Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Leahy Statement On FY 19 Funding Request Hearing With EPA Administrator Pruitt

Thank you Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall.  This is an important hearing to review the budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency.  With this reckless and unrealistic budget, the Trump administration continues to show its clear contempt for bedrock environmental safeguards and for the work of the EPA to monitor, protect, and conserve our environment and the health of all Americans.

Attacks on the core mission and role of the EPA are attacks on human health.  The work of the EPA is essential to ensuring that our air and water are clean, and that our land, treasured resources, and health are protected from pollutants, toxic chemicals, and the effects of climate change.

Administrator Pruitt, I hear constantly from Vermonters about a seemingly endless stream of controversies at the EPA.  It is troubling enough that your personal fundamental mission seems to be to undermine the very mission of the agency you were appointed to lead.  But the embarrassments these scandals have wrought continue, as does a pattern of putting personal and special interests ahead of the well-being of the American people.  In short, your toxic agenda of making the United States more polluted and less safe has extended beyond environmental policy and into the confidence the American people should – and must – have in their government. 

Equally troubling, especially to Vermonters in places like Bennington, are new reports that you sought to block the publication of a public health study on a class of toxic chemicals that have threatened water supplies around the country.  It is unconscionable.  And, it is incomprehensible, to people like the citizens of Bennington, why an agency that works for them, whose charge it is to protect their health, would turn its back on them.

You have been given a lot of credit for cutting regulations.  Yet the more we study your work to circumvent the law and overturn or delay regulations, we see that you are actually causing far more uncertainty for these industries, with countless lawsuits costing taxpayers dollars and impeding critical environmental work.

You claim that rolling back or delaying what you have called “costly regulations” could save Americans $1 billion.  Yet by removing protections for public health and the environment, you are costing the American people far more each year, in near and long term health costs.  Let’s extrapolate the course you have set for the EPA.  By flipping the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency on its head to protect the big polluters, instead of the people; by insinuating an anti-science agenda into the vital work of your science-based agency; by working to eviscerate the very marrow of the EPA, the American people will be forced to pay these costs with their wallets, with their health, and for some, with their lives.

The mission of the EPA is simple.  “To protect human health and the environment.”  Not to protect industry friends, or to give friends from Oklahoma tens of thousands of dollars in pay raises in defiance of the White House.  Not to put polluters first, or to travel first class around the world, or to use your public office for private gain.  And it is certainly not to weaken or unravel our bedrock environmental laws that were put in place with bipartisan support.

Once again you have come before this committee with an indefensible budget proposal, and trailing a string of ethical lapses and controversies that are an embarrassment to the Agency.

The American people want and deserve environmental protections that work, not moneyed interests buying off those willing to sell the public health to the highest bidder.  It is time they had it.

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CONTACT: Jay Tilton -- 202-224-2667