Washington, D.C. - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has requested $1.24 billion in funding for the FY2012 Superfund program, but according to the Office of Management and Budget Appendix to the FY2012 budget (OMB Report) EPA had $2.26 billion carried forward in unused balances as of the beginning of FY 2011. When combined with the requested FY 2012 appropriations of $1.24 billion, OMB estimates that EPA will have at least $3.84 billion in total budgetary resources available for the Superfund program in FY2012.
In response, Senator James Inhofe, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, last night sent an oversight letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking the agency to account for why EPA has such a massive unobligated balance available for its Superfund program. These unobligated funds are supposed to be spent on protecting the environment and public health, not sitting stagnant in an account.
In particular, Senator Inhofe asked EPA to clarify the following:
1. Why has this unobligated balance grown so much?
2. Why is EPA requesting FY2012 funding when they are sitting on funding that totals more than FY2011 request?
3. Does EPA plan to obligate this money? By what time and for what sites?
4. Your agency has consistently said that your pace of cleanup is directly tied to your funding levels. Since the pace of construction completions is at an all time low, why is EPA not using these funds?
5. EPA’s FY2012 budget calls for reinstating the “Superfund Tax.” OMB estimates that the tax will generate $1.6 billion in FY2012. Why is EPA calling for a reinstatement of the tax when, as of October of 2011, the Agency will have at least the amount of revenue it would generate from the tax, in available unobligated balances for the Superfund program?
“At a time when we are looking for every opportunity to cut spending and reduce the deficit, the EPA must be held accountable for why such a large portion of funds from the FY2011 Superfund budget sat idle and were clearly not used to protect the environment or public health,” Senator Inhofe said.
"It is not unusual to have an office carry over an unobligated balance from year to year, but it is unusual to have an office carry over an amount that is over one and a half times its total fiscal year request. To put this in perspective, EPA’s FY 2012 Superfund request is $1.24 billion and the budget request for the entire EPA is $8.97 billion—so EPA is holding on to one quarter of its total budget in its Superfund account. OMB estimates that coupled with EPA’s FY2012 request that amount will grow to almost half of the EPA’s total FY 2012 budget request. The EPA needs to answer to the taxpayer for these actions.”