Johnny Isakson


Senate Environment and Public Works Committee


Full Committee Hearing: EPA Budget



March 7th, 2007



Opening Statement by Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA):



Thank you Madam Chairman, and Senator Inhofe.  I’d like to begin by welcoming Administrator Johnson to the Committee.  These types of hearings are a good opportunity for us to learn about EPA’s priorities, and about what we can do as partners with EPA to ensure it meets its goals in a fiscally responsible manner.



I have a number of issues I am eager to hear Administrator Johnson’s views on.  While Atlanta may be the capital of Georgia and South, so many people forget that Georgia is predominantly a rural state, with agriculture as one of our important economic engines. 



I am looking forward to hearing Administrator Johnson’s views on the registration cancellation of the herbicide MSMA. MSMA is critically important to cotton farmers in my state, and there is no economically feasible alternative to it.  Weeds that are invasive to cotton are resistant to other herbicides on the market.



EPA says organic arsenical pesticides like MSMA result in unsafe groundwater and drinking water levels. My cotton farmers and independent scientists say that the contribution of these chemicals is negligible.  EPA is currently doing an Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) review which includes a review of new studies and scientific data which they say will shed new light on the issue. 



I would like to see EPA defer further action on the organic arsenical herbicides until the IRIS reviews are update are completed.  This deferral will provide an opportunity for the EPA to base its final decision on the most recent science and to fully consider the benefits derived from the responsible use of these products by cotton producers.  I look forward to hearing the Administrators views on this.



I also look forward to hearing his views on the Rural Water Funding Program. Rural Water assistance is operating under a contract with EPA, which I would like to submit for the record, that expires in June, 2008.  The same amount, as last year, of federal funding appropriated to EPA to carry-out this contract was included in the Joint Funding Resolution.



Small communities in my state rely on rural water assistance to comply with the EPA rules and regulations and for maintaining the required training, which rural water provides for free.



There is no one else in the state offering this assistance, and as these small communities have told me, this is the most helpful and the most environmentally beneficial use of EPA spending at the local level.



What is needed in small towns and communities is assistance, NOT additional fines for very complex regulations that the small communities can't understand.  They all want to comply, but only this program actually comes into their communities and shows them how to comply. 



This funding represents less than one percent of the EPA's environmental programs management spending that was provided to EPA in the Joint Resolution.  It is $11.0 million for rural water's four initiatives: source water protection, groundwater protection, compliance training, and technical assistance.



I am also interested in hearing from him about the cost savings to EPA with the new streamlined NAAQS process.



Finally, for rural counties in my state such as Catoosa and Walker counties, I am interested in knowing if there is any funding in this budget to help small rural communities who are under non-attainment, through no fault of their own, come out from under that designation.



I yield back the balance of my time.