U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   03/31/2004
 
Statement of Senator James M. Jeffords
Nominations for EPA and Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

Good morning, and thank you all for being here today and for your willingness to serve our country in these important positions.

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board’s mission of promoting chemical safety has always been an important one, but in the wake of September 11th, we are looking at our homeland safety and security with heightened scrutiny. The responsibilities of the Chemical Safety Board members are challenging and I look forward to hearing from you, Mr. Visscher, on how you plan to meet those challenges.

The Environmental Protection Agency has an even broader mission - protecting the environment. As each of you are looking toward assuming these new challenges, I want you to know that there is a major challenge that I have been faced with in dealing with your agency, and that challenge is access to information.

It is our duty to inquire from time-to-time about the Agency’s conduct of its mission, the Agency’s expenditure of funds, and the Agency’s implementation of statutes in its purview, including the development of regulations under those statues. I have never before encountered such bizarre reasons for withholding information from Congress as I have encountered from this Administration.

You may know that I requested information on Clean Air Act regulations back in 2001 when I was Chair of this Committee. After numerous discussions about this request which included promises to provide some of the information, the Agency suddenly sent a letter to me in 2003 claiming that I could not have the information because I was no longer a Committee Chair. This is what I mean by bizarre – a delay for over two years, and then a novel and baseless assertion that my party status is the determining factor as to whether I may obtain information for this Committee and for my constituents.

Again, I want to thank Chairman Inhofe for joining me in writing to Administrator Leavitt to express our commonly held position that the Agency is obligated to respond to requests from each the chair and the ranking member. But despite a promise from Administrator Leavitt during our EPA budget hearing in early March, we have heard no response from the Agency to either this letter or the outstanding requests. This is an affront to every member on this Committee.

It is my hope that each of you will help this Senator and this Committee fulfill our obligations to the American people for complete information regarding the health and safety of our environment.

I look forward to hearing from you this morning.