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Press Conference on the FY 2004 Proposed Budget, Washington, D.C.

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at a Press Conference on the
FY 2004 Proposed Budget
Washington, D.C.

February 3, 2003

Good afternoon. Before I begin, I want to express my condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of the crew of the shuttle Columbia. The loss of Columbia on Saturday morning is a terrible national tragedy. It reminds us of the bravery of those men and women who have contributed so much to our understanding of Earth = s environment through the work that NASA has done in space over the years.

EPA is assisting NASA, FEMA, and other federal and state agencies in ensuring that the debris from the shuttle does not pose an environmental hazard to the recovery workers or nearby residents. We stand ready to offer whatever assistance we can to this sad task.

Earlier today, President Bush submitted to the Congress his proposed budget for fiscal year 2004. Included in his proposal is $7.6 billion to support the mission and work of the Environmental Protection Agency and its partners across the country, which is $10 million above last year =s request.

Given the many competing priorities for federal funding this year B especially the cost of fighting the war on terrorism and protecting our homeland B I am pleased at the commitment the President is asking Congress to make to maintain a strong commitment to environmental protection.

This budget advances our commitment to make America = s air cleaner, its water purer, and its land better protected. Within this budget are some significant increases in support of the Agency = s core mission.

To promote cleaner air, the budget includes $7.7 million for the President = s landmark Clear Skies Initiative, which he called on Congress to enact this year in the State of the Union last week. Clear Skies, when enacted, will cut power plant emissions by 35 million tons over and above what would be attained under current law, saving thousands of lives and preventing many thousands of illnesses. It includes an increase of $3 million to bring our efforts to fight children = s asthma to nearly $24 million dollars. And it nearly doubles B to $16.5 million B the Air Toxic Monitoring Grant program.

To support purer water, the budget makes an additional $37 million available for Water State Grants, bringing funding for these programs to $325.5 million. It nearly doubles our commitment to the Great Lakes, including $15 million to support the Great Lakes Legacy Act. The proposed budget again funds our watershed grants at $20 million, which will enable us to provide assistance to as many as 20 additional watersheds around the country. It also includes a total of $62.5 million for EPA = s Tribal General Assistance Programs Grants. The $5 million increase in this program will help 45 additional tribes develop environmental programs. In addition, the President = s proposed budget includes $8 million in new money to help improve drinking water quality for 1.4 million people in Puerto Rico.

We are also providing the funding needed to continue to keep the Clean Water State Revolving Fund well above the $2 billion goal set by the previous administration. In fact, we are increasing the goal for the fund to $2.8 billion and we are committing to sufficient funding to meet that new goal through the year 2011. This money also means the fund will continue to revolve at $2.8 billion for many years beyond 2011. This will allow us to continue to address the gap we estimate exists between current capital funding levels and future water infrastructure needs.

To better protect our land, the budget includes an additional $10 million for brownfields cleanups, raising the total to $210.7 million, the largest brownfields request ever. We also propose raising spending for Superfund clean-ups by $150 million. This will fund 10 - 15 additional Superfund construction projects in the coming year and will result in 10 additional construction completes in FY > 05 and > 06.

In addition, the President = s proposed budget includes a 7 percent increase in EPA = s operating programs B giving us the largest requested operating budget ever. We propose to increase spending on enforcing America = s environmental laws by nearly $21 million, raising the total to just over half-a-billion dollars. This additional spending request will allow us to strengthen our federal enforcement effort by 100 FTE.

And just as we are committed to enforcing the nation = s environmental laws, we are also committed to ensuring that the nation = s environmental policy is based on strong science. We are more than doubling proposed spending on our ground-breaking Computational Toxicology program B an effort to one day provide an alternative to animal testing.

We propose to nearly quadruple our investment in our Integrated Risk Information System, and provide an additional $3 million to support our efforts to more accurately assess the state of America = s environment.

We also seek to increase by a third support for our Science Advisory Board, so we can subject even more of our work to rigorous peer review. We also seek to improve the quality of our scientific workforce, by providing $5 million for the STAR Fellowship program to help attract America = s best scientists to the EPA.

Of course, EPA = s mission is not just to safeguard the environment, it = s also to safeguard human health - especially that of the most vulnerable among us, children and the elderly.

That is why we are proposing an increase of $1.2 million in scientific research into environmental threats to children = s health and why we are funding, for the first time, our new National Aging Initiative with a $1 million commitment.

To ensure the American people have full and easy access to environmental information, we are proposing a $30.8 million increase in our investment in EPA = s information office.

We hope to invest more than $202 million in information technology in FY > 04, furthering our commitment to e-government and to true transparency in what we are doing to protect our precious environment.

Once again, EPA = s budget request supports much more than the work this Agency does itself. A full 43 percent of our budget B or $3.29 billion B goes to our state and tribal partners in direct grants.

This budget recognizes the key role our partners play in helping meet America = s obligation as stewards of our natural environment. As I have said on many similar occasions in the past, I believe a budget is not just a spending plan, it is truly a policy document.

This proposed budget reflects our priorities for the Agency, our commitment to building strong partnerships, our belief in strong science, and our determination to leave America = s air cleaner, its water purer, and its land better protected than we found it. Now I would be happy to take your questions.