Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriations Hearings (6-5-09)

  • June 3, 2009: Senate Appropriations Committee Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee Hearing on “FY 2010 Department of the Interior Budget Request”
  • June 3, 2009: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Hearing on “Agency Budgets and Priorities for FY2010”
  • May 21, 2009: Senate Appropriations Committee Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on “Review of the FY2010 Budget Request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)”
  • May 12, 2009: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing "The President's Proposed EPA Budget for Fiscal Year 2010"

Senate Appropriations Committee Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee Hearing on “FY 2010 Department of the Interior Budget Request”
June 3, 2009

Witness
Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior

Committee Members Present
Dianne Feinstein, Chairwoman (D-CA)
Lamar Alexander, Ranking Member (R-TN)
Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Jon Tester (D-MT)

On June 3, 2009, the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee conducted a hearing on the President’s budget request for the Department of the Interior (DOI) for the fiscal year (FY) 2010. Testimony was given by the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who has been busy in his first 134 days as Secretary establishing his workforce and implementingthe American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). This Act gave $140 million to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and $320 million to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), allocations that are not considered part of the FY 2010 budget.

The $10.98 billion budget requested for the DOI is a 9% increase over the FY 2009 budget and the greatest increase in the past few years. Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was quick to call this “a real push in the right direction in several important areas.”  She praised the full funding for the Fire Suppression Account, the allocation for fixed costs, and the increases in funding for Land and Water Conservation Fund, the National Park Service, and a climate change initiative. She concluded by saying that the budget will be favorably received. The budget proposal also includes an overall increase of $53 million for the USGS, of which $3 million would go to the research of solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal renewable energy sources, and an overall increase for the BLM of $110 million. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) budget would increase by $139 million, with $24 million going to develop a renewable energy program for the study of technological applications and environmental impacts of renewable energy on the outer continental shelf and for the issuing and monitoring of leases for land on the outer continental shelf.  More information on the proposed budget increases can be found here.

During his opening testimony, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reviewed the 500 million acres managed by the DOI, from the tundra in Alaska to the Everglades in Florida, and even the outer continental shelves. He emphasized the vast and comprehensive responsibilities of the DOI, stating, “The Department of the Interior is truly the Department of America.” He then highlighted five projects that the DOI would undertake with the proposed budget in the next year. The first initiative is the creation of a New Energy Frontier by developing solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources. The second goal is to maintain the treasured landscapes of America, ensuring that funding goes to the preservation of such places as the California Bay Delta, the Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades. Salazar explained the third goal, the 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps, as a project where young people would learn about and be engaged with the preservation of wildlife and the environment. The fourth project is to empower this nation’s native people by creating new education opportunities and funding resources for a greater law enforcement presence on reservations. Lastly, Salazar mentioned his resolve to address the water allocation problems facing this nation, specifically in the sensitive river systems of the Bay Delta and the southeast.

The majority of the hearing was spent discussing the implementation of renewable energy sources and the mark these systems leave on the landscape, a major concern for Feinstein and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Feinstein was particularly critical of the large area that solar and wind plants encompass, since a large number of these plants are proposed to be built in her home state of California. She stressed that eight solar projects in California are proposed to be built on BLM land, land that is supposed to be conserved. She wanted to know if other, more suitable lands were being considered, and if the developers would be held responsible for the lasting change they leave on the land. Feinstein maintained that she is “for [solar and wind plants], but for this in moderation, without leaving an enduring blight upon the land.” 

Alexander had a similar query about the wind turbines on ridges in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains, commenting that nuclear power is still needed when the wind is gone and the sun does not shine. His main point was that even if wind turbines were installed across the entire state of Tennessee, this would only produce one fourth the amount of energy as one nuclear unit. He expressed his distaste in the overwhelming presence of wind farms on mountain ridges by saying simply, “They are ugly,” emphasized by the fact that wind turbines had to be fifteen to twenty miles offshore before they could not be seen. Salazar responded to these worries by making it clear that the new energy frontier is here. The DOI has an ongoing land use planning process of screening the entire landscape before deciding where the plants will be located. He then underscored the fact that these renewable energy plants could create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. 

