Thank you, Chairman Inhofe, Senator Jeffords. Let me begin by saying that I appreciate your hard work and the work of the Committee in addressing the issue of grants management within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Given the considerable amount of taxpayer dollars appropriated every year for EPA grants and the breadth of the agency’s responsibility for assisting with environmental efforts, oversight of how this money is being spent is important.
As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, we have been working to produce a budget resolution, and as we all know it will be an extremely tough budget year.
With the current economic climate and our need to use the utmost discretion to ensure that hardworking Americans’ dollars are wisely spent, it is now more timely than ever to address this issue.
One of the issues I would like to raise today is the distribution of Brownfields program grants. Let me begin by saying, I support the Brownfields Program.
Assistance through this program can go a long way toward assisting communities that contain property that is unavailable for development due to environmental contamination.
Many communities that are dealing with the rehabilitation of Brownfield properties lack the funding necessary to revitalize the properties. These grants are vital sources of assistance, and are good for local economies, local communities, and the environment.
However, it is essential that the EPA give all communities access to the program and make it truly a national program.
I was alarmed to discover that Brownfields funds are not distributed equitably between the eastern and western United States and among urban and rural communities. Furthermore, only 10 of these grants were awarded in the intermountain West.
This is an issue I have raised in the past with EPA. I have asked EPA to consider developing a specific “rural” component to the Brownfields program.
Unemployment rates are often as high in many small rural communities as they are in inner cities, and rural communities are no less impacted by contamination, or the possibility of contamination which has hindered the re-development of these properties in rural towns -- a key objective of the Brownfields program. I plan to ask the panel some questions regarding this important issue, but I will defer further discussion of this issue until later.
Again, I thank the Committee and the witnesses here with us today for your hard work in addressing the oversight of EPA grants. I look forward to continuing to work to ensure our limited resources are well spent. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.