Senator James M. Jeffords, I-Vt.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Hearing on the President’s FY 2007 Budget Request
for the Environmental Protection Agency
Good morning and welcome Administrator Johnson. As I enter my last year as a member of this Committee, I remember those who have sat here before us. Senators Stafford, Chafee, and Moynihan come to mind. Each believed that investment in environmental programs supports our economy, and each in their own way felt that the key to economic sustainability is environmental stewardship. The President’s budget worries me, as I believe it would worry our predecessors. Just three budgets ago, this Congress approved $8.4 billion in spending for the EPA. The proposed budget represents a decline of 13% from 2004 and a 4% reduction in spending from last year. However, when inflation is taken into account, next year’s cut would be well over 7% percent. The brunt of these cuts will be felt by our states, which are already struggling with budget shortfalls. This budget will mean even less money, and therefore fewer resources, for our states to ensure cleaner air and cleaner water for our citizens. If I were to use an analogy, this budget is like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand. But as we all know, ignoring our problems won’t make them disappear. If only it were that easy. I would argue that ensuring our nation’s water infrastructure is up-to-date should be a homeland security priority. The EPA’s own analysis found the spending gap for clean water to be $270 billion. That’s the gap between what we have and what we need, not the total. In the face of this and other documented analyses of this spending gap, the Administration continues to cut spending. This proposed budget would cut the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, or SRF, by almost 50% from what annual appropriations were when President Bush took office. This Committee has reported out legislation authorizing $35 billion over five years for the Clean Water and Drinking Water SRFs over the course of three separate Congresses. There is enormous public support for this spending. There isn’t a member sitting on this Committee who hasn’t heard from our constituents about this need. This Administration seems to recognize the importance of clean water overseas, but not at home. We’ve dedicated 12% of reconstruction funds in Iraq to water projects. We’re planning to complete 712 water projects in Iraq – we’ve already finished 434. Some might say, well, we can’t afford it, let’s just weaken regulations. Weaken the regulations? After witnessing the improvement of the quality of our nation’s waters, I cannot understand why we, as a nation, still fail to recognize the importance of water for our economy, our health, and our environment. I also feel like a broken record when it comes to challenging the inadequate funding levels for Lake Champlain; the pace of Superfund cleanups; and cuts to environmental education and air toxics research. I hope that when the EPA is asked to embark on new missions, it is provided with the necessary resources and is not forced to scale back on other important obligations. I fear that this may already be happening, as it appears that some homeland security activities are being financed at the expense of cleaning up Superfund sites. Before closing, I would like to mention one issue that has cropped up recently that is of grave concern to me. That is an EPA proposal to convert the annual Toxic Release Inventory report into an every-other-year report. The EPA should be expanding, rather than rolling back, our Community-Right-to-Know protections, and I do not understand how weakening these laws protects public health. Again, thank you Administrator Johnson for being here today. I look forward to hearing your testimony.