Senator Reed (D-RI) followed up on the renewable energy concerns with a plea for the DOI to designate a team to work with the state of Rhode Island to verify the science of the offshore wind energy plans and to analyze the impact these will have on the fishing industry. Reed is intent on moving these plans forward and requested the assistance of the MMS to accomplish this. Salazar indicated that he supports such analyses.

Senator Tester (D-MT) noted the elimination of abandoned mine funds in the DOI budget. Salazar responded that they had considered the funds for mine clean-up from the ARRA, and decided that those were suitable in comparison to the greater need of other DOI projects. Tester remarked that he will make sure the mine clean-ups do not fall under the radar. Feinstein followed by mentioning the 47,000 abandoned mines in California, of which 13,000 are on BLM land. She then cited her bill on the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Act (S. 140), asking Salazar to take a look at it. With $52 million from the stimulus package and her own efforts in the previous years to establish funding for mine clean-up, she is frustrated that she has not seen the results or even a prioritized list of what mines will be cleaned. Salazar commented that as soon as he gets the personnel at DOI, he will work on creating a prioritized list.

The testimony of Interior Secretary Salazar can be found here, and a video archive of the entire hearing can be found here.

-RHP

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Hearing on “Agency Budgets and Priorities for FY2010”
June 3, 2009

Witnesses
Mr. Michael Shapiro
Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, Environmental Protection Agency
Mr. Barry Breen
Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Environmental Protection Agency
Chief David White
Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Administrator Collister Johnson, Jr.
Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, U.S. Department of Transportation
Mr. John H. Dunnigan
Assistant Administrator, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Mr. John M. Thomas, III
Vice President and Controller, Financial Services, Tennessee Valley Authority

Subcommittee Members Present
Eddie Bernice Johnson, Chairwoman (D-TX)
John Boozman, Ranking Member (R-AR)
Brian Baird (D-WA)
Anh Cao (R-LA)
Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA)
Parker Griffith (D-AL)
Phil Hare (D-IL)
Donna F. Edwards (D-MD)
Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI)
Henry E. Brown, Jr. (R-SC)
Candice S. Miller (R-MI)
Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI)
Steve Kagen (D-WI)
Dina Titus (D-NV)
John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN)
Tom Perriello (D-VA)

On June 3, 2009, the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held the first of two hearings concerning the President’s budget proposal and agency priorities for fiscal year (FY) 2010. This hearing included testimony from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Witnesses from each of these agencies presented the committee with its assessment of how well the President’s budget would enable the agencies to meet their goals in the next year and updated the committee on the progress their agencies made in the last year on projects. In general, the witnesses supported the allocations in the President’s FY 2010 budget.

In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) stated that “change has finally come” and expressed happiness that the President’s budget would increase funding to agencies that have a crucial role in meeting the national water needs. However, she expressed disappointment that the number of Superfund sites that EPA would clean up in the upcoming fiscal year would decrease from 35 to 20. Johnson was also concerned about the elimination of funding for NOAA’s coastal non-point source pollution programs, which she called “the single largest source of impairment to the nation’s streams, lakes, and estuaries.”

In Ranking Member John Boozman’s (R-AR) opening remarks, he stated that he does “not support cutting programs that have proven economic benefits” and has “serious concern” about reinstating the taxes on petroleum, chemical feed stocks, and corporate income in FY2011 as proposed by the President’s budget, which had traditionally funded hazardous waste sites under the Superfund program. He believes we “should not be shifting the burden to innocent companies” and feels these taxes are “unfair and unwarranted.”

