As GOP continues attacks on EPA, Jackson presents budget to Senate

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson this morning told the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that a high percentage of EPA’s budget goes directly to states and tribes to ensure high air and water quality throughout the country.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (Pic by USACEpublicaffairs, via Flickr)

According to Jackson, the EPA’s budget request of $8.344 billion “focuses on fulfilling EPA’s core mission of protecting public health and the environment.”

From Jackson’s testimony:

Specifically, this budget proposes that $1.2 billion – nearly 15 percent of EPA’s overall request – be allocated back to the states and tribes, through categorical grants. This includes funding for state and local air quality management grants, pollution control grants and the tribal general assistance program.

The budget also proposes that a combined $2 billion – another 25 percent of EPA’s budget request – also goes directly to the states for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. This funding will help support efficient system wide investments and development of water infrastructure in our communities. We are working collaboratively to identify opportunities to fund green infrastructure – projects that can reduce pollution efficiently and less expensively than traditional grey infrastructure.

The EPA has been harshly criticized by members of the GOP recently, with some lawmakers calling it a “job-killing” agency with “out of control” regulations. Presidential front-runner Mitt Romney recently called on President Obama to fire Jackson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Calling them the “gas hike trio,” Romney told a crowd of supporters that the three “have been working like crazy to drive up the price of gasoline.”

In response to those claims, an Obama campaign spokesman told ABC News that Romney raised the gas tax by 400 percent while governor of Massachusetts and issued a tax plan that would continue to charge taxpayers “$4 billion a year to subsidize oil and gas companies making record profits.” Romney also opposed raising fuel economy standards, which some say could save consumers an average of $8,000 per vehicle.

In Florida, an effort to adhere to the Clean Water Act has been highly controversial – especially among business-backed groups that fear more stringent regulations could hurt their bottom line.

Florida currently relies on a narrative water quality standard, the wording of which (.pdf) has been criticized as too vague to be effective. A lawsuit settled in 2009 resulted in a mandate requiring Florida to implement stricter rules. Though the EPA is the federal agency mandating those rules, the agency has said it would allow the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to develop its own rules, and implement them if they are approved. Environmental groups argue that the EPA’s version would be more stringent, but industry, agriculture and utility interests prefer the state’s version.

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Virginia Chamlee

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