Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Moran, and Members of the Subcommittee: Thank you for inviting me to testify about President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Congress enacted the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and America’s other bedrock environmental protection laws on a broadly bipartisan basis. It did so to protect American children and adults from pollution that otherwise would make their lives shorter, less healthy, and less prosperous. It did so to make the air and drinking water in America’s communities clean enough to attract new employers. It did so to enable America’s local governments to revitalize abandoned and polluted industrial sites. It did so to safeguard the pastime of America’s forty million anglers. It did so to protect the farms whose irrigation makes up a third of America’s surface freshwater withdrawals. And it did so to preserve the livelihoods of fishermen in American great waters such as the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Congress gave EPA the responsibility of implementing and enforcing those laws. And, each year, Congress appropriates the money that makes EPA’s implementation and enforcement work possible.
As head of the EPA, I am accountable for ensuring that we squeeze every drop of public health protection out of every dollar we are given. So I support the tough cuts in the President’s proposed budget. But, I am equally accountable for pointing out when cuts become detrimental to public health. Without adequate funding, EPA would be unable to implement or enforce the laws that protect Americans’ health, livelihoods, and pastimes. Big polluters would flout legal restrictions on dumping contaminants into the air, into rivers, and onto the ground. Toxic plumes already underground would reach drinking water supplies, because ongoing work to contain them would stop. There would be no EPA grant money to fix or replace broken water treatment systems. And the standards that EPA is set to establish for harmful air pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes would remain missing from a population of sources that is not static but growing.
So if Congress slashed EPA’s funding, concentrations of harmful pollution would increase from current levels in the places Americans live, work, go to school, fish, hike, and hunt. The result would be more asthma attacks, more missed school and work days, more heart attacks, more cancer cases, more premature deaths, and more polluted waters.
Needless to say, then, I fervently request and deeply appreciate continued bipartisan support in Congress for funding the essential work that keeps American children and adults safe from uncontrolled amounts of harmful pollution being dumped into the water they drink and the air they breathe.
President Obama believes that our federal government must spend less money. Decreasing federal spending is no longer just a prudent choice; it is now an unavoidable necessity. Accordingly, the President has proposed to cut EPA’s annual budget nearly thirteen percent from its current level.
That cut goes beyond eliminating redundancies. We have made difficult, even painful, choices. We have done so, however, in a careful way that preserves EPA’s ability to carry out its core responsibilities to protect the health and wellbeing of America’s children, adults, and communities.
You have been reviewing the budget request for more than two weeks now, so I will not march through all its details. Rather, I will provide just a few examples of the difficult choices we have made while preserving fundamental safeguards.
This request provides 2.5 billion dollars, a decrease of 947 million, for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. Future-year budgets for the SRFs will adjust, taking into account repayments. EPA, the states, and community water systems will build on past successes while working toward the Fiscal Year 2012 goal of ensuring that over 90 percent of the population served by community water systems receives drinking water that meets all applicable health standards.
This budget requests an additional 6.4 million dollars to conduct integrated pilot projects in several communities, including disadvantaged ones, to evaluate and reduce risks from toxic air pollution through regulatory, enforcement, and voluntary efforts. An additional 3.7 million dollars will improve our monitoring of toxic air pollution and our dissemination of that data to state, local and tribal governments, and to the public.
The budget contains 350 million dollars for programs and projects strategically chosen to target the most significant environmental problems in the Great Lakes ecosystem. That represents a cut of 125 million dollars from Fiscal Year 2010, which was the first year of the initiative. We will implement the most important projects for Great Lakes Restoration and achieve visible results.
With this budget’s 16 million dollar investment in the Enhancing Chemical Safety Initiative, we will take action to reduce chemical risks, increase the pace of chemical hazard assessments, and provide the public with greater access to information on toxic chemicals. We will use the funds to implement chemical risk reduction steps that address impacts on children’s health and on disadvantaged, low-income, and indigenous populations.