In Mr. Michael Shapiro’s opening remarks, he stated that the budget request for EPA’s National Water Program is $53 billion, or 53 percent of the agency’s budget and an increase of $3 billion from the FY 2009 budget. He targeted three priority areas for the Office of Water: sustainable infrastructure, the Great Lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay. To promote sustainability, EPA would promote green infrastructure, fund clean water and drinking water projects, thereby preserving and creating jobs, and water and energy efficiency. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would receive $475 million and be focused on facing the challenges of toxic substances, non-point source pollution, invasive species, near-shore health, habitat and wildlife protection, and restoration.  The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) should work to reduce pollution that affects the watershed and help create the “largest and most complex Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.”

Administrator Collister J. Johnson, Jr. addressed the President’s budget with respect to the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), which proposes $32.3 million for operations and maintenance of the Seaway. The Seaway plays a “vital role” to the economy of the Midwest and saves shippers about $3.6 billion per year, a cost that otherwise would be passed onto the consumer. Every ship must now go through a checkpoint which requires seawater flushing to prevent invasive species from infiltrating the Great Lakes.

Representatives Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Candice Miller (R-MI) were particularly interested in water issues associated with the Great Lakes as discussed by Shapiro and Johnson. Ehlers asked Shapiro about how EPA plans to administer funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Shapiro explained about EPA’s existing framework of allocating resources across agencies and regional groups once they have identified priority projects. Ehlers commented that he is “pleased this is a bipartisan issue” and both sides have a “good working relationship” because the Great Lakes are so important to this nation. Miller wanted to know more about the success of the inspection system in the St. Lawrence Seaway and Johnson responded saying there has been a noticeable drop in the introduction of invasive species in the Great Lakes since 2006 when the system was implemented. Miller was impressed by the success of the system saying it is a “fantastic statement” about SLSDC and “hats off to everyone involved.”

Clean water and water conservation was an important topic on the minds of the committee members as Shapiro was asked several times about EPA’s ability to effectively protect water resources. Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA) wanted to know how EPA is addressing the importance of water conservation in the context of climate change. Shapiro explained the details of WaterSense, which promotes water conservation by consumers. He stated that $2 billion allocated for this effort is sufficient and “meets our needs for now.”

Mr. Barry Breen reported that the President’s budget request of $10.5 billion for FY 2010 is a 37 percent increase over the FY 2009 budget for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER). Breen spoke about EPA’s continuing effort to cleanup Superfund sites and brownfields to protect public health and the environment. The President’s budget provides $13 billion for the Superfund program, which is about the same level as in FY 2009. In addition, the FY 2010 budget requests $174.5 million for the Brownfields program, which is an increase of $5 million from FY 2009.

Some concern was expressed by a few of the committee members that the number of Superfund cleanup sites would be decreased in the next year. Breen emphasized EPA has only lowered the projected number of completed construction projects to reflect a more accurate assessment of what they think they can accomplish in the next year. Breen reiterated that “lowering does not mean that we have done less.” Ehlers suggested that maybe there were “different kinds of remedies” EPA could try in the future to reduce cost at cleanup sites. Representative Dina Titus (D-NV) felt that $175 million “doesn’t seem to be enough” and asked Breen for his thoughts about turning brownfields into bright fields, that is, cleaned-up sites deployed with solar panels for energy. Breen responded that the budget proposal is in addition to $100 million from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act that the program is receiving, as well as partnerships with state programs for additional funding, so something like bright fields may be  possible. He added that the possibility of bright fields is being explored by the National Renewable Energies Laboratory and it could be possible to “turn communities of concern into communities of pride.”

Chief David White represented the Natural Resources Conservation Service and addressed the President’s FY 2010 budget, which includes $40.2 million in funding for the Watershed Rehabilitation program, which is slightly higher than the FY 2009 level. The budget does not recommend new funding for the Emergency Watershed Program, which received $490 million in 2008 supplemental funding last year, and does not include funding for the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations program. White noted that recently “Congress has earmarked virtually all of this program, meaning that the Natural Resources Conservation Service is unable to prioritize allocation of these funds or direct funding to projects that are cost-effective.” He added that most projects require localized efforts and they expect to continue receiving local support as needed. He expressed concern about watershed rehabilitation because the United States currently has 11,000 structures that have been constructed by NRCS over the last 50 years, and each of these structures has a life expectancy of 50 years. He stated that “everyday for the next 20 years” one structure per day will no longer be of viable use.

