Environment and Public Works Statement of Senator Barbara BoxerFull Committee Hearing on EPA’s Fiscal Year 2008 BudgetMarch 7, 2007 (Remarks as prepared for delivery)
We are here today to review the President’s proposed budget for the Environmental Protection Agency for Fiscal Year 2008.Unfortunately, the President’s proposal fails to provide EPA with the money it needs to fully protect public health and environment.
Budgets are about priorities. By chopping hundreds of millions of dollars out of EPA’s funding, this budget sends an unmistakable message to people who are concerned about our health and a clean environment: You are not a high priority.
This budget shortchanges core EPA programs of the resources they need to clean up toxic waste sites, prevent contamination from polluting our rivers and lakes, reduce dangerous air pollution—even programs that are specifically designed to protect our children.
If you live near one of the nation’s most heavily contaminated toxic waste sites, you need to know that the Administration’s budget cuts $7 million for cleanups.
The nation has 1,240 Superfund sites. One in four people in the country live within four miles of a Superfund site, including 10 million of our children.
Human exposure is not under control at 108 sites, and EPA has insufficient information to determine if exposure is under control at 162 sites.
Over the last six years, the annual pace of Superfund cleanups has declined by 50%, from more than 80 cleanups per year to 39. This year, EPA revised their projected cleanups from 40—to 24. This is a 71% decline. Based on internal documents, EPA has a projected cleanup backlog of more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2007.
Something is clearly wrong with the management of this EPA program. Yet the administration proposes to reduce independent oversight of cleanups by slashing $6 million from EPA’s Inspector General’s funding to audit and analyze how to improve the Superfund program.
If you want to take your family to enjoy a clean river or lake, you need to know that this budget asks Congress to cut an almost $400 million cut to the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund program—a 37% reduction. These funds go to water treatment projects that stop raw sewage and other pollution from washing into our nation’s waterways. More money is needed since almost 50% of our surface waters fail to meet or are at risk of not meeting environmental standards.
Undermining efforts to clean up unhealthy levels of air pollution, the President’s budget would cut research funds needed to help set health-based air quality standards and to reduce the emission of toxic chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive harm. It would slash state and Local Air Quality Management program funding by $35 million. State and local officials run the programs that help to clean up our nation’s air. When 150 million people live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution, we need to support clean air programs, not cut them.
The Environmental Council of the States, representing all 50 state environmental protection agencies, says that “It is disappointing to see a budget proposal that cuts air programs and water programs, and has the biggest cut to water infrastructure in the history of the agency.”
The President also proposes to combine EPA’s office for protecting children’s health with its environmental education office. By consolidating the functions of these two offices, and eliminating $8 million in funding for environmental education, the administration appears to undermine the purpose of the children’s health office. EPA says it will spread out its children’s health issues as one of many considerations addressed by multiple agency programs. This undermines the mission of the children’s health office, which is to single out children’s health because of the particular threat to children posed by environmental pollutants.
Once again, with this budget, the Administration takes us further down the wrong path, cutting dollars necessary to protect our air, water, and communities from toxic pollution.
We must head in a different direction. The Environmental Protection Agency needs to live up to its name and its mission. EPA’s budget should reflect our shared values and our commitment to safeguarding the health of our families and our children. The budget before us today fails to meet this test.