Mr. Chairman, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today.
Establishing a budget for the EPA is essential to continue to protect the environment and human health of the people of this nation. We must ensure that the EPA be able to have adequate resources to implement its core programs, as well as allowing the agency to work in collaboration with others to protect our air, water, and land.
As we know, our nation is facing budget restraints. Funding for many of our agencies, including the Environment Protection Agency, must be restrained in times like these so we can balance the budget and steer our nation’s economy in the right direction, while producing new jobs for Americans. I commend Administrator Leavitt’s vision to use market based solutions, which I feel will allow the EPA to become more innovative and effective.
There is a lot of criticism that the Administration has lowered funding for this agency. This is wrong. We only have to look at the facts to show that the Administration has a firm commitment to environmental protection after having increased this year’s budget by 133 million dollars. I urge the Administrator to target all programs that contain waste, fraud, abuse, and are unsustainable and either improve these programs or eliminate them. The agency can then focus on those programs which will make a positive impact on communities across the nation.
One of the biggest problems with applying environmental standards to Alaska is the fact that a regulation made in Washington DC does not always make sense in a place 4000 miles away. In the past, there have been attempts to establish a new EPA region for Alaska. Such a proposal would actually reduce costs in the long-run because it would cut down on unnecessary travel and other administrative costs. In the meantime, I hope the agency continues with its goal to support neighborhood solutions when trying to achieve compliance to national standards.
I am happy that the Administration is committed to Alaska Native Villages and has kept funding for infrastructure assistance at a constant level. However, I am concerned that the current funding level will be enough. Many of our native communities need to address their water and wastewater infrastructure needs to maintain a healthy standard of living. The EPA has estimated that there are 20,000 homes in Native villages that lack basic sanitation facilities. There is no other State in our nation that contains a figure such as this, where citizens of the United States must walk long distances to carry water to their house. I would be interested in finding out if the current funding will address this striking number.
It is my hope that the EPA, when administering these grants, can look toward applications that are efficient and will have an effective impact. I encourage Commissioner Leavitt to look into new technologies which can help cut costs but achieve the environmental goals set out in our nation’s communities. For example, ozone technology may prove to be more cost effective when treating water infrastructure in Native Alaskan communities.
At the same time, I urge the EPA not to abandon those core areas which may often get overlooked when finding new alternatives. For example, Alaska is having problems covering its core program requirements of the Clean Air Act. Congressional funding increases in recent years have been channeled by the EPA to new priorities leaving core programs short of funding to complete our basic mission. Examples include developing air quality plans for locations that have historically violated particle pollution levels from wood smoke; insufficient resources to undertake air monitoring in rural communities where we suspect airborne dusts levels exceed health standards (PM-10). New planning funds for regional haze goes to regional planning organizations while much of the Plan development work must be done by state staff with no new funds.
I thank Commissioner Leavitt for coming today. I look forward to listening to his responses on questions asked by this Committee today and working with him on environmental issues affecting Alaska in the future.
1) Governor Leavitt, I have heard that you support market incentives and developing new technology rather than command-and-control structures when implementing environmental protection programs.
Question: Please explain how you will help the EPA achieve some of its major tasks over the coming year by using market incentives and new technologies, despite the tight funding levels being requested due to the fiscal restraints our nation is facing?
2) The current funding formula used by EPA to support fine particulate (PM2.5) monitoring across the nation is not sufficient to keep the Alaskan PM 10 monitoring program operational.
Recent revisions to the National Monitoring Strategy has resulted in a disproportional reduction in PM 10 monitoring funds which threatens Alaska's ability to meet current and future monitoring needs. Revisions to the funding formula must be made to ensure that a small state, with remote logistical hurdles can maintain an environmental assessment capability. While Alaska understands that fine particle pollution, PM 2.5, represents a high health risk, course particle pollution, PM10, is a long standing unknown health risk in rural Alaska. PM-10 may be off the federal radar screen, but still an important health issue for Alaska.
Question: What is EPA Headquarters intent with respect to the funding formula and regional needs to continue PM-10 monitoring?
3) Too little EPA flexibility for funding state specific regional haze monitoring needs. Alaska must submit a Regional Haze air quality plan to EPA by Dec 31, 2007. Development of the Plan requires air monitoring data which identifies pollutant levels and composition. EPA funds for haze monitoring is directed to the federal land managers and are not available to the state. The existing monitoring network does not fully meet the state's monitoring needs for developing the Plan. The federal land managers do not have sufficient funds to conduct additional monitoring. While the land managers receive the monitoring money, Regional Planning Organizations, like the WGA sponsored Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP) receive most of the regional haze planning funds used to help states write the Plans. Failure to secure additional funding for air monitoring will force the state to submit a plan based on insufficient data and could cost Alaskans millions of dollars to attack a problem that either does not exist or a problem from haze that comes from Asia or Russia and not Anchorage or Fairbanks local sources.
Question: Does EPA have flexibility to direct fund the states to do regional haze monitoring? Why shouldn't the monitoring funds go directly to the state rather than the federal land manager, when the state, not the land manager, is on the hook under the Clean Air to develop a satisfactory plan?
4) Question: Does the EPA feel that current funding levels for the Alaska Native water programs will meet the needs of the 20,000+ homes, a figure estimated by the EPA, that lack basic sanitation facilities.