06.27.17

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy at the Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing on "The President's FY18 Funding Request for the EPA"

Chairwoman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall, this is an important hearing.  The Trump administration has demonstrated its clear contempt for the critical work historically done by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect and preserve our environment.    I wonder how you can look at this Committee and defend this as a plan to uphold the Agency’s mission. 

Where we should be doubling down on our investment to protect our environment and curb the effects of climate change, this administration is tearing down the legacies of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.  At a time when we should be investing in green energy and a green economy, this administration is recklessly eliminating programs that support science and innovation.  Mr. Pruitt, Americans have a right to clean air and clean water.  Your proposal guarantees them neither.

This administration’s assaults on our environment seem to know no bounds. You are choosing not to enforce the laws on the books and are ignoring compelling scientific evidence.  You have separated us from nearly every nation on the planet in a shared pursuit of a cleaner, greener environment.  You, Mr. Pruitt, are at the heart of this administration’s abandonment of our role as the global leader in addressing the adverse impacts of climate change.

And let me tell you – Vermonters are watching.  Americans across the country are watching.  Years – decades – of investment in the restoration and cleanup of Lake Champlain are threatened by this budget proposal’s elimination of the Geographic Programs.  Do you know what that means, Mr. Pruitt?  It means lost jobs, lost economic revenue, and lost progress. Vermont’s Lake Champlain cleanup effort is seen as a national model. We are working hard to help farmers and towns implement water protection measures, but we must have federal resources available to address nonpoint source pollutants that are harming waterways like Lake Champlain and the Great Lakes.

The funding reductions in this budget proposal will not only affect the control of toxic water pollution, but also the control of toxic air pollutants, climate change, and the assessment of health risks of high-priority drinking water contaminants and toxic chemicals. What we need is an EPA budget that shows a commitment to the environment. Instead what we have before us today is an EPA budget that means we will know less about pollution and do less to stop it.

You know, pollution can’t be controlled by rhetoric-laced tweets. It takes sharp minds and committed civil servants to hunt down polluters and enforce our existing laws. We need to enforce our environmental laws to ensure a level playing field. Yet this budget proposal cuts over $15 million from compliance monitoring and more than $46 million from enforcement. The last time we saw environmental enforcement come under such rampant attack, Anne Gorsuch was running the EPA into the ground with reorganization, followed by reorganization. We saw how damaging that was to staff morale, productivity, and the agency’s key programs, and history is repeating itself again today at the EPA.

Reversing climate change takes innovation and ingenuity.  Emerging industries such as solar and wind production mean new American jobs that can’t be moved off-shore.  Yet this budget proposes to slash the very programs that foster new ideas and continue existing progress.

Air and water are natural resources.  Individuals, communities, and states are largely powerless to control the pollution that drifts or flows across our borders from other states.  The prevailing winds in the U.S. blow from west to east, carrying pollution from coal plants, factories, and cars in the Midwest, crossing state borders and fouling our air in Vermont. The American people together – through their government though can act to protect the public’s health.

I support a strong EPA, a well-funded and staffed EPA, and an effective EPA that supports our nation’s environmental quality while also supporting our economic wellbeing. Where this administration won’t stand up for clean water, healthy air, our climate, science-based decision making, and holding polluters accountable, I will. I reject this shortsighted and reckless budget proposal from an administration that would rather bury its head in the sand about climate change, while it works to create chaos and an utter loss of staff morale at the EPA and other agencies.

Administrator Pruitt, the American people want to protect the environment.  For themselves, for their children. They want clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. They want the United States to take a leading role in addressing climate change, not a backseat. And they want the EPA to be tough on polluters. For that to happen, we must maintain the programs this budget would eliminate.  We deserve better than what this budget puts forward, and we must demand better.  

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