Madame Chairman and Ranking Member Vitter thank you for holding today’s hearing on the President’s proposed FY 15 budget for the Environmental Protection Agency. Administrator McCarthy it is always a pleasure to see you and thank you for being here today.
EPA’s proposed budget for FY15 outlines a fiscal plan that will enable the Agency to continue to its important work of keeping the health of citizen’s and the communities we live in healthy and safe.
It would be an understatement to say that EPA faces challenges in fulfilling its mission to protect the environment from factions within Congress and from the supporters of polluting industries that resent being regulated.
I want to commend the President and the agency for its proposed budget for the Chesapeake Bay Program. I will work hard with the chairman of the Appropriations Committee to see that the request is met. Ensuring that EPA and its federal partners that cooperate in the administration of the Chesapeake Bay Program is critical to fulfilling the goals established by the President’s May 2009 Chesapeake Bay Executive Order. The President’s recognition of the value of this national treasure has been a critical catalyst to improve the health of the Bay.
In addition to the soon to be 5-year old executive order, on January 29th, the Chesapeake Bay Program issued its revised Chesapeake Bay Agreement establishing new conservation goals for the watershed as determined through a collaborative process involving federal agencies, the six state and DC, local governments and non-governmental organizations across the region. This budget is critical to supporting the goals of the agreement.
More specifically, the funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program will allow Maryland and other Bay states, to focus on:
- Total Maximum Daily Load implementation
- Implementing Phase II of watershed planning and increasing accountability
- Making progress to address toxic contaminants in the Bay.
I am also pleased to see the budget’s prioritization of programs to combat and adapt to the affects of climate change. Maryland faces tremendous challenges from the affects of Climate Change. With 70% of my state’s population living in a coastal zone, sea level rise and increased intensity of extreme weather events pose a serious risk to the safety and economy of my state.
I do want to express concerns that for the second year in a row the Administration’s budget is recommending cuts the both the drinking water and clean water State Revolving Loan Funds (SRFs). These cuts are being recommended despite an ever growing, multi-billion dollar, backlogs of maintenance and repair needs for water infrastructure across the country.
We should be mindful of the need to invest in our nation’s own crumbling water infrastructure. The President’s EPA budget makes deep cuts to the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water SRFs, despite the established need for increased water infrastructure investment and the significant economic growth that would result from such investment. We take for granted the ability to turn on the tap and pour a clean glass of water. We take for granted the ability to go to our outdoor spaces and fish and swim safely. The work of the EPA is central to this sense of safety, and robust funding for these programs benefits all Americans.
Cuts to the State Revolving Loan Funds, however, are extremely deep and will significantly impact states that are already struggling to maintain their drinking water and wastewater systems.
The reductions in the SRF funding levels will impact Maryland as well as every other state. Our nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is aging and overburdened. A number of densely populated cities are served by pipes that are at least 100 years old. These funding cuts will affect the states and municipalities that are already struggling to deal with the increased costs associated with drinking water and wastewater treatment plant upgrades. At the same time, federal investments in water and wastewater infrastructure can yield hundreds of thousands of jobs and help grow our economy.
This year, as in years past, Sen. Crapo and I are leading a letter to the Sen. Appropriations Committee calling for robust funding for the SRFs to make sure that this program continues to provide adequate resources for drinking water and wastewater service providers to keep their systems working effectively. I would encourage all members of this committee to sign our letter.
Lastly, I want to talk about how persistent cuts to EPA’s budget is contributing to the biggest decline in employee job and workplace satisfaction among large federal agencies in 2013, sinking five spots in the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings. The EPA’s overall Best Places to Work score stands at 59.3 out of 100, a drop of 8.3 points, for a 10th place ranking out of 19 large agencies. Last year it ranked 5th out of 19 agencies.
Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe said EPA employees have a strong sense of mission, believe in the importance of their work, and will rebound from what turned out to be a difficult year. He pointed out that EPA was forced to furlough an extremely high number of employees because of the across-the-board budget cuts mandated by Congress, and reduce cash awards for high performers. He noted that the unpaid furloughs began to occur at the same time employees were taking the federal survey that is used to compile the Best Places to Work rankings. As he put it, “The EPA’s budget was constrained perhaps more than other agencies, and I do believe the furloughs were a problem at that time”.
This is shameful. Our country and political leaders of both parties once held our nation’s civil servants in the highest regard. These days, in some circles, it’s become politically popular to vilify federal workers. It is the middle class families of hardworking civil servants that have shouldered a disproportionate burden of the hollow efforts to balance the budget.
Madame Chairman, I know that you understand the tremendous amount of work we have ahead of us to make the United States government an environmental leader both at home and abroad. I also believe that this administration understands the significant role EPA plays in this effort. I look forward to working together to achieve our goals, and to hearing from Administrator McCarthy.