(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
We are here to consider the nomination of Mr. David Hill to be the Environmental Protection Agency’s General Counsel.
The General Counsel is EPA’s legal conscience, a vital internal check who is supposed to ensure that EPA follows the law and fulfills its mandate.
When EPA was created, President Nixon said it should be a “strong, independent agency” that established and enforced environmental protections and assisted others in combating pollution.
In its first 30 years, Democrats and Republicans worked together to support EPA’s progress in cleaning up our nation’s air, water, and other resources. EPA’s programs were improving the quality of our environment and helping to protect our children from deadly diseases caused by pollution.
However, I am distressed to say that EPA is a shadow of its former self; our nation’s most important independent protector of public health and the environment is an agency that does not follow the law, as has been pointed out by multiple judges – liberal, moderate and conservative.
Let me tell you about just a few of the recent Court decisions that have found EPA’s actions in violation of the law:
In New York v. EPA, in 2006, the D.C. Circuit Court said that EPA’s approach to the law would make sense only “in a Humpty Dumpty world.”
In New Jersey v. EPA, this past February, the same court overturned EPA’s rule seeking to weaken controls on mercury emissions, saying: “EPA’s “explanation deploys the logic of the Queen of Hearts, substituting EPA’s desires for the plain text” of the Clean Air Act.
In Mossville Environmental Action Now v. EPA, in 2004, the D.C. Circuit rejected EPA’s attempt to exempt whole categories of toxic pollutants, which it said violated EPA’s “clear statutory obligation to set emissions for each listed [hazardous air pollutant]”
Sadly, there are many more examples. We have a long list of court decisions where EPA actions have been overturned. This is a remarkable record of losses, especially for an agency that is given great deference in the courts.
Today, we face serious environmental problems that threaten our children’s and families’ health and the very future of our planet.
I have concerns and questions about this nominee. Mr. Hill’s past work for polluting industries raises issues. In addition, his participation while at DOE in developing the EPA mercury rule that the court overturned, and his work on the EPA rule that weakened air pollution controls for power plants, and that was also reversed by the court, raise significant questions.
I also have concerns about his advocacy for the deeply-flawed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal facility, and about some of his work on high level nuclear waste tanks at DOE sites.
Being nominated to serve as the legal conscience of an agency is an important responsibility. EPA’s next General Counsel should have a track record of working to increase protections and open up government, and a demonstrated capacity to stand up to those who advocate ignoring the law.
I plan to ask Mr. Hill to respond to my concerns.
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