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Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong opposition to the underlying bill H.R. 2584, a bill which irresponsibly slashes funding for many of our Nation's most important environmental and infrastructure programs. If it's passed, the overall legislation would cause grave harm to the health and safety of our communities and in addition removes protections for our wildlife and environment.

I'll take a few issues at hand.

Clean water infrastructure. Ensuring our families have clean water is under attack in this bill. It cuts 55 percent, almost $1 billion, from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This program enables the States to invest in much-needed repairs and improvements to aging water infrastructure.

Mr. Chairman, an estimated 25 percent of all treated water in the United States of America is lost due to leakage from water systems that are in disrepair--25 percent of the water that's already been treated. What a waste of money in supposedly an austere Congress.

We're facing a $500 billion funding gap to bring aging water and wastewater infrastructure back to par. Our pipes are literally crumbling beneath our feet, out of sight, out of mind until the next major water main break disrupts our lives and our towns.

This investment in water infrastructure has the potential to generate thousands and thousands of American jobs since every $1 billion in infrastructure investment supports 28,500 jobs.

Second issue: air quality. The bill that's before us takes us further backwards to an era where polluters poisoned our atmosphere at will by preventing the EPA from implementing two important air quality rules--the power plant air toxics rule and the transport rule, irresponsibly putting the health of our communities at risk. We're going backward instead of forward.

Air pollution disproportionately impacts the urban areas in my district, such as Paterson, New Jersey, where we see much higher incidences of asthma and other respiratory ailments due to the concentrations of harmful pollutants. It is terrible. Go to our hospitals. It is out of control not just in Paterson, New Jersey, but across the United States. These pollutants can become lodged in the tissues of the lungs and interfere with the respiratory system. This needs to be controlled.

And the National Park Service itself, referred to in the last debate, this proposed legislation would cripple the operation of the National Park Service. This service takes care of our parks. We fought for this, all of us, Democrats, Republicans in whatever State it was in this Union. They want to slash this by $409 million from the President's request. Our national parks are visited by 275 million people each year. They come from all over the world to appreciate our country's natural and historic wonders. In my district, the Park Service is hard at work on the Great Falls National Historic Park right in my home city of Paterson, the only historic park in the entire Nation that has aesthetic value as well as historical importance, as it was the first industrial city of the United States.

The investment we make in our parks pays for itself many times over in economic development in the surrounding areas and the enjoyment and education they provide to Americans of all ages. We must ensure that the Park Service has the resources they require to ensure that parks all over the country are properly operating.

How about the arts and humanities in this legislation? Besides the huge cited cuts to our health, infrastructure, and environment, the bill before us drastically cuts funding to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. As a former teacher, as a member of the Congressional Arts Caucus, as many of us are, I have seen firsthand the positive impact that arts and humanities education has on the success of our students. In my district, as a result of the economic crisis, many schools have been forced to cut back on arts programs and to lay off arts teachers. They're the first to go.

In conclusion, I would say, Mr. Chairman, that this legislation leaves a lot to be desired. We are seeing our colleagues on the other side of the aisle attempting to legislate through the appropriations process, selectively imposing deep cuts to programs which their special interest constituencies don't approve of. The draconian cuts in this bill are truly unacceptable, and I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing it.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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