US Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, issued the following statement today following a members-only briefing with EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, who outlined the environmental clean-up and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: “Administrator Johnson offered a grave and sobering assessment of the extent of damage brought on by Hurricane Katrina. We heard that the degree of environmental damage is considered catastrophic. We also heard that the EPA is still in the very early stages of collecting the soil and water samples that are needed to determine whether it is safe for residents to return to the area. I was pleased to hear from Administrator Johnson that there are no legal issues impeding EPA from doing its job. My focus will be on making sure EPA has the financial resources it needs to determine when it will be safe for residents to reoccupy the affected areas. A thorough analysis is critical in making such a determination. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the many EPA workers who found themselves thrust into the unlikely role of first-responders following the hurricane. These workers went well beyond the scope of their traditional mission and performed rescue operations, navigating their boats through the streets of New Orleans and other flooded areas to save nearly 800 residents. We’ve heard so much about what went wrong in Katrina’s aftermath, and this is one example of what went right. These EPA employees have my utmost respect and gratitude.”