Good Morning. I will also be brief and ask that my statement be made part of the record.
Administrator Whitman, welcome. It is always nice to see you - though I realize budget hearings are not always the most pleasant affairs. However, I want to publicly acknowledge my admiration for your commitment to public service and enthusiasm for one of the most difficult jobs in Washington.
It has been a year since you testified before this committee on EPA’s budget. Last year, you took pride in the fact that the Agency’s budget request represented a $200 million increase over the previous year’s request. I am disappointed that you cannot make a similar claim this year. If enacted, this budget request would represent about a 6 percent cut in spending compared to what the President signed into law last week - and that does not even take into account inflation.
It is my opinion that the Administration’s 2004 budget request for EPA is inadequate to the tasks at hand. How can the Agency justify a $500 million cut in funding to the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund? Even the Office of Management and Budget has written to me stating that, over the next 20 years, $21 billion in capital funding will be needed for clean water and $45 billion will be needed for drinking water. I might add that the Congressional Budget Office and others have estimated our nation’s water infrastructure needs in the range of $300 billion over the next 25 years.
At a time when water systems are coping with the additional costs of security, I don’t want to be told that a bean counter at OMB has decided that, for budgetary reasons, the state revolving funds are ready to revolve. I don’t believe it, and I don’t think water experts at the EPA believe it.
Last year, one bright spot in the budget request was a large increase in funding for the brownfields program, and I should note that EPA is requesting a modest increase this year as well. I can only ask - where’s the beef? Enacted brownfields funding for competitive grants remains at less than $100 million despite the promises of more resources and a new authorizing law. It is kind of like ordering a double cheeseburger and coming up one patty short.
Speaking of the frustration we authorizers are feeling when it comes to
approprations: As you know, new legislation was enacted at the end of the last Congress to protect Lake Champlain. The new bill authorizes substantially more resources than have been requested by the Agency. I hope I can work with you to make sure that this is the last budget that will request so little in funding for Lake Champlain.
I am sure that other members will focus their attention on the Superfund budget and the resources the Agency is devoting to its enforcement activities. I would like to voice my displeasure with the Agency’s responses to this Committee’s requests for information. Over the past year and a half, we have sent repeated requests pertaining to the Agency’s proposed changes to the New Source Review program as well as questions pertaining to the Administration’s Clear Skies proposal. To my dismay, the Agency’s responses have ranged from inadequate to incomplete, and in some cases no response was given at all. This is untenable and unfortunately not unique. I am also waiting for promised responses to my questions from the Council on Environmental Quality.
Both you and I are trying to make the environment safer for our children and grandchildren. We must strive to do better.
On the air front, I have been encouraged by the Agency’s move to better regulate diesel vehicles, but I am concerned that the Agency is becoming better known for its New Year’s Eve revisions to the Clean Air Act, weakening the requirement that the oldest and dirtiest power plants and refineries install modern pollution controls whenever they make major repairs. My state and the eight others that are challenging EPA’s actions in court cannot permit our air to become dirtier, our mountain vistas smoggier, and our citizenry sicker.
I am also deeply concerned with the Administration's efforts to promote its Clear Skies Initiative. Despite EPA claims to the contrary, the proposal would carve up crucial aspects of current law weakening enforcement and dismantling regulations. By delaying compliance deadlines, Clear Skies would result in thousands of deaths, asthma attacks, and hospitalizations.
Finally, I hope that we can agree to do something to guarantee reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide. Global warming’s damaging environmental and economic impacts are upon us, we must act and act soon.
Again thank you for being here today Administrator Whitman, and I look forward to your testimony.