At EPA Budget Hearing, Senator Murray Highlights How House Republicans’ Cuts Threaten Clean Air & Water, Efforts to Combat PFAS Contamination
***WATCH: Senator Murray speaks at hearing on EPA budget request***
Senator Murray: “PFAS, or forever chemicals, aren’t just toxic—they are everywhere—to the point where they can even be found in our blood. We need to make sure we are cutting down on pollution—not cutting the funding EPA needs to protect our kids.”
Washington, D.C. – Today, at a Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with Administrator Michael Regan, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, highlighted the vital importance of delivering the funding needed to ensure families have clean air and water, protect people from forever chemicals, tackle the climate crisis, and protect the ecosystems our fishers, farmers, and economy depend on.
“Safety is about more than just how strong our military is,” Senator Murray said. “Families want to know if they have clean air and clean water, and that their kids aren’t being sickened by pollution. Fishers and farmers want to know the ecosystem that they rely on—that our economy relies on—is not being harmed by dangerous chemicals. And communities want to know we are making meaningful progress to cut emissions and fight the expansive, existential threat that is the climate crisis. The bottom line is that if we want to make sure people in this country are safe, we need to make sure they aren’t breathing smog, drinking contaminated water, or being exposed to chemicals like PFAS.”
“We are learning more and more about just how serious a threat PFAS are to public health, so I hope—and expect—this committee will work in a bipartisan way to deliver solutions,” Murray continued. “PFAS, or forever chemicals, aren’t just toxic—they are everywhere—to the point where they can even be found in our blood. We need to make sure we are cutting down on pollution—not cutting the funding EPA needs to protect our kids.”
Senator Murray asked Administrator Regan on how the deep, across-the-board cuts House Republicans passed last week would impact EPA’s ability to combat PFAS, toxic “forever chemicals”: “Can you talk about how those steep cuts would undermine EPA’s ability to respond to and address PFAS contamination already in our environment?”
“It would significantly set us back,” Administrator Regan replied. “House budget cuts on PFAS, on lead, on chemical detection in this country, would significantly set us back… We need to continue to move forward because there’s so much more work that needs to be done. We shouldn’t be moving backwards.”
Senator Murray also asked Administrator Regan about salmon and steelhead recovery in Washington state, and how EPA’s Geographic Programs and National Estuary Program—which Senator Murray secured robust funding for in the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus—play an important role in habitat restoration for these species. Senator Murray noted that, as part of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), Congress authorized a new Puget Sound Recovery National Program Office in EPA, and a Puget Sound Federal Leadership Task Force—whose first meeting is taking place tomorrow. “Can you give us an update on the work EPA is doing to stand up both those entities, and what resources may be necessary to better coordinate restoration and protection of Puget Sound?” Senator Murray asked Administrator Regan.
“There is a number of resources, a number of strategies put in place to be sure that our partnership is strong in the Puget Sound,” Administrator Regan said. “Of the Fiscal Year 2023 increase of $20 million, $17 million of that is immediately going towards the Strategic Initiative Lead Cooperative Agreements we have for safe shellfish, habitat, and stormwater projects in Washington.” Administrator Regan also said that EPA plans to announce a second round of funding for Tribal partners for ongoing Tribal land projects in the coming months.
Finally, Senator Murray highlighted the $400 million recently made available for the Clean School Bus Grant Program she established in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“This is a program that is so great, it’s really going to improve the health of kids and communities across the country—and cut costs for our schools, and reduce emissions, and support good-paying jobs,” Senator Murray said, asking: “During the application phase and in the review process, how is EPA going to work to ensure underserved communities—including those on the prioritized school district list—are competitive in the program?”
“We’ve been doing that from day one,” Administrator Regan replied. “Of the billions of dollars that have hit the street so far, 99 percent of the grants have gone to rural, disadvantaged, or low-income communities.”
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