Mr. John H. Dunnigan testified to the successes that NOAA has seen in the past fiscal year. He focused his testimony on the lessons the agency learned in “weathering hurricanes” Gustav and Ike in 2008, their active responses to oil spills, and their efforts in responding to algal bloom events. Dunnigan asked the committee to support the President’s FY 2010 budget.

Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA) told Dunnigan that he is “a big fan of NOAA” and wanted to know how the agency is addressing ocean acidification and overfishing. Dunnigan responded by saying that studying ocean acidification is a focus at NOAA as part of studying climate change and there is a “major emphasis” on understanding how the ocean will change over the long-term as a result. He also stated that $50 million is included in the budget proposal for new programs to address overfishing and there are “pieces in the President’s budget that actively support” them.

Mr. John M. Thomas, III, spoke about TVA’s commitment to “energy, the economy, and economic development.” The agency serves 9 million people and figures annual revenue of $13.6 billion into TVA’s FY 2010 budget. With the recent downturn in industry, revenue will likely be down 5 to 6 percent, or about $500 million. He estimates that cleanup from the recent coal ash storage facility that failed at the Kingston Fossil Plant 40 miles west of Knoxville, Tennessee will cost between $675 million and $975 million. Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) told Thomas that TVA should invest in programs to fund green program initiatives to “reduce the need for further nuclear capabilities.”

Overall, the agencies seemed to be content with their proposed budget allocations and believe they can accomplish their objectives for the next fiscal year. The subcommittee members were pleased that funding had been substantially increased for many of the nation’s important programs.

Testimony from the chair and panelists can be found here, as well as a video archive of the entire hearing.

-SMP

Senate Appropriations Committee Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on “Review of the FY2010 Budget Request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)”
May 21, 2009

Witnesses
Mr. Christopher Scolese, Acting Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Adiminstration
Space Shuttle Atlantis ST-125 Crew

Committee Members Present
Barbara Mikulski, Chairwoman (D-MD)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
George Voinovich (R-OH)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)

On May 21, 2009, the Senate Appropriations Committee Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee held a historic hearing to discuss the fiscal year 2010 (FY10) budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Discussion of the budget did not make the hearing historic, however. What did make the hearing monumental was the live feed and participation from astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis orbiting Earth. They were the first ever congressional hearing witnesses from space. The Atlantis crew had just completed intricate repairs to the Hubble space telescope, and were able to share how they overcame numerous obstacles in their repairs to allow several more years of deep space research with the telescope.

The FY10 budget received both praise and disappointment. On the positive side for NASA, the FY10 overall NASA budget of $18.7 billion is nearly $1 billion greater than the 2009 omnibus level. However, of concern to the subcommittee members is the proposed flatlining of future NASA budgets. $4.5 billion of the budget is designated for science projects, an amount considered a “robust commitment” by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). The science budget addresses earth science research topics such as support of satellite missions that will provide valuable remote sensing in many areas of climate change science. Another bi-partisan concern from the subcommittee was the allotment of $575 million for aeronautics research conducted by the agency. Mikulski expressed disappointment in this amount, noting aeronautics is a cornerstone of the NASA mission, received $1.5 billion in 1998, and Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) urged that this part of the NASA budget be reconsidered.

Mikulski also expressed disappointment with recent NASA trends of being over budget on many projects, noting that in 2006, 83 percent of NASA projects were over budget. Voinovich also pressed Mr. Chris Scolese on the issue. Scolese provided some reasons as to why budgets are exceeded, most notably that NASA often times “learns as it goes” in a project because of its research mission. Scolese also noted that NASA changes specification mid-project that run up costs, and that contractors should not be blamed for the trend in budget overruns.

