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tv   EPA Administrator Testifies on Agencys Mission COVID-19 Role  CSPAN  May 20, 2020 9:00pm-11:20pm EDT

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ves of our nation's chief executive and leadership styles. visit our website, presidents and order your copy today. wherever books and e-books are sold. the head of the environmental protection agency andrew wheeler was on capitol hill to testify role in the coronavirus response and other priorities. this senate hearing is almost two and a half hours. >> good morning. i called his hearing to order. i would like to welcome the administrator of the epa, andrew
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wheeler interested committee today. today's hearing is the opportunity to hear about their good work and a chance for committee members to ask questions. the environmental protection agency is test with detecting the air we breathe, the water reaching and the communities where our family live. during the covid-19 pandemic the agency has worked hard to provide the public with updated information on which disincentive -- disinfectants can be safely used to kill the virus. in addition, the epa has made grant funding available to the states and the tribes to help low income and minority communities address coronavirus. a has provided thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment to aid health professionals during the pandemic. a issued guidance to states and businesses on how it will enforce environmental laws
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when social distancing affects activities. looking forward to hearing more about the agency's work during today's hearing. in addition to its work on the virus the agency has pursued policies to protect the environment while supporting the economy. epa has replaced regulations industryed the coal and farmers and ranchers and many small businesses in wyoming. the 2017 the department of asked manufacturers which agency generated the greatest regulatory burdens. the answer was clear -- it was the epa. at the top of the list with the clean air act rules. this year the trump administration replace the obama administration's illegal water of the u.s. rule. and potholess would have fallen over washington's control. the replacement waters of the u.s. rule, known as the navigable waters protection is supported by states and farmers and ranchers and small businesses. finalize the epa
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clean energy roles with common sense replacement to the overreaching clean power plan. the new rule follows the law and will enable the u.s. to continue to lower emissions. under the current administration, epa has saved $5 billion in regulatory costs. last year alone it saved americans an estimated $1.5 billion. in the challenging economic reducing regulatory burdens to reinvigorate our economy has never been more important. hashe same time epa refocused its mission on the basics of environmental protection and lower pollution levels. this work protects our nations air, land and water. financing allowed billions of dollars of upgrades to our aging water infrastructure to move forward. these investments ensure americans have clean water, for
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drinking and recreation. over the past three years, epa it has helped finance $8 billion worth of infrastructure projects under the water infrastructure and an innovation act. in his written testimony, administrator we were estimates these projects can create 16,000 jobs. pa has also made progress in cleaning up some of the nations most contaminated sites. last year it completed its work on all or part of 27 superfund sites on the national priorities list. it is the most since 2007. its brownfield land revitalization program, the agency is focused on cleaning up communities,essed particularly those located in opportunity zones. the tax cuts and jobs act created opportunity for zones as a way to spurt economic development in the communities that need it the most. the epa is taking actions to carry out it russian -- its
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mission while supporting economic growth. we can and we must do both. i would like to turn to ranking manner -- member carper for his opening statement. carper: thank you very much, mr. chairman. i would like to begin my remarks this morning by welcoming wheeler.atior us.s 100 yards away from i think i recognize them by the full head of hair. welcome. thank you for joining us today. are not just sobering times. for a lot of americans they are scary times. their time ise -- largely devoid of hope. i was asked earlier this week
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what provides me with inspiration in times like these and i responded without hesitation, it is the selfless service of extraordinary people. the selfless service of extraordinary people. people we oftentimes think of his ordinary folks, but who become extraordinary. i want to start off, mr. chairman, talk a little bit about some of them. thus far 14 capitol police officers have tested positive for covid-19. some members of congress and their families and staff have as well. these beautiful buildings on capitol hill were open this morning by people who serve our country by keeping us safe. by keeping the lights on. occupyg the offices we in making the food and working behind the scenes to make events like this hearing possible. none of these unseen public service are guaranteed to work in a study room like the one allows all of us
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to remain several feet apartment with the fan -- face masks and hand sanitizer at the ready. many of these public hearings -- many of these public servants have young children. they have no option for day care. few if any have the option to telework. staff andre here, the the house building is open, operating and safe. they serve our country each in their own way just as we do. and they deserve the gratitude and our gratitude and our protection in turn. 00 senatorsf all 1 are want to start off this morning with a sincere and heartfelt thank you from all of us. thank you. now turning to today's hearing let me welcome andrew wheeler. welcomed you before this committee, we were in the midst of a government shutdown.
