Full Committee
Nominations Hearing

April 6, 2005 09:15 AM

406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

Frank R. Lautenberg


I want to welcome Mr. Johnson and begin by thanking him for the EPA’s response to my letter about the Ringwood Superfund site in New Jersey. My state’s former governor, Christie Whitman, was the first person to lead the EPA in this Administration. However, it seemed that her hands were usually tied – because the Administration wasn’t committed to protecting the environment.

Mr. Johnson, you are known as an honorable and capable professional … but what I continue to see is that for this Administration the goal of protecting our air, our water, and our other natural resources lies at the bottom of its priority list. From drilling in the Arctic Wilderness, to setting mercury standards written by and for the power industry, this Administration has consistently sided with big business interests that exploit our environment, instead of protecting the interests of America’s families.

I hope Mr. Johnson will be able to overcome that record, start with a clean slate and become the kind of champion for the environment that our children and grandchildren deserve.

I want to focus today on three issues of special importance in New Jersey. First, the EPA’s new mercury rule. My state is one of nine states suing EPA because this rule fails to protect public health. In fact, according to EPA, New Jersey’s mercury emissions under these rules will actually increase between 2009 and 2015.

We’ve known for at least a decade about the severe and irreversible health effects of mercury exposure, especially to fetuses, infants and children. I hope Mr. Johnson will keep their interests in mind, rather than just the interests of power companies and polluters, if he is confirmed as administrator.

Also, the Superfund program to clean up hazardous waste sites is also in crisis. Since the Superfund tax expired in 1995, funding has declined 34 percent. As a result, a large backlog of hazardous waste sites have not been added to Superfund’s priority list, and the cleanup of many other sites has been slowed or put on hold.

Finally, I am very concerned about the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which was established 29 years ago (1976) to protect public health and the environment from toxic chemicals. It has been an utter failure at achieving this goal.

I look forward to working with Mr. Johnson and the members of this committee to restore and reaffirm the mission and integrity of the EPA. I also look forward to hearing from our other nominees for other vital posts.