Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Full Committee hearing entitled, "Environmental Protection Agency Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Hearing."
Thursday, March 22, 2012 10:15 AM EDT
Good morning, Administrator Jackson. I want to thank you for coming to discuss EPA's priorities for the coming fiscal year. As I went through your proposed budget, I saw four themes emerge. Admittedly, you may not agree with my interpretation. First, an escalation in climate change funding; second, increasing the cost of fuel at the pump; third, beefing up EPA's regulatory budget while cutting the states' ability to deal with new unfunded mandates; and finally, negative impacts on rural America.
The proposed budget for EPA to address climate change has expanded to nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. I find this strange, given that you yourself have admitted such activity will do nothing to affect the course of global temperatures. In these tough economic times, it doesn't make sense to spend $240 million on something that will have no effect. An additional $56 million is requested to expand various air programs. Most of these programs are already in existence, and, under this EPA, their impacts have been calamitous for Americans. The funds requested by EPA are being used to create draconian new regulations with the goal of driving up electricity and gasoline prices. As you stated in an interview with Energy Now, the goal is to "level the playing field" among energy types. This is not Congress's intent with the Clean Air Act.
I also found it interesting that you proposed to increase your budget for Federal Vehicle and Fuel Standards Certifications. Inevitably, I'm sure this division within EPA will be working hard to increase the price at the pump, which is way too high in many areas, Oklahoma included, at over four dollars per gallon. EPA's policy of increasing the price of fuel certainly seems to be working: AAA notes that gas prices are up 108% since President Obama took office. An example of this strategy at work is Tier 3 Gas Regulations, which will raise the price of gasoline.
In addition, EPA has, in the past year, required petroleum marketers to pay millions of dollars in fines for not purchasing biofuels that weren't even commercially available. They issued notice of violations to Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)-obligated companies that tried to comply with the RFS in good faith under the system EPA created. These companies were rewarded with over a $100 million worth of liability with no end in sight.
Instead of taking a hard look inside EPA and making difficult choices about programs that burden our economy, this budget cuts the funding to states that actually pay for some of the unfunded mandates imposed on communities. Last year, I raised my concerns that EPA had taken nearly 83% of their total budget cuts from the water programs, primarily from the State Revolving Fund (SRF) program. EPA is again cutting the SRF program, which helps states finance infrastructure improvements to help meet Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act Mandates. I've looked at EPA's water regulatory agenda and I have not seen a commensurate cut in unfunded mandates. In fact, this year EPA is proposing to expand the amount of waters that are covered by the Clean Water Act through their draft jurisdictional guidance. I encourage my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to restore this cut to the SRF and take those funds from the regulatory program.
Even on areas where we have bipartisan agreement, like Brownfields or DERA (Diesel Emissions Reduction Act), you have proposed to cut these programs while increasing the funding for your political priorities. I am sure I am not the only one today who is disappointed to see you reduce the overall funding for the Brownfields program. What I am surprised by is EPA has somehow proposed to increase its own administrative costs with the program while decreasing the 104(K) and 128 grants. So EPA should be paid more to do less? I am also troubled by your decision to cut DERA in half and the impact it will have on the progress we have already made.
Rural America has been hit especially hard by EPA's regulatory overreach. Fourteen years ago, EPA tried to regulate propane dealers under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) even though they didn't meet the definition of the program. In response, I introduced legislation which was signed into law to stop it. Now, under the same program, you are trying to force the Ag Retailers to comply with the reporting requirement under Section 312 of EPCRA, even though the law currently exempts them. EPA is proposing that the simple mixing of fertilizers to meet customer's specifications for their soil negates the current exemption that they have under EPCRA. Does EPA expect to require farmers to now go to Walmart or Target for their fertilizer needs? Maybe EPA doesn't understand rural America but I do. If EPA continues down this road they will be imposing additional costs on hundreds of small businesses and farmers in rural America. I would ask that you rethink your approach. If you won't apply this exemption to the Ag Retailers, I will not hesitate to work with Chairman Lucas from Oklahoma to make sure the exemption is applied. Thank You.