Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing On “Environmental Protection Agency Fiscal Year 2015 Budget”

[At a hearing of the Interior Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) today urged the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, to renew the Agency’s commitment to the cleanup and preservation of Lake Champlain.  Faced with new water quality regulations imposed by the EPA for Lake Champlain, Vermont will face new challenges, as the President’s budget request cuts funding for critical federal programs to help states address water quality projects.  Leahy is the most senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and has long made the protection of Lake Champlain a priority in Congress.  Video of Leahy’s questioning of Administrator McCarthy will be available later today.  Below is Leahy’s statement for the record.]

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee
Hearing On “Environmental Protection Agency Fiscal Year 2015 Budget”
April 9, 2014

Administrator McCarthy, thank you for taking on one of the most important and challenging jobs in the United States. Your agency invokes a lot of strong reactions from the public, and certainly from Congress, but in its 43 year, history the EPA has cleaned the country’s drinking water, reduced our exposure to dangerous chemicals, and penalized polluters.

Vermonters truly value the environment and the work of the EPA. From cleaner air, to conserving open spaces and wildlife, protections from exposure to toxic chemicals, to improving water quality and addressing climate change, I hear regularly from Vermonters about issues affecting all aspects of our environment.

Right now, Vermonters are concerned about our “great lake,” Lake Champlain. They want and need a lake for swimming and fishing, and for drinking water. The Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce can tell you that a clean Lake Champlain attracts businesses and tourists to the region. It serves as a major driver of the state’s economy.

Lake Champlain is, overall, very clean, but some sections of the Lake at some times of the year can become seriously impaired with nutrient pollution.  For this reason, your agency is requiring a new restoration plan, and is working closely with the State to review a phase one draft at this time.  As we discussed in person late last month, success of the new plan will hinge on having a full suite of tools available to address the major sources of phosphorus pollution in the Lake including farms, rural town roads, culverts, river channels, as well as small town storm water and transportation infrastructure.

I hope that the EPA, and this Committee, understands that we face a unique challenge for Lake Champlain, compared with other, more urbanized, areas of the country. We have a small rural population spread across a largely undeveloped landscape, something I know our Ranking Member can easily relate to.  Pollutants reach the lake from thousands of small, non-point sources rather than from easily identified discharge pipes. This is not a problem that can simply be solved by investments to improve wastewater treatment plants. Those plants contribute only 3 percent of the total phosphorus in Lake Champlain.

Instead, we must have a broad mix of common-sense policy tools and coordinated education, outreach, and funding assistance to a dispersed rural population.  Vermont cannot afford to handle these tasks on its own. We will need to partner with every federal agency from the Army Corps of Engineers, to Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Agriculture, and of course the EPA in order to succeed in this cleanup, and I thank you for your support of those efforts.

# # # # #

Press Contact

Press Contact
David Carle: 202-224-3693