Thank you, Chairman Inhofe, Senator Jeffords. Thank you, Governor Leavitt for being here with us today to discuss the proposed FY05 Budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This budget represents a move toward reducing the deficit while giving much needed attention to a number of programs that contribute greatly to enhancing our environment. I understand the challenges faced with preparing a budget request that is both responsive to the needs of all Americans while being responsible with their tax dollars. Balancing competing needs with limited resources is always a difficult endeavor. I commend you, Governor Leavitt, and the Bush Administration for meeting this challenge while keeping an eye to fiscal restraint and advancing this country on the environmental front.
The EPA’s budget proposes increased funding for a number of programs that will greatly enhance our ability to meet our environmental needs. Specifically, I am pleased to see the $40 million increase for the Brownfields program. I support the Brownfields Program, as this assistance can make a world of difference in assisting communities that contain property that is unavailable for development due to environmental contamination.
Many rural western communities face enormous challenges in dealing with the rehabilitation of Brownfield properties and 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. While I will have some questions regarding the planned distribution of these funds, this is a very welcome increase and I appreciate the Agency’s attention to this program.
I am pleased by the EPA’s continued commitment to ensure the Superfund program prioritizes the cleanup work needs in North Idaho. Idahoans continue to face the challenges of living and working within the Coeur d’Alene Basin Superfund site in North Idaho, and I support efforts to allocate the funding necessary to clean up these sites in a timely manner. The Budget Resolution that we are currently debating on the floor of the Senate also supports this increase.
Additionally, the EPA’s budget proposes a substantial increase for the Clean School bus program, taking it to $65 million. Meridian School District in Boise Idaho has utilized funding through this program to pilot a project to retrofit all 200 school buses in the Meridian School district fleet to reduce diesel emissions by 50 to 90 percent through the use of biodiesel. Children in Idaho have benefited through participation in this program, and I support the President’s plan to retrofit the older buses that are now on the road. The proposed increase for this program is also reflected in the Senate Budget Resolution that would allow this program to be expanded into additional communities.
Again, I thank the Committee for holding this hearing and Governor Leavitt for being here with us today. I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and my fellow Members of Congress to ensure that Fiscal Year 2005 funding levels meet our environmental objectives. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.