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aday we are in the midst of pandemic on mike anything we have seen in 100 years. during normal times, we would be holding a budget hearing months ago after the proposed budget was released. for those who may not recall the proposed federal budget for fiscal 2021 cut the budget by 25%. reduction of $2.5 billion from last year's appropriation. funding epa at that level would severely hamper programs that are important protect water, quality and drinking water. programs that are intended during the pandemic to ensure people have clean water to wash their hands with and properly sanitize. and at a time when this pandemic is costing tens of million people their jobs, that budget will leave epa with the smallest workforce in 30 years while funding the agency in real
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dollars not seen since the 1980's. while epa is not on the front lines of responded to the pandemic, the agency has a vital role to play. it requires funding that is commensurate with that role. charged with evaluating disinfectants used keep us safe. it is charged with undertaking environmental research that can help us better understand away this disease and others like it or impacted by weather and climate and pollution. perhaps most important, the agency is charged with protecting everyone in this country from drinking unsafe water and breathing unsafe air. mission,omes to that regrettablytoo often the agency has done the opposite of what it should have been doing during this pandemic. earlier today i released a report entitled the pandemic of pollution -- i asking animus consent to submit it. >> without objection. senator carper: this report paints a grim picture.
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it describes the clear links that have been found between climate change and the likelihood of future pandemics. it also describes the clear evidence that other coronaviruses were more likely to cause the death than those who are exposed to pollution. this report also documents some of the emergency sites of governance that covid-19 is more likely to kill people whose conditions are worsened by breathing more heavily polluted air. we already know that lower income and minority communities will face more air and water pollution than others. suffering the most covid-19 -- from covid-19. in this national capital, the american, african americans account for 80% of covid-19 related deaths. while making up less than half the population. despite this, epa has not spent standing up and
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aggressive research program to stand up the connections -- to better understand the connection between the pandemic and pollution. instead, epa has spent much of this year proposing and finalizing rules a lot of us believe will cause more pollution in the future. let me just provide a couple of examples. analysis shows that its rollback of the clean car rolled will kill more people prematurely because of air pollution than the number of people whose lives the rule purports to save. in fact, the environmental defense fund estimates there would be 18,000 premature deaths caused by this rollback alone. that is more than half the people who live in dover, delaware, the capital of my state. here is another example. the elimination of the legal underpinnings of the merger --
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air toxics standard could result in thousands of additional premature deaths. according to epa scientific advisory committee, the agency has disbanded, the failure to strengthen its standards for particulate matter to kill 12,500 people prematurely every year. injury, epa iso using the covid-19 pandemic now to justify its proposal to allow the continued sale of antiquated woodstoves. why is that important in thisal woodstoves countryemit five times more -- e mit five-time more pollution and cement manufacturers paper plants combined. five times more. think about that. the new report i just released today and as to be entered for the record found that the
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rollbacks the epa has taken since march 1 could kill literally tens of thousands of people prematurely. these rollbacks are in fact the pandemic of pollution, rather attack -- it is contributing to wait in the middle of a pandemic. heaven help us. last night, the epa issued a press release in response to the report that i have been talking about calling it "misleading", and political propaganda. in that release it failed to provide a single mention of air pollution. it did not even attempt to address only but my reports conclusion that the dangerous air pollution rollbacks epa has pursued in the past two months will kill thousands of people. link betweential air pollution and covid-19 could
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make our ongoing battle against the pandemic all the more difficult and more deadly. with thousands of people he could make this reality more tragic. it is not about politics. it is about people. epa owes the american people some answers. i hope you get those this morning. thank you all very much. >> thank you, senator carper. the minority paper released erday is based on a non- pe review harvard study connecting covid-19 to particulate matter. the wall street journal observed that "the study is riddled with flaws and its epidemiologists quoted stated when we look closely at the research, we saw so many shortcomings that we were not convinced of the results." i ask unanimous consent to enter this editorial into the record. we will now hear from our witness, the honorable andrew
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wheeler, administrator of the environmental protection agency. your full written testimony will be made part of the official hearing record. please try to give your comments to five minutes so we will have plenty of time for questions. we look forward to the testimony. i appreciate the opportunity to submit the statement regarding the epa's proposed fiscal year 2021 budget request which supports the goals and objectives of the epa's five-year plan. the year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the epa. made remarkable strides over that time ensuring a clean environment for all of our citizens. the epa approves the
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disinfectants americans used to safeguard their families, homes and businesses. the agency started on march 5 with 60 approved disinfectants against covid-19. at this time, we have approved to the hard due work of career sciences. epa requested that governors consider all wastewater workers as essential workers when enacting restrictions to curb covid-19. we have also started a number of research activities related to covid-19. t. the amazing work of our i. office we doubled our capacity to telework within one week by increasing our capacity to 17,500 lines. accomplishments will be considered impressive even under normal circumstances. since the middle of march, epa has published its final safe."'s rule. -- proposed our
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retaining the current obama mask standard for particular matter. waters u.s. replacement rule, sent a cost-benefit rule for review. in order grants to 150 communities across the country. order $20 million to the great lakes and sent $1 million in environmental the justice communities address covid-19 concerns for low income and minority communities. we have also not do this to tour our efforts to hire. we added 335 new employees and added by theill be end of june. our mission is protect human health and the environment is critical and needs to be forward regardless of circumstances. epa employees have risