Statement of Senator James Jeffords, I-Vt.
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Hearing on EPA Regional Inconsistencies
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I share your interest in learning more about the enforcement patterns within the Environmental Protection Agency. I welcome efforts to determine whether the EPA regions enforce our environmental laws differently. But I am afraid that today’s hearing will not accomplish that goal. Instead, we are here to discuss an isolated incident, in one state. This one example tells us little about the EPA’s enforcement, and a lot about one case that has pitted the regulators against those who are regulated. We are here to discuss the plight of Illinois fertilizer retailers who failed to adequately file risk management plans for the storage of dangerous chemicals. I believe we all agree that these risk management plans are essential to aiding first responders, and to protecting those who live near these facilities in the event of an emergency. Congress should support the agency’s efforts to administer this program. I would hope we could expand this hearing to include a discussion about the gaps in enforcement in many regions of this country. Perhaps more importantly, we should be examining whether the lack of enforcement adversely affects human health and the environment. We know that there must be some flexibility in the EPA’s regional enforcement structure. Quite simply, some regions face challenges that others do not. Managing this flexibility is sometimes difficult, and has likely led to inconsistent enforcement actions within the same community. What causes these inconsistencies? What variables affect enforcement decisions? And as I asked earlier, how do these inconsistencies affect human health and the environment? I had hoped to begin to answer some of these questions today. I hope that in future hearings, we can begin to address them. Thank you again Mr. Chairman, and thank you to our witnesses for participating in today’s hearing.