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Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today chaired a hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Senator Feinstein chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies and presided over the hearing, where EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson appeared as the primary witness.

During the hearing, Chairman Feinstein touched on the following topics: EPA’s effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act in compliance with the Massachusetts V. EPA decision; a review of recent Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund investments; water quality enforcement issues; how EPA is spending its funds for major water bodies (San Francisco Bay, Great Lakes); and what actions the Agency is taking to improve water quality in the San Joaquin/Sacramento Bay-Delta.

Following is the prepared text of Chairman Feinstein’s opening remarks:

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I welcome you to our hearing on the Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Request for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

I’m very pleased to welcome back Administrator Lisa Jackson to testify before the Subcommittee.   She is joined by Chief Financial Officer Barbara Bennett.

Since this is our first Subcommittee hearing of the year, I’d also like to welcome our Ranking Member, Lamar Alexander, and say how much I am looking forward to working with him this year on the FY 2011 Interior Appropriations bill.

Turning to the budget, the Administration has requested a total of $10.02 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency for Fiscal Year 2011.  That level is a 3 percent cut below the Fiscal Year 2010 enacted level, which means that EPA proposes to tighten its belt and reduce funding for a number of programs – in recognition of the constraints of these difficult economic times.

The budget requests $2 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $1.29 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.  Overall, that’s a 5 percent cut for those programs.   The request further eliminates $157 million for Congressionally-designated water and sewer projects.

The request also reduces funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by $175 million, a 37 percent cut from the enacted level, for a total of $300 million.  

Because of these cuts, it might be easy to say that EPA’s budget is going in the wrong direction.

However, I would like to point out that this Subcommittee provided a 35 percent increase to EPA’s budget for Fiscal Year 2010.   EPA also received an additional $7.22 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – including $6 billion in funds for water and sewer infrastructure alone.

So, even with the administration’s proposed 3 percent cut to the agency’s budget, federal investment in environmental protection programs continues at near-historic levels. 

And I commend the Administration for shifting resources within this tight budget to provide increases for other critical priorities – starting with climate change.

Most importantly, the budget includes a $43 million increase – for a total of $56 million – to move forward with regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.  I am looking forward to hearing more detail from you, Administrator Jackson, on how you would expect these funds to be used.

I’m also very pleased to see that the budget also includes $21 million to implement the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule that this Subcommittee directed the agency to promulgate in 2008.   That’s a 24 percent increase.  I’m very proud that this rule finally takes effect this year to provide EPA with critical data on some the nation’s largest emission sources.

I’m also pleased to see that the Administration has also used this budget request to address core air and water quality improvements.  

Overall, the request provides a 36 percent increase for grants to States to monitor and improve air quality, for a total of $309 million.   The request includes a 20 percent increase for State water pollution control grants to improve water quality permitting and enforcement, for a total of $274 million.

And the budget also contains a suite of initiatives to improve community cleanup efforts, starting with a 24 percent increase for Brownfields programs, for a total of $215 million.  

Now, while we’re talking about the numbers, I also think it’s important that we discuss some of the policy decisions that drive this budget.  Specifically, I want to talk about the choices that EPA is making as it moves forward with the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

It’s been three years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that EPA has a legal responsibility under the Clean Air Act to determine whether greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare.  

In the words of Justice Stevens in that decision,

“Because greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act’s capacious definition of ‘air pollutant’ we hold that EPA has the statutory authority to regulate emission of such gases …EPA can avoid taking further action only if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change or if it provides some reasonable explanation as to why it cannot or will not exercise its discretion to determine whether they do…

Nor can EPA avoid its statutory obligation by noting the uncertainty surrounding various features of climate change and concluding that it would therefore be better not to regulate at this time…. That EPA would prefer not to regulate greenhouse gases because of some residual uncertainty…is irrelevant. The statutory question is whether sufficient information exists to make an endangerment finding.”

The Court’s language was clear and unambiguous:  EPA is expected to follow the Clean Air Act.  

That meant that once EPA issued its endangerment finding, the Agency was required to regulate greenhouse gases under all sections of the Clean Air Act that apply.  Which means EPA is now responsible for regulating both mobile sources and stationary sources.   It’s that simple.

There are those who choose to question EPA’s decision to follow the law.  In particular, a number of my colleagues are working to pass legislation that would strip EPA of its obligation and ability to determine whether greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare as the Clean Air Act requires. 

I think this is the wrong approach.  Legislation overturning the endangerment finding countermands the Supreme Court’s landmark decision and contradicts scientific consensus about global warming. 

What’s more, it also jeopardizes groundbreaking efforts to harmonize EPA’s tailpipe emissions standards with the Department of Transportation’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

I believe much of the opposition to EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions is generated by uncertainty about how EPA plans to follow the law. 

Administrator Jackson, last week you made public additional details of how and when EPA plans to address regulating stationary sources – but it’s clear that more questions remain.  I think the most important thing we can do this morning is try to answer some of those questions. 

As EPA explains its plans, I believe my colleagues will increasingly realize that the Agency is proceeding in a deliberate and legally defensible fashion, beginning with facilities already subject to regulation, tackling only the very largest polluters at this time, and developing a long term approach to emissions that is as cost effective and flexible as the law permits.  I look forward to our conversation.
Now, I’d like to turn it over to my Ranking Member, Senator Alexander, for his opening remarks.”