Carper Statement on EPA Budget Hearing with Administrator Regan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) held a hearing titled: “Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2022 Proposed Budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.” Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Today, I am pleased to welcome Administrator Regan back before our committee as we discuss President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It has been some time since this committee has held a hearing on EPA’s budget. I would like to thank Administrator Regan for returning before us so soon after his confirmation a little over a month ago.

“I would also like to acknowledge that a leader is only as good as his team. I’m very pleased with this Committee’s work to get Janet McCabe confirmed as Deputy Administrator at EPA. And, while not everyone on our Committee voted for her confirmation, I really appreciate the spirit of goodwill that everyone has demonstrated. I think it bodes well for the work we have ahead of us to ensure clean air, clean water, and a brighter future for the American people.

“With that, let me begin my opening statement.

“It’s often times said that budgets are about priorities. While President Biden has only released a ‘bare-bones’ budget to date, it’s clear that the Administration’s priorities are aligned with the needs of the American people. This budget focuses on protecting public health, supporting our nation’s economic recovery, and addressing the greatest threat we face—the climate crisis.

“Over the last decade, EPA simply hasn’t been provided with the resources it needs to get the job done. The agency has been largely flat-funded, a funding commitment that has undermined EPA’s mission. Over the last four years, we’ve seen misguided Administration proposals to slash the agency’s budget by 30 percent that would have made EPA’s problems even worse.

“That’s why I’m pleased that President Biden’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget would restore the agency’s capacity by increasing its budget by roughly 21 percent. This restorative budget is necessary for EPA to have a fighting chance to ensure the hopes and expectations of a President and Congress 50 years ago are realized. 

“And at no time in recent memory has the need for investment in American health been more urgent than as we emerge from the pandemic. Over the past year, the coronavirus has been especially deadly for many communities of color and low-income communities. These are the communities that have been most assaulted by pollution over the years. As co-founder of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus, I am gratified to see that this budget focuses on the particular needs of these communities—something I know you, Administrator Regan, have prioritized at EPA.

“I am also encouraged to see the Administration treat the ever-growing threat of the climate crisis with the urgency it deserves. If we are going to successfully cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade, we need a strong EPA that uses science as its North Star and has the resources it needs to effectively seize this opportunity. As we shift towards the clean energy solutions of the future, we must have new investments in infrastructure and workforce development to support these efforts.

“The President’s proposed budget reflects a vision of this nation that we can look to for inspiration as we work together to deliver on the promises of clean air and water in every zip code and create good-paying American jobs to position our economy for the future. In this Congress, we at EPW are already hard at work to realize that vision. Senator Capito and I—with a whole lot of input from our colleagues throughout the Senate—are drafting a surface transportation reauthorization bill, and we have bipartisan water legislation currently before the full Senate.

“That spirit of bipartisanship is at the core of EPA’s story. Coincidentally, when the EPA was created over 50 years ago, our country was facing enormous challenges due to dangerous levels of air and water pollution. In 1965, a study by New York City Council found breathing New York’s air had the same effect as smoking two packets of cigarettes a day.

“In response, spurred by life-threatening air pollution in New York, a burning Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, and a host of horror stories born of rampant emissions and discharges across the landscape, President Nixon established EPA—with the affirmation of Republicans and Democrats in Congress. They tasked this new agency with protecting our air, our water, and our public health.

“Since that time, we have made tremendous progress improving the nation’s air quality, providing safe drinking water, cleaning up hazardous waste sites, and protecting against harmful chemicals.

“Today, we face perhaps even greater challenges—a deadly pandemic, the worst economy since the Great Depression, and the urgent crisis of climate change. And, on top of all that, another challenge persists at EPA: how to rebuild agency morale after years of failed leadership. To EPA’s career employees, who have persevered through the turmoil, our nation owes you a heartfelt thank you.

“The challenges before us are great—but, as I oftentimes like to say, in adversity lies opportunity. We have Joe Biden as President and Michael Regan as EPA Administrator, two people who I believe are uniters, not dividers. Now, we have an opportunity to come together to face the crises before us, united in a common purpose.

“With new and capable leadership, and strengthened up by a restorative budget proposal, EPA and the rest of us face brighter days ahead. We look forward to hearing from you, Administrator Regan, about how you plan to bring us to that brighter future.”