U.S. EPA will need increased funding for climate programs in future years as the agency moves forward on efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Administrator Lisa Jackson said yesterday.
"I would expect that the needs would continue to grow as we move into a world -- either through legislation, hopefully through legislation, but possibly also with regulation -- of increasing activity on climate change," Jackson told the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee.
President Obama's fiscal 2011 request would allot $56 million -- including $43 million in new funding -- for regulatory programs to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The climate funding was increased even as EPA's total budget was trimmed to $10 billion -- about $300 million lower than 2010 enacted levels.
The proposed increase in funding is aimed at aiding states as they begin to implement forthcoming greenhouse gas regulations and for EPA to develop new standards and pollution control guidance. EPA is expected to roll out its first greenhouse gas regulations next month for cars and light duty vehicles; those rules will also trigger stationary source regulations.
Despite the increased funding request, Jackson and other Obama administration officials continue to voice a preference for comprehensive energy and climate legislation over EPA regulation.
While Jackson predicted that EPA will need even more cash for climate programs, the top Republican on the House panel questioned the proposed spending levels.
"I agree with you, Administrator Jackson, that using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas is not the best way to address climate change," said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). "That is why I question whether the nearly $50 million in EPA's FY '11 budget for greenhouse gas regulation is prudent."
Simpson expressed concern that the rulemaking staff at EPA, buoyed by receiving the largest budget in history last year, "are sprinting like thoroughbreds out of the starting gate."
"Some people will say that these actions are long overdue," Simpson added, "but I can't help feeling wary about the rapid pace at which the EPA is implementing broad regulatory changes and the impact these changes are having on our struggling economy."
Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) applauded the administration's climate policies and the $43 million requested boost for greenhouse gas regulatory programs. "As you know, we in the House passed our version of a climate bill last June," Dicks said. "We recognize the need for action, I'm glad to see the administration does too."
Another Democrat, however, detailed concerns about inequalities that could arise for coal-dependent regions and other areas as EPA moves forward with regulations.
"While there are many of us who live in some of these areas who think that this is a problem that has to be addressed, the whole climate change problem ... we're also concerned that it be done in such a way that some regions of the country are not disadvantaged unfairly," said Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), who last year voted for the House climate bill.
That legislation attempted to address those inequalities, Chandler said, "But when the EPA goes about its business of regulating emissions, is there any thought being put into what happens to certain jurisdictions that burn coal, for instance?"
Jackson acknowledged that a climate bill would offer more flexibility than regulations. "Through legislation, there are many more opportunities to address geographic differences, industrial differences, international differences, as well as provide market incentives," she said.
But the Clean Air Act also provides opportunities to mitigate regional disparities, Jackson said. "There are certainly tools under the Clean Air Act," she said. "It is a powerful and effective tool for addressing air pollution and it has a proven history over many years."
Jackson also faced criticism for the Obama administration's proposal to slash funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to $300 million in fiscal 2011, a $175 million drop from 2010.
"You understand what concerns those of us in the Great Lakes," said Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio). "It looks like $175 million for something that is really needed has taken a walk."
That program -- aimed at cleaning up contaminated sediments and toxic chemicals and fending off invasive species -- still has money left over from this year, Jackson said.
"This one was one of management and of pragmatic ability to put the money on the street," she told the panel. By the time the money was authorized so EPA could solicit grant proposals for the $475 million, it was close to the end of calendar year 2009.
"The $300 million is simply a reflection -- for this year only -- that we have quite a chunk still to spend," Jackson said.