I regret that the budget has done nothing to clarify the administration’s true intentions. I am troubled by the fact that although funding for enforcement is projected to go up in Fiscal Year ‘03, the number of inspections planned next year is 30 percent lower than the number of inspections completed in FY 99—a decrease of over 7,000 inspections. Criminal and civil investigations are also declining to a significant degree. Now, I am a big supporter of faith-based initiatives, but sometimes it takes not just faith but enforcement to bring about compliance with our environmental protection laws.
I am also disgruntled by the continuing absence of a credible Administration plan on climate change. In this budget justification, the very first pages speak about EPA’s mission and goals. One of these goals deals with the reduction of global and cross‑border environmental risks. It reads, and I quote in its entirety:
“The United States will lead other nations in successful, multilateral efforts to reduce significant risks to human health and ecosystems from climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, and other hazards of international concern.”
But with all respect, the actions of the Bush Administration since it took office have not demonstrated leadership on global warming, have been unilateral, and are increasing rather than reducing risks to human health and ecosystems from climate change. After rejecting the Kyoto Protocol last March, the Administration showed up empty‑handed at the climate negotiations in Bonn last summer and Marrakech last fall, and has appeared to be cooling to any real action on global warming ever since.
I don’t mean this personally, Administrator Whitman, because you personally displayed real leadership on climate change when you were Governor of New Jersey. Unfortunately, your strong record has yet to translate into any real commitment to deal with this mega-problem by the Bush Administration.
I understand that we may hear from the Administration soon, very soon, on climate change, multi-pollutant legislation, and New Source Review. I hope that the climate change program is a credible one that moves us toward real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, with targets and timetables for those reductions. I am working with Senator McCain on such a proposal. I hope that the multi-pollutant proposal calls for significant cuts in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury reductions, and forms the foundation for meaningful discussions on reconciling the Administration’s proposal with the Clean Power Act of 2001, introduced by Senator Jeffords, Senator Collins and me. I hope that the NSR proposal retains the critical health and environmental protections this program has afforded us over time. Hope springs eternal, but, for now, I view this as an Administration that has not adequately fulfilled its responsibility to protect our environment.
Thank you again, Administrator Whitman.