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Senate VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing on the FY 1998 EPA Budget

04/08/1997
Oral Testimony of Carol M. Browner
Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Senate VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee
Hearing on the FY 1998 EPA Budget
Washington, D.C.
April 8, 1997


Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to testify on the President's 1998 budget request for the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As we approach the 21st Century, EPA faces many stiff challenges in our mission of protecting the public health and the environment.

We believe that Americans want us to meet these challenges. They want clean, healthy air to breathe. They want to know that their tap water is safe to drink, and that the food they buy is safe to eat. They want us to rid the nation of its toxic waste dumps, and to prevent further pollution of America's neighborhoods.

Americans want their children protected from environmental hazards. They want to pass on to them a safe and healthy environment.

And they've come to expect that we can do the job and provide for the nation's economic growth and security. We firmly believe that environmental protection goes hand-in-hand with economic progress -- that a healthy environment is, in fact, vital to the long-term economic success of the nation, and vice versa.

Indeed, this has been the history. Over the past 27 years -- an era during which we have made tremendous strides in cleaning up our environment -- America's gross domestic product has nearly doubled.

Over the past four years in particular, President Clinton has showed that it is possible to bring down the deficit, restore the nation's economic health, and, at the same time, strengthen protection of public health and the environment.

This budget request -- totaling $7.6 billion -- expands on that commitment and that promise.

It calls for an increase of nearly $850 million over this year's appropriated levels, most of which would be used to fund the President's "call to action" to clean up the worst environmental problems millions of Americans face in their own communities.

I'm talking about doubling our record pace of cleanups at the nation's worst toxic waste sites -- and ridding our country of 500 more Superfund sites by the year 2000.

We want to expand the Brownfields initiative so that we can help communities clean up thousands of old, abandoned industrial sites and return them to productive use.

Additionally, this budget request would increase funding for expansion of the public's right-to-know about toxic pollution in their neighborhoods -- without imposing new reporting requirements on anyone.

It would also mean tougher, more aggressive criminal enforcement against those who pollute our air, our water and our land.

On another front, this requested increase would enable EPA to do its part to implement two major new environmental laws passed by Congress last year -- the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments and the new Food Quality Protection Act -- two shining examples of how Congress and the Administration can work together to protect the public health.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments, EPA will undertake a variety of new efforts to improve the way we set and enforce drinking water standards, protect drinking water supplies, help communities upgrade their facilities, and provide timely and important information to consumers. The new law is a model for regulatory reform. It gives the EPA flexibility to act on contaminants of greatest risk and to analyze costs and benefits, while keeping the public health as the paramount concern.

Under the Food Quality Protection Act, EPA will be adding a new level of protection from harmful pesticides in our food. The budget includes funds to set a single, health-based, children-first standard for pesticides in all foods, along with the resources necessary to re-evaluate some 9,000 different pesticides to assure safety and to provide better information to the public.

In addition to funding these new, high-priority items, the EPA budget request for 1998 supports a greater, overall emphasis on protecting children.

Since President Clinton first came to office, we have tried to put children at the focal point of EPA's mission because they are among the most vulnerable to environmental threats. Their bodies and brains are still developing. Relative to their body weight, they consumer more of certain types of food and fluids, and breathe more air, than adults.

From now on, when we set public health and environmental standards, EPA will take into account the unique vulnerabilities of children, to ensure that all standards protect children first.

We believe that by doing this, we will be ensuring that everyone is protected.

All of these initiatives, Mr. Chairman, will be enhanced by our efforts to continue reinventing the way EPA works.

We are determined to carry out our action plan in the most common sense, cost-effective ways.

We are resolved to strengthen our partnership with states and tribes -- and to provide them with more flexibility in how they reach the environmental goals we all share.

We intend to improve on our success at reducing needless red tape for businesses and adopting alternative strategies to current regulations, so long as they produce superior environmental results. We've shown it can be done and we want to do more of it.

In sum, Mr. Chairman, this budget will take us further down the road toward our goal of a cleaner, safer and more healthy environment.

It is a budget that says to our citizens: "We can put our fiscal house in order without sacrificing our basic values. We can protect both the health of our economy and the health of our children. We can have both economic progress and environmental protection that is second to none."

Over the past four years, the President has shown us how we can do it. I respectfully ask that you help us carry that commitment into the next century.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am happy to answer any questions that you or other members of the subcommittee may have.