Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) questioned some of President Obama's budget priorities at two House hearings today. At the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, Congressman Pallone expressed his concern over cuts to programs responsible for monitoring coastal water health and Superfund site cleanup. Later in the day, the Congressman decried proposed increases to user fees at Sandy Hook, NJ at a hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources' Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.
Congressman Pallone expressed his concern that the President's budget proposed the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH) Grants, which is a program that was authored by Pallone to monitor coastal water quality nationwide. Pallone reintroduced a bill to reauthorize the BEACH Grant program called the Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act of 2011. Without federal funding, cash-strapped states may choose to stop monitoring their beaches and notifying the public when waters are unsafe for swimming.
"EPA's BEACH Grants have greatly expanded the number of beaches tested nationwide and are critical to keeping swimmers out of contaminated waters," said Pallone. "I am concerned that New Jersey tourism will be at a disadvantage if we continue to test our coastal waters but other states do not monitor and inform the public when beaches are too contaminated for swimming,"
Pallone was also critical of cuts made to EPA programs to clean up Superfund sites. New Jersey has the most superfund toxic sites in the nation and Middlesex County, which falls in the sixth district, has the most in the state. On February 16, 2012, Pallone sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking why 27 of New Jersey's known toxic areas were left off the EPA's list of Superfund sites. Pallone introduced the Superfund Polluter Pays Act that would fund toxic waste clean-up by reinstating taxes on oil and chemical companies that frequently create these sites. In the EPA Budget Hearing Administrator Jackson shared her support for this bill, agreeing that it would enable the EPA to cleanup these sites faster and create jobs.
"While I realize that these are tough economic times, the stakes are too high to cut back on our commitment to cleaning up toxic waste sites that can impact our health and environment," said Congressman Pallone. "I urge my colleagues in Congress to support my bill, the Superfund Polluter Pays Act, so we can shift the burden of paying for toxic cleanup away from taxpayers and onto the polluters responsible for the messes they left behind in the first place."
Congressman Pallone also voiced his opposition to a proposed fee hike to visitors to Sandy Hook in New Jersey. The National Park Service has proposed a nearly 100% increase in fees for vehicles going through the beach.
"With gas prices on the rise, visitors to Sandy Hook do not deserve to get hit with the kind of hike currently being proposed," said Congressman Pallone. "This jump in fees at Sandy Hook will put the cost of visiting the beach out of reach for many families when they are already struggling in these difficult economic times. That simply cannot happen."