U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Minority Press Release
Contact:  Diane Derby, 224-5141
 
SEN. JEFFORDS' HEARING STATEMENT ON BUSINESS MEETING

Statement of Senator James M. Jeffords, I-Vt.
Environment and Public Works Committee
Business Meeting
September 13, 2006

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am very pleased to see S. 3591, the High-Performance Green Buildings Act of 2006, on today’s agenda. This important piece of legislation ensures the federal government becomes a leader in the green building movement.

By utilizing high-performance green buildings, the federal government will greatly improve the efficiency of its buildings and the health and productivity of its workforce. I am especially pleased that this bill begins to address the environmental conditions that still exist in our nation’s schools.

According to the Healthy Schools Network report, “Lessons Learned,” 32 million children are at high risk of developing health and learning impairments just by attending school each day. While the funding is severely limited for addressing such a major problem, this bill gives the EPA authority to provide technical and financial assistance to schools; it aids in the development of environmental quality plans; and it provides guidelines on appropriate sites for building new schools.

In my home state of Vermont, environmental quality and economic opportunity are closely linked, and green buildings are a great example of this connection. The design, construction and use of green buildings will not only enhance environmental quality, worker productivity, and student learning, but will also contribute to a new and growing economy.

Environmental technologies represent an area of economic growth that is both efficient and effective. We have many green buildings that have been completed in Vermont and I look forward to the day when the nation’s first federal green building demonstration project is completed in my home state.

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you, as well as the other members of this Committee, for working with me in a bipartisan manner to move this important piece of legislation forward.

With regard to the Nuclear Release Notice Act of 2006, I am delighted that we have reached agreement and we will act to report the bill today. Senator Obama is to be commended for bringing this issue to the attention of the Committee.

We have worked very hard, majority and minority together, for more than five months to reach agreement on this bill. The substitute amendment we have developed will ensure that new regulations are written that require notice in the event of radiation releases at nuclear power plants, even when such releases do not immediately pose a risk to public health or the environment. It will allow local governments to monitor releases over time and work to ensure that plants are operating within safe limits.

Lastly, Mr. Chairman, I want to say a few words about S. 1848, the Good Samaritan Mine Clean-Up legislation.

I want to believe that we are all interested in a net gain for the environment. I am concerned that the bill before us will not be a net gain. Instead of relying on existing authorities, this bill instead delegates the authority to waive federal environmental statutes with few assurances that human health or the environment will be protected.

It appears that this mark uses the very real problem of cleaning up abandoned mines as another excuse to pursue the waiver of environmental protections. I will be supporting the Boxer amendment, which will move the administrative process along and provide funding assistance, and I will be opposing S. 1848.