Scolese informed the subcommittee of the near-term plans for the space shuttle program. He indicated that NASA plans to launch 8 more missions to the International Space Station (ISS) prior to the end of 2010. Mikulski asked Scolese if there are any plans of extending the shuttle program beyond 2010, to which Scolese responded that there is currently no end date to the program and that NASA is “constantly evaluating the situation.” This issue is critical for ISS operations, as the Russian Soyuz spacecraft will need to be used for transportation between Earth and the station when the shuttle program is mothballed. One seat on the Soyuz for a U.S. astronaut currently costs $47 million per mission, an amount Scolese considered “reasonable” while the Orion Project is still in the development phase.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) expressed a partisan tone in his remarks about the fact that the Obama Administration, which was touted to “hit the ground running”, is just now rolling out the FY10 budget for NASA. Shelby also criticized the budget for “short changing” the manned space program, even though the FY10 budget for this item was $456 million higher than the FY09 allotment. Shelby pointed out that “the Hubble program would still be on the ground if it weren’t for manned space flights,” and because of this he proposed a “do-over” in the budget for allocations of manned space flights.

Because of the pending termination of the space shuttle program, Mikulski expressed her concern for maintaining the dedicated and talented workforce that made the shuttle program work. Scolese informed Mikulski that NASA is taking steps to retain its workforce, using incentives and bonuses to keep NASA’s talent in the agency, as well as retraining scientists, engineers, and technicians for other future NASA projects.

Scolese also shared that NASA is spending $126 million in support of education programs and opportunities. Though this amount, as pointed out by Mikulski, was $40 million below FY09 levels it will cover the entire education spectrum, from K-12 programs and summer education programs for teachers to supporting graduate student research at the university level.

A video archive of the conversation the Atlantis crew had with the subcommittee can be found here.

-CPC

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing "The President's Propoposed EPA Budget for Fiscal Year 2010"
May 12, 2009

Witnesses
Ms. Lisa Jackson, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Committee Members Present
Barbara Boxer, Chairwoman (D-CA)
David Vitter (R-LA)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

On May 12, 2009, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee received testimony from Ms. Lisa Jackson, the recently appointed Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning President Obama’s fiscal year 2010 proposed budget for the agency.

The fiscal year 2010 (FY10) budget request from the President is $10.5 billion, which represents a 37 percent increase over the FY09 budget. This increase would be the highest level of funding ever in the agency’s 39 year history. The bump in the EPA budget is another indication of the wave of changing priorities set forth by the Obama Administration, as pointed out by Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA). In her opening comments Boxer stated, “Clearly during the last administration, there was rarely any good news about the budget,” and noted that in the Bush Administration’s proposed 2009 budget, funding for the EPA was cut by 26 percent from the 2008 budget levels.

The FY10 budget places a new emphasis on water infrastructure in the nation, as it includes $3.9 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water state revolving funds to revamp the nation’s aging water treatment facilities. This commitment is a 157 percent increase for the revolving funds program, a move that will help facilities across the country maintain compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act requirements. In other water related topics, the new Great Lakes Basin restoration program is slated to receive $475 million towards efforts dealing with invasive species, nonpoint-source pollution, in-situ lakebed toxins, and habitat loss. Other geographic areas are also designated to receive funds to tackle issues similar to the Great Lakes, including Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay, and the Chesapeake Bay. EPA efforts involving climate change, primarily with greenhouse gas inventory assessment and reporting, received $19 million as part of the agency’s goal of helping the nation transition towards a clean energy economy, reduce the dependency of petrochemical products, and slow climate change. This category in the budget, however, was a catalyst for heated partisan commentary starting from the onset in the hearing.

David Vitter (R-LA) fired the first shot across the bow by questioning the Obama Administration’s economic recovery strategy, noting “broad conflicting signals given by the administration through the budget. On one hand, he [Obama] touts fiscal responsibility, on the other hand he proposes major spending increases which result in record deficits and national debt.” In his criticism of Obama Administration spending, Vitter used the EPA’s 37 percent FY10 budget increase as an example and further added that “EPA has a very important responsibility in protecting our environment, it also has a responsibility not to regulate our economy into a full blown depression.” Vitter also expressed dismay with the EPA’s recent classification of six greenhouse gases (GHG) as pollutants, which the agency could regulate. He stated that this move was an effort to pressure Congress to pass legislation to mitigate GHG emissions through a program such as cap-and-trade. Such a program, Vitter noted, would cause serious negative repercussions to the economy without stemming the tide of increased greenhouse gases worldwide since other developing nations will continue large scale emissions of GHGs. Despite his reservations about the EPA’s role in GHG monitoring, Vitter did note that “there are some important and good expenditures,” citing particularly funding for water infrastructure. Chairwoman Boxer added a rebuttal, pointing out that “the fact is, when we do this right, we’re going to create clean energy jobs that will never go away, we will get off of foreign oil, and we’ll have enough money for consumer rebates to keep people whole, and that’s the truth, so all of this fear mongering is off base.” 

After thanking Boxer for her “renewable energy,” Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) continued to address Vitter’s comments on GHG mitigation. Lautenberg pointed out that the state of Louisiana received an abundance of financial aid from the federal government after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and nobody questioned what that spending did to the budget or deficit. Lautenberg urged the committee to look beyond the numbers in the EPA budget and envision what those funding levels will equate to in terms of cleaner water, cleaner air, and a reduction in the rate of climate change for future generations. He concluded by stating that “instead of sitting here as auditors, we ought to sit here as doctors.”

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) continued discussion of the urgency of action towards climate change, stating that for the last eight years the administration “didn’t even believe in science,” but that society has now run out of options when it comes to acting on climate change. He further noted, “Government has a sacred obligation of protecting its people.”

John Barrasso (R-WY) stated in his opening comments that the nation must include all sources, renewable and fossil alike, in the energy portfolio during the shift towards energy independence and a cleaner environment. Barrasso had harsh words for the proposed EPA budget, noting that it will create a “regulatory monster” that will hinder the energy industry with a “staggering number of rules.” Barrasso also attacked Jackson on the EPA’s recent categorizing of six GHGs as pollutants, and submitted a new White House Office of Management and Budget memo stating that there was no scientific basis for the classification of these gases as pollutants. Jackson responded by indicating the analysis of the gases was conducted before she became EPA Administrator, and noted that just because those gases were classified as pollutants does not mean imminent regulation by the EPA. Rather it supports the need for a gradual shift towards a cap-and-trade program that uses the markets to help reduce GHG emissions. Boxer came to the defense of Jackson, stating that “attacking the EPA is unnecessary, they have the ability to act, and we in Congress have the ability to act.”

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-CT) pointed out that the U.S. Senate is one of the last places in the country where the debate on climate change continues, noting that board rooms of electric utilities and other industries emitting GHGs across the country “get it,” despite the fact that the debate still continues to rage in the Senate.

Chairwoman Boxer noted that she was “happy with most of [the budget], concerned with some of it.” Boxer had particular concern with the fact that the Superfund program is receiving an increase of $24 million over FY09, yet will be addressing fewer clean-up sites than in the past. Jackson informed Boxer that early on in the Superfund project, a lot of the “easier, low hanging fruit” projects were being dealt with, and the remaining projects now being addressed are more expensive and time consuming. Boxer also asked Jackson about efforts to more effectively regulate coal-ash pits, a topic that received a great deal of attention late in 2008 after the coal-ash slurry spill in Tennessee. Jackson indicated that a new set of regulations will be available by the end of the year, and that the EPA and state agencies have identified several more “ticking time bombs” across the nation that will need to be addressed.

Links to witness testimonies and a video archive of the hearing can be found here.

-CPC

Sources: Hearing testimony, EPA.

Contributed by Corina Cerovski-Darriau, Government Affairs Staff; Clint Carney, 2009 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern; Stephanie Praus, 2009 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern; Rachel Potter, 2009 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last updated on June 5, 2009