Chairman Carper’s Opening Statement: Hearing on EPA’s Proposed 2024 Budget
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On March 22, 2023, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2024.
Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:
“Today, we are pleased to welcome back Administrator Regan before our committee to discuss President Biden’s fiscal year 2024 budget proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Over the years, I have often said that budgets are about priorities. Budgets are an opportunity for the president to lay out a forward-looking vision for the American people. And, I believe that President Biden’s $12 billion budget request for EPA prioritizes the needs of the American people.
“At this moment in history, Americans want a well-resourced EPA that takes action to protect our health and environment, especially when tragic accidents occur like the recent Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
“Communities overburdened by legacy pollution want a well-resourced EPA that works to clean up the air they breathe, the water they drink and the contaminated land they could use for economic development.
“And, those of us who are concerned about the future of our planet want a well-resourced EPA that takes strong action to combat the greatest threat we face today on this planet—the climate crisis.
“Earlier this week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report underscoring the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“As many of us here today know, climate change is already impacting communities across our country. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, extreme weather fueled by climate change—in the form of hurricanes, flooding, drought and wildfires—cost American taxpayers nearly $170 billion in 2022. To put that figure into perspective, it’s more than 14 times the size of EPA’s proposed budget for 2024.
“Fortunately, last Congress, we worked to pass the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. In doing so, we have directed EPA to do more than ever before to tackle climate change, address pollution and protect our health in a way that supports economic growth.
“How, you may ask? Well, we have tasked EPA with overseeing historic investments in clean drinking water—free of contaminants like PFAS and lead.
“We have also invested in EPA’s work to clean up legacy pollution from contaminated urban brownfields, abandoned wells leaking methane, acid mines leaching heavy metals and more.
“And, we have empowered EPA to help build a clean energy economy—made here in America—with good-paying jobs and lower energy costs for households across our country.
“The president’s budget would build on our legislative progress by providing EPA with the resources needed to implement these new programs Congress created and to continue the important work of carrying out our nation’s bedrock environmental laws.
“Make no mistake, the agency truly needs these investments. It’s no secret that EPA has not always received the resources required to be successful. In recent years, flat budgets and staffing shortages have severely undermined the agency’s ability to do its job in many respects.
“As EPA’s responsibilities and workload continue to grow in the face of climate change and other human-caused environmental disasters, it should come as no surprise that the agency is overburdened.
“That is especially true when we look at the agency’s workforce. EPA’s current number of staff—15,000—is well below the range of 16,000 to 18,000 that the agency had from 1990 through 2012. For years, we have asked EPA to do more with much less.
“Fortunately, instead of proposing to slash the agency’s budget as the previous administration did, President Biden’s budget proposal would increase EPA’s budget by roughly 19 percent in fiscal year 2024 as compared to the previous year.
“The increase in funding under the president’s budget for EPA is necessary as the agency works to rebuild itself and address emerging and ongoing challenges.
“It’s also worth noting that the president’s budget would add nearly 2,000 full-time career staff at EPA. These additional staff would make a real difference in the agency’s ability to do things like manage toxic chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act, convert contaminated brownfields sites into areas for economic opportunity and replace lead pipes throughout our country.
“I am pleased that EPA’s budget would make good on President Biden’s Justice40 initiative and ensure that all Americans, including those in historically overlooked and underserved communities, receive their fair share of federal assistance from EPA.
“As a co-founder of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus, I am particularly grateful that this budget focuses on the needs of our most vulnerable—communities of color, as well as low-income and American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
“That is something I know that you, Administrator Regan, continue to prioritize as well. You should know that many members of this panel, including me, support your efforts to advance environmental justice. Indeed, we have a moral obligation to do so.
“Let me close by saying that I believe the president’s budget represents a brighter vision of the future of our nation—one that delivers on the promise of cleaner air and water in every zip code and better ensures that every American has an opportunity to live up to their God-given potential.
“Administrator Regan, I know we are heading in that direction thanks to your outstanding leadership at EPA during an especially challenging time in our nation’s history. We look forward to hearing your testimony today.”