I’d like to welcome Administrator Leavitt. This is the first time he has been before the Committee since he was confirmed, and I want him to know that it’s good to have him back. Mr. Chairman, I’d also like to thank you for holding this important hearing. I think that it is extremely important that each agency’s budget not only be studied by the Appropriations Committee. As a Member of the Budget Committee and a Member of this committee, which authorizes many, if not all, of the programs at EPA, I think that it is important that we keep an eye on the President’s requests each year as well.
I am sure that much will be made of the cuts in this year’s EPA budget proposal. But, as I am sure that you will agree, Mr. Chairman, these are tough times. It is a simple fact that we have to scale back our spending, even where it hurts. Many people will point to programs that need more funding, but the truth is that there will never be a point when everyone thinks that the funding is high enough. If we spend more this year, we’ll have to spend more than that next year. It seems that every time we get through the appropriations process, last year’s ceiling becomes this year’s floor. And that is just not acceptable.
We are trusted by the public to be good stewards of their money. How can we be that if we are determined to spend more and more every year? We should also focus on the fact that, while the overall funding level is below last year’s and some programs are cut, other important EPA programs received increases in funding.
As a Member of the Armed Services clean-up I oversee nuclear clean-ups. Several years ago a lot of money was being spent, but not a lot of cleaning-up was actually getting done. So we looked at ways to provide incentives for quicker clean-ups. In Colorado, a site called Rocky Flats is being cleaned-up by DOE. It will save taxpayers millions of dollars because they are on schedule and under budget. So often we get caught up in the rhetoric of the decisions, we do lots of studies, we spend lots of money, and still nothing gets cleaned-up. I would encourage you to look to this model as you begin clean-ups at Superfund sites throughout the nation.
I’s also like to recognize another clean-up site in Colorado. This one is being done by EPA. The Shattuck Chemical site in one of Denver’s neighborhood should be looked upon as a real success story. There have been quite a number of hang-ups and slow-downs as they have moved through the process, but the EPA has stuck to its promises to this neighborhood and I understand that the clean-up is under way and going well. So, I was very pleased to see that the President increased his funding request for the Superfund program by $124 million.
I was also pleased to see that the State Pollution Control Grants program was increased by $20 million. As someone who believes that the federal government should not place unfunded mandates on states, I believe that the funding assistance offered by a program such as this one is important. The work that states and tribes are able to perform with this funding is important work and I am pleased to see that it will go forward.
Again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing, I look forward to the opportunity to discuss the EPA FY’05 spending proposals with the Administrator.