Three of President Obama's picks to serve in the top echelons of U.S. EPA pledged today to step up enforcement activities, clean up neglected Superfund sites and tackle global environmental problems.
The Obama administration's nominees to head EPA's offices of enforcement and compliance, toxic waste and emergency response, and international affairs faced scrutiny from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where they received support from both sides of the aisle.
If confirmed to lead EPA's enforcement office, Cynthia Giles said she was prepared to carry out Administrator Lisa Jackson's pledge that under the Obama EPA, "the environmental cop will be back on the beat."
"Especially now, the business community will be counting on EPA and the states to make sure there is a level playing field and that we are pragmatic and use common sense in achieving that goal," Giles told the committee.
Giles said that under her watch, EPA's enforcement office would help achieve Jackson's goals of slashing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, managing chemical risks, cleaning up hazardous waste and protecting water supplies.
Mathy Stanislaus, who was tapped to head the agency's solid waste and emergency response office, vowed to engage all stakeholders and increase transparency in federal efforts to clean up Superfund sites.
If confirmed, Stanislaus would face the challenge of cleaning up contaminated sites with increasingly tight budgets and a growing number of bankrupt companies that cannot pay for the cleanup. He also would likely have to decide whether to reinstate polluter fees that generate revenue for cleaning up toxic waste sites, and how to focus resources on communities that are disproportionally affected by contaminated lands (Greenwire, April 1).
"President Obama has included a Superfund tax in his budget, and I would support that," Stanislaus said when pressed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat who supports reviving the tax.
Michelle DePass, who was nominated to head EPA's international affairs office, highlighted the need for international cooperation on global warming and other environmental issues, stating that "pollution has no national boundaries."
Inhofe offers support
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the committee's top Republican, expressed concern that the Obama EPA is becoming "top heavy" with nominees from the East Coast. Giles comes from Rhode Island, while DePass and Stanislaus are from New York.
Couple them with Jackson, who hails from New Jersey, and Obama's air nominee from Connecticut "and you have an EPA team with little direct knowledge of the middle of the country," Inhofe said in a statement. "What is good for the East Coast is not necessarily good for the rest of the United States."
However, Inhofe said he expected to support all three nominations. Inhofe was satisfied with the nominees' answers regarding their commitment to focusing on rural areas, a spokesman for Inhofe said after the hearing.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the committee chairwoman, said she hoped to move the nominations very quickly through the panel.