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EPA Talks Budget with the Senate

Twice this week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke with Senators about her Agency’s FY 17 budget request.  On Tuesday, McCarthy appeared before the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee.  As with her earlier appearances before other Committees, McCarthy outlined the highlights of the Agency’s FY 17 budget request.  Senators from both sides of the aisle asked detailed questions on specific funding requests.  They covered issues ranging from the proposed Clean Power Plan (currently under review by the Supreme Court) and the Waters of the U.S. rule (aka WOTUS, also under judicial review) to proposed methane rules for the oil and gas industry and the Gold King mine spill.  Senators referenced Flint as a tragedy and wondered why more funding wasn’t requested by the Administration to address these types of issues.  McCarthy responded by acknowledging the tough choices that must be made when resources have to be stretched thin.  Despite the challenges, however, McCarthy stated that the Agency is making steady progress to protect public health and the environment and that she looks to states and tribes as the Agency’s principal partners in this work.

On Wednesday, Administrator McCarthy reprised her testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment.  Members of the Subcommittee raised many of the same issues and concerns as had been expressed by their colleagues the day before.  The Clean Power Plan, Gold King mine, methane emissions, and hard rock mining issues along with WOTUS and imminent regulations regarding wood stoves were all discussed.  Beyond concerns for inadequate funding for SDWA implementation, two additional topics of particular interest for state drinking water programs were discussed.  The first was raised by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) who wanted to know the status of a 2015 mandate that EPA work with the National Academy of Public Administration to conduct a study of and provide a useful definition for the concept of “community affordability” whereby impacts of multiple regulatory requirements are considered along with basic costs of living to determine the affordability and of any new regulatory requirement.  McCarthy responded that she expects to have an early draft to share in the near term.  Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) asked for more detailed information on actions related to PFOA and PFOS.  McCarthy explained that both contaminants are being monitored under the current Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) and that the Agency expects to have health advisories and guidance out this spring.

You may view recorded versions of both hearings at these websites:

Senate Environment & Public Works Committee: http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings?ID=FE189FF7-93E6-4580-A8AB-5320210F6B34

Senate Appropriations Interior & Environment Subcommittee: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings/hearing-to-review-the-fy17-environmental-protection-agency-budget-request