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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. HIRONO. I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentlewoman from Hawaii is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Chairman, beside me is a picture of the Cuyahoga River in 1952. The river is on fire.

The reason for this fire is that the river was heavily contaminated with flammable industrial waste. This water was dangerous to drink, needless to say, and to swim in. Fish and wildlife could not survive here. Flooding in this river would have spread pollution onto the shore and into neighborhoods. In short, this pollution was dangerous for the health of the people and the communities that depended on this river.

It was incidents like these that helped raise public awareness of the dangers of water pollution. Ultimately, that awareness became government action, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, in 1970 and of the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972.

The EPA's purpose is simple: to protect human health and the environment. It does this by ensuring minimum standards for water quality nationwide while acting as a referee between the States.

Despite this important mission, this bill slashes the EPA's budget by 18 percent from current levels, so of course I rise to speak against this underlying bill. It also includes a number of riders that will prevent the EPA from carrying out the duties it is already legally required to perform. I don't know why the majority is so keen on undermining the vital mission of the EPA. I hear them talk a lot about the costs of certain EPA regulations; but what about the cost of getting rid of these regulations?

One serious cost that would go up is the cost of public health. The impact of polluting our air and water isn't a speculative matter. We know that it will make people and communities sick. More mercury in the air we breathe means more deaths and debilitating illnesses. More water pollution means families and communities will be subjected to a variety of health risks. In short, more pollution means rapidly escalating health care costs.

Another cost is the cost to our environment. Our rivers, coastlines and wetlands are the places that we take our children to experience the wonders of our country. This is where their interests in the natural sciences and the outdoors are kindled. Polluted waters and coastlines mean less wildlife, poorer fishing and a lot less beauty in this world. We have to remember that we are merely stewards of our natural resources and that the cost of polluting those resources isn't only borne now; it will be borne by future generations.

Finally, the EPA helps to ensure a fair playing field for businesses. This helps keep their long-term costs manageable. It's a simple fact that a few dollars in prevention is far, far cheaper than expensive cleanup costs later. For those who disagree or question that, I encourage you to contact BP Oil. That company will--and should--be paying for their damage for years to come.

So those are the costs the EPA helps to mitigate. That's why we need the EPA. We need a referee that is empowered to make sure that everyone plays by the rules and protects our natural resources. If we pass this bill, we are essentially ejecting the referee from the game of calling out misconduct on certain players, which will only encourage more misbehavior in the future.

Take a look at this picture. Is that what we want?

This bill is so flawed, there is little hope for it. I hope that my colleagues will reevaluate their approach to this legislation, will pull it from the floor and go back to the drawing board.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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