U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (OH-7), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, held a hearing today to examine the President's Fiscal Year 2014 Budget and priorities for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The following is the opening statement of Chairman Gibbs:
"When Congress wrote the Clean Water Act and other Federal environmental statutes some 40 years ago, it envisioned the Federal government and the states would be equal partners in solving the nation's environmental problems.
"For many years that Federal-state partnership has worked well. However, in the past few years, we have seen a substantial change in the approach taken by the EPA that is now serving to undermine the balanced Federal-state partnership that has long existed.
"EPA now is insisting on imposing its Federal will on states, local government, and the private regulated community with a heavy-handed, Federal top-down, one-size-fits-all regulatory approach that is taking away the flexibility they need to address their environmental issues.
"EPA is aggressively moving forward on several regulatory fronts simultaneously, with the result that states and local governments all across the nation, as well as the private regulated community, are facing increasing regulatory, enforcement, and financial pressures to address a multitude of burdensome regulatory requirements that recently have become EPA priorities.
"There has been an exponential increase in regulations coming out of EPA related to this Subcommittee's jurisdiction. These include more stringent and widespread regulation of stormwater discharges, nutrients, and other pollutants, which could lead to many communities having to install and operate, at great expense, state-of-the-art treatment, removal, and prevention technologies.
"I am particularly concerned about EPA's use of so-called "guidance' as a means for short-circuiting the process for changing Agency policy without following a proper, transparent, and unbiased rulemaking process. Much of this so-called "guidance' amounts to being de facto rules instead of advisory guidelines.
"Many of these regulatory efforts are based on questionable science and questionable authority under the law. Many of the efforts stand to substantially increase the regulatory burdens for states, local governments, and businesses, especially small businesses.
"All of these initiatives are piling on additional layers of regulatory requirements and economic burdens that our communities are having to somehow deal with. This is making a mockery of the Administration's Regulatory Review Initiative to reduce regulatory burdens in our country.
"A large portion of these regulatory mandates are going unfunded by the Federal government, with the result that many local communities and private entities are now increasingly struggling with how to pay for complying with these mandates.
"EPA's aggressive actions have created financial pressures and regulatory uncertainty for states, local governments, and the regulated community, and have had a chilling effect on the Nation's economy and job creation.
"The EPA budget put forth from the Administration for Fiscal Year 2014 does nothing to alleviate my concerns. While EPA is imposing more unfunded regulatory burdens on communities, businesses, and citizens, the Administration at the same time is calling for a reduction in spending for many of the programs that assist communities in their efforts to come into compliance with those regulations.
"While the Administration is willing to increase enforcement spending, it is cutting spending for compliance assistance efforts. And while the Administration is willing to allow EPA to continue imposing regulatory mandates, the Administration is willing to cut financial assistance to our communities through the Clean Water SRF and other programs needed to help pay for complying with those mandates.
"Hence, what we have here is a Federal agency that will add to the burden of rules and regulations and reduce programs to help folks come into compliance, but will also put more boots on the ground to track down those who cannot come into compliance, with little or no benefit to the environment.
"And what we have is an Agency that has a reckless disregard for the privacy interests of both individual citizens and businesses. EPA amply demonstrated this recently when it leaked personal and confidential business information related to farmers not just once, but twice.
"This is government at its worst. I want clean water as much as anyone, but I recognize that we have to have a strong economy so we can be able to afford to invest in new programs that new regulations require. Today is not the day to put more burdens on the American people. We need to make significant progress in creating long-term jobs and a stronger economy before we can tolerate more expensive regulations."