Senate EPW hearing, EPA budget

May 6, 2021

On April 28, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) held a hearing to discuss the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) discretionary funding request for Fiscal Year 2022. The discussion primarily focused on how the Agency will address water quality, contamination, and pollution issues within communities that already bear a disproportionate burden. Additionally, Committee Members raised questions about the intersection of the Agency’s priorities and Administration’s American Jobs Plan (AJP), the role of biofuels and the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), ways the Agency plans to address establishing Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) standards, regulating methane gas emissions and the steps the Agency is taking to reach President Biden’s climate goals.

Several Members asked what EPA is doing to meet the needs of low-income communities and communities of color that already bear a disproportionate burden and how EPA’s budget proposal will assist those efforts. EPA’s budget proposal includes grant applications, advanced monitoring for air and water quality, and additional funding to build up infrastructure to help uplift communities through equitable opportunities.

Members also highlighted the benefits of low carbon biofuels and their role in reducing greenhouse gasses. Sen. Ernst noted the lack of substantial inclusion or support in the $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill and the 2030 emissions target. EPA Administrator Michael Regan responded that the President has been clear that agriculture is at the table, and biofuels and voluntary ag practices have a role in reducing carbon emissions. Regan also summarized his conversations with Secretary Vilsack around the promising future uses of biofuels and the role of ethanol in moving the United States forward.

Another significant topic of discussion was the administration's plans to meet the ambitious climate goals laid out by President Biden. Several Members praised the ambitious climate goals, while Sen. Inhofe raised significant concern about the administration’s initiatives and their impact on jobs across the country. Inhofe expressed his confusion about why the administration would push an effort that would hurt so many American jobs and encourage American companies to move overseas. Regan explained that the initiatives would not only mitigate the impact on climate change but also be an opportunity to lead in technological advancement. Regan also stated that the AJP is not just trying to mitigate climate change using regulations, but also to work with the industry to create new technical jobs that mirror how the market is adapting as well as help reduce methane emissions.

Inhofe was also concerned about the cost of deploying these initiatives. Regan responded that EPA has developed a range in how the U.S. plays in the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) level and will use cost-benefit analysis to decide which programs would work best once the EPA’s budget is finalized.