WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday asked Congress for more money to regulate chemicals and also sought renewal of the Superfund tax, but House committee members voiced opposition.
EPA acting administrator Bob Perciasepe told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the agency needed $8.153bn (€6.359bn) to fund its operations for fiscal year (FY) 2014, including $686m to regulate chemicals in commerce.
Although EPA’s total spending for the current FY 2013 is not known, it spent $659m in FY 2012 to regulate chemicals in commerce. The agency’s new spending request represents a 4% increase from the FY 2012 level.
Perciasepe said that the requested $686m would “allow EPA to continue managing the potential risks of new chemicals entering commerce, without impacting progress in assessing and ensuring the safety of existing chemicals”.
He also said that EPA was again renewing its request for reinstatement of the so-called Superfund tax, saying that the special tax on industry was needed “to provide a stable, dedicated source of revenue” for the Superfund programme.
The Superfund law - the colloquial name for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 - was established to enforce contamination clean-up and remediation at waste dumps and other sites.
The clean-up costs for Superfund were to be borne by those most responsible for the pollution - or by taxpayers in instances where direct responsibility could not be established for a specific site.
A special corporate tax was established to generate additional revenue for the main taxpayer-sourced Superfund, but the Superfund tax was allowed to expire after 15 years at the end of 1995. EPA has been seeking restoration of the tax ever since but without success.
But Perciasepe’s funding appeal drew quick fire from members of the committee, with Representative Ed Whitfield (Republican-Kentucky) saying he was concerned both with the amount EPA was seeking and how the funds would be spent.
“The Obama administration’s EPA has demonstrated an ability to take each tax dollar given to it and return to the American people many more dollars in unnecessary regulatory costs,” he said.
Representative John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois) said that he didn’t think EPA’s operation of Superfund was cost-effective.
“After almost 33 years and more than 1,300 sites and billions of dollars spent, less than 37% of these sites have been completely cleaned up,” he said. “That is not acceptable.”
Shimkus, who chairs the committee’s subsidiary panel on the Environment and the Economy, said he would hold his own hearings on Superfund beginning Friday.
Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (Republican-Michigan) was sharply critical of EPA’s programmes and spending.
“The number and scope of EPA regulations is continuing to grow without precedent,” he said, charging that “The Obama administration is seeking to regulate where they failed to legislate - and they are doing so at a furious pace.”
Upton was referring to the Obama administration’s unsuccessful effort in 2010 to get a cap-and-trade climate change bill through Congress and subsequent moves by EPA to regulate US industrial emissions of carbon dioxide under existing law.
“According to our staff’s review, EPA issued more than 600 final rules in 2012, bringing the four-year total to more than 2,000,” he said.
“Even more striking than the number of new rules is their unaffordable cost,” Upton added.
He said that a study by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) found that “a disproportionate number of the federal government’s costliest regulations come from EPA.”
“Rules costing at least $1bn are no longer uncommon, and the nation’s struggling economy must absorb them,” he said.
The Energy and Commerce Committee’s consideration of EPA’s budget request is only one of several panels that have jurisdiction over the agency and its spending.
($1 = €0.78)
Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy