Chairmen Whitfield and Shimkus, Ranking Members Rush and Green, and Members of the Subcommittees: Thank you for inviting me to testify about President Obama’s 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 Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Congress gave EPA the responsibility of implementing and enforcing those laws. Each year, Congress appropriates the money that makes EPA’s implementation and enforcement work possible.
As head of the EPA, I am accountable for squeezing every last 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 EPA is set to establish for harmful air pollution 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.
Decreasing federal spending is no longer just a prudent choice; it is now an unavoidable necessity. Accordingly, President Obama has proposed to cut EPA’s annual budget nearly thirteen percent.
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 three weeks, so I will save the details for the question period. Before turning to your questions, I will address Chairman Upton’s bill to eliminate portions of the Clean Air Act.
The most extreme parts of that bill remain unchanged since I testified about it a month ago. It still would presume to overrule the scientific community on the scientific finding that carbon pollution endangers Americans’ health and wellbeing. Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question – you might be remembered more for that than for anything else you do.
The bill still would block any Clean Air Act standards for greenhouse gas pollution from cars and trucks after 2016. Alone, the Department of Transportation’s CAFÉ standards do not achieve nearly as much pollution reductions or oil savings as when they are backed up by the Clean Air Act’s enforcement provisions. All told, nullifying this part of the Clean Air Act would forfeit many hundreds of millions of barrels of oil savings. At a time when gas prices are rising yet again, I cannot, for the life of me, understand why you would vote to massively increase America’s oil dependence.
The Clean Air Act saves millions of American children and adults from the debilitating and expensive illnesses that occur when smokestacks and tailpipes dump unrestricted amounts of harmful pollution into the air we breathe. I respectfully ask this Committee to think twice before gutting that landmark law.