(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Welcome Administrator Gina McCarthy.
EPA has a vital mission that affects the wellbeing of every American -- implementing our nation's landmark laws to address clean air, children's health, safe drinking water, toxics, and water quality in America's lakes and rivers. The health and safety of our children and families depends on the critical work you do.
I am pleased that EPA's budget request of $8.6 billion includes a $452 million increase above the FY 2015 enacted level. But we need to remember that six years ago, EPA's budget was $10.3 billion, and the FY 2016 budget request that we will discuss today is a 20 percent cut from that level. EPA is being asked to do more rather than less and it is important to keep that in mind.
This budget places an important focus on combating dangerous climate change. We are already seeing the consequences of climate change all around us -- from historic droughts to extreme wildfires to vanishing wildlife habitat. And we are seeing extreme weather also predicted by scientists - record snowfalls and record heat. So I thank my Chairman for proving that point on the Senate floor recently. That was not his intent, but for me he helped my case.
Last week, on the front page of the Washington Post we read that native villages in Alaska are being threatened by deteriorating sea ice. Entire villages will have to be moved, which will cost upwards of a hundred million dollars. And the article warns that "in the coming decades [this] could apply to numerous other towns."
Another important area of EPA's budget is support for the nation's water infrastructure. I want to commend EPA for proposing funding for the Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which was created last year in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. This new financing tool will help leverage private financing for critical drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects and can be an important complement to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.
However, WIFIA is not a replacement for the State Revolving Funds. I am concerned about the inadequate levels of funding proposed for these programs. Our nation's water infrastructure needs far outstrip the funding available, and the proposed $53.8 million cut to the State Revolving Funds will make this funding gap grow.
EPA is also doing essential work to protect the drinking water of 117 million Americans. The agency's proposed Clean Water rule will protect those water bodies that provide drinking water for 1 in 3 Americans while being clear about which waters are exempt. You have undertaken an open and transparent process that has given all sides the opportunity to comment. It is important to incorporate that feedback and finalize this vital rule.
EPA has a record that Americans support -- clean air, clean water, and a healthy planet are shared values. I look forward to hearing from Administrator McCarthy today.