On March 2, EPA testified before both the House and the Senate on the President’s proposed EPA FY 2012 budget. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, defended the President’s 2012 EPA Budget of $8.97 billion [13% cut from 2010 enacted level] that includes nearly $1 billion in cuts in the clean water and drinking water state revolving loan programs. The 2012 Budget proposes $1.55 billion for CWSRF and $990 million for DWSRF, representing a $947 million cut from 2010 enacted levels. Administrator Jackson called these cuts a “tough choice”, but noted that “a lot of money hit the streets as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” [a.k.a., stimulus funding].
EPA acting Assistant Administrator of Water Nancy Stoner, testifying before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources, defended the agency’s water program saying a “wide range of businesses depend on clean and adequate water supply”. While some discussion with House members debated the proposed budget itself, including impacts of the SRF cuts on our nation’s infrastructure and jobs, much of the session focused on whether recent EPA guidance and regulatory actions exceed Federal authority. Members, mostly but not all Republicans, expressed concerns about EPA guidance and approaches on Clean Water Act jurisdiction, surface mining permitting, and implementing Chesapeake Bay pollution limits.
Both Administrator Jackson and acting Water Administrator Stoner criticized the substantial budget cuts to EPA proposed in the House-approved continuing resolution for the remainder of FY2011 [H.R. 1]. Administrator Jackson said if Congress “gutted” EPA’s funding it “would be unable to implement or enforce the laws that protect Americans’ health, livelihoods, and pastimes”. She added that H.R. 1 would significantly affect states, the “front lines” for enforcing environmental laws. Ms. Stoner noted that H.R. 1 would put hundreds of SRF projects on hold and threaten thousands of jobs.
During the hearing, Jackson indicated that EPA is assessing the risk of radionuclides in wastewater discharged when hydraulic fracturing is used to extract natural gas from rock formations. EPA is undertaking a national study on the risk that oil and gas drilling practice, also known as “fracking,” poses to drinking water in response to a congressional directive in the fiscal 2010 appropriations bill for the agency and is looking at radionuclides as part of the study. Jackson indicated in its draft plan for the study its intention to consider the impact of radionuclides in backflow and produced water from the process. Hydraulic fracturing is currently exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act.