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Sen. Jeffords' March 10 EPW Hearing Statement Quotes Luntz Survey

Copyright 2004 The Federal News Service, Inc.
Federal News Service
March 10, 2004 Wednesday

SECTION: PREPARED TESTIMONY
HEADLINE: PREPARED STATEMENT OF SENATOR JIM JEFFORDS BEFORE THE SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE

SUBJECT - PRESIDENT'S FY 2005 BUDGET REQUEST FOR THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Administrator Leavitt, it is a pleasure to welcome you here today. We have known each other for many years, and I have great respect for your abilities and believe that working together we can make great strides in environmental protection. When I chaired this Committee two years ago the President proposed a 3% cut in spending at the EPA. Last year, the President proposed a 6% cut, and this year the President is proposing a 7.2% cut from enacted levels. This is a most disturbing trend, and one that I am committed to working against. This year, even the Chairman of the Budget Committee could not abide by the President's proposed EPA budget cuts. Today the Senate is voting on a Republican budget that would increase, not decrease, spending at the EPA over last year's levels. Though, of course, it remains to be seen whether the appropriators will feel as generous.

This budget is essentially fiat and lifeless. It fails to recognize the tremendous public health and environmental challenges that we face now, and that we will leave for our children. It is true that we have made great strides in reducing emissions of harmful pollutants. But, we have a long way to go to protect the public's health and clean up the environment. According to the EPA, more than 20,000 people are dying prematurely from fine particulate matter coming out of power plant stacks.

That's happening right now, not 20 years from now. Four-and-one-half million pounds of toxic air pollutants that cause birth defects, cancer, mutation and developmental effects are being spewed into the air every year. Acid rain continues to devastate ecosystems in the Northeast and now the Southeast. Respected scientific bodies say that global warming is occurring, at least in part because of manmade emissions. And next year, according to the President's budget, approximately 175 million people will live in areas with unhealthy air. This is simply unacceptable in an advanced country like ours. In the clean water arena, the Administration's budget completely fails to recognize the staggering water resource needs of this nation.

The recent poll by Republican pollster Frank Luntz that I am holding in my hand shows that 91% of Americans are concerned that our waterways will not be clean for our children and grandchildren. Time after time Americans express their outrage at the weakening of clean and safe water protections and express their willingness to pay to maintain water quality standards. In the 2005 budget, the Administration is proposing to cut nearly IN HALF the funds available for clean water infrastructure investments, from $1.35 billion to $850 million. This is truly astonishing. In the last five years, an extremely broad consensus has emerged that more money is needed for water infrastructure. I will not accept promises of funding in out-years.

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