Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.

– Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled, “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Proposed Fiscal Year 2024 Budget” featuring testimony from EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as delivered.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Administrator Regan for being here. It's really good to see you.

“While we both know we don't always agree on policies, I really appreciate your willingness to meet and talk and how seriously you take your commitment to testify. So very appreciative.

“A lot has happened since you appeared here for last year's hearing. The EPA has received enormous funds, enormous amounts of funding.

“In addition to the annual appropriations for Fiscal Year 2023, the EPA received an astounding $41.5 billion in additional funding as part of the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which many of us refer to as the reckless tax and spending spree. 

“For context, that is four times the appropriations EPA would receive in a typical year.

“As part of that funding, EPA received hundreds of millions of dollars specifically for administrative expenses, which could include hiring personnel for implementation of the IRA programs.

“With these eye-watering numbers, I was quite surprised to see in the Fiscal Year 2024 proposal that EPA requests another $1.9 billion increase over last year’s annual appropriations, including more money explicitly for the IRA program implementation.

“Across the country, with inflation, high energy prices, grocery prices, and rising interest rates, Americans are having to do more with less.

“But EPA got more, and still wants more.

“I am particularly troubled by the largesse of this request because I am not convinced that EPA is using the resources it already has effectively.

“I recently received a response from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that had some eye-popping statistics about current office attendance and work culture. 

“I would like to get similar answers from you today about the EPA workforce.

“Last year when you testified before the Committee we discussed EPA employees, when would they be back to work in person, and you said quote, ‘all employees are scheduled to be back by the last period in April 2022.’

“This year’s budget proposal suggests however that ‘back’ in the office does not mean actually present in the office.

“We are heating, and cooling, massive, and nearly uninhabited buildings, three years after the pandemic started.

“Now with the public health emergency over I want to understand the agency’s current work practices and how we can avoid some of this energy waste to the benefit of the environment and the taxpayer. 

“We need to do this before we can seriously consider any more administrative outlays, including the EPA’s desire to hire approximately 2,000 additional FTEs.

“The need for so many additional workers is at best questionable given recent EPA announcements about how it is going to manage large buckets of money appropriated by the IRA.

“The EPA is sitting on more money than it’s had in its history, and I find it worrying that its method for handling some of these particularly significant new pots of money is to push implementation to groups outside the agency, and beyond traditional accountability and oversight.

“Take, for instance, the $3 billion Climate and Environmental Justice Block Grant program from the IRA.

“The EPA, with that program, received a seven-percent administrative expenses set-aside, so that’s over $200 million, a lot of money, even here in Washington.

“And according to the EPA’s plans for initial awards under the program, all your staff is going to do is pick a limited number of third-party grantees outside the agency, which can then can take another 20 percent to administer and distribute grants to their subgrantees.

“That does not sound like an efficient way to use taxpayer dollars to me.

“Unless current plans for the program change, the EPA will get $210 million for doing not as much as those who voted for the IRA thought. These ‘investments,’ which could be partisan, and could be environmentally meaningless, I guess that’s in the eye of the beholder, will then have more than a quarter of those dollars blown on administrative costs before it even gets started.

“I’d like to discuss my concerns today about the way the EPA is prioritizing certain regulatory actions. 

“The agency spent a lot of time and resources completely rewriting and finalizing a broad, new Waters of the United States definition but we’re waiting for the Supreme Court to make a ruling in a pending case.

“That threw yet another definition of WOTUS into effect, and now that definition is stayed in I believe just two states, but maybe more.

“The EPA could have minimized regulatory uncertainty by just waiting for the Supreme Court ruling.

“During that same time, the Biden EPA took two years, two years, to develop a proposed drinking water standard, but believe me I’m happy you finally did, for PFOA and PFOS. It concerns me that the EPA Water office could have been prioritizing PFAS instead of writing the WOTUS rule, which going to have to be changed in all likelihood after the Supreme Court makes its decision this summer. 

“Meanwhile, the agency continues full bore on a regulatory agenda targeting the energy and power sectors, one that is going to hurt my state’s economy and further raise energy bills.

“The EPA continues to push forward with its so-called EGU, or Electric Generating Unit, Strategy.

“As part of that strategy, the EPA recently finalized a water rule targeting coal plants called the ELG rule.

“It says the ELG rule is ‘aligned with other rules so that we can help the industry be very thoughtful about long-term investments for all the regulations that are coming out of the agency.’ That’s kind of code word for me for ‘how are you going to shut your plants down.’

“You went on to say quote, ‘not aimed at driving a specific outcomes in terms of companies’ investment strategies.’

“I would disagree. I think it’s clear what the administration is driving, and that is an accelerated transition away from coal and natural gas seems to be the playbook here.

“The Biden administration is calling the shots that were started during the Obama administration’s War on Coal.

“Earlier this month, Mr. Goffman and I talked about the EPA modeling, and I know you and I talked about this actually at breakfast the other day, that the IRA is a gut punch to the coal and gas industry.

“The EPA modeling projects that the IRA could lead to ‘transformative impacts’ on the power sector, including a dramatic decrease in not just generation but also capacity.

“We see that in the projections generated from the EPA itself.

“So I'm concerned about potential job loss in Appalachia, all across the country, in the natural gas industry, and I'm very concerned about what we see coming out.

“But today we're going to talk about the budget and other things. And I'm worried about the oversight in terms of the Inflation Reduction Act since it looks like it was sort of outsourcing some of the oversight to these subgrantees.

“And I wonder what kind of oversight we would have there, not to mention the 27% in administrative costs that are going to be dedicated towards engaging those dollars. Thank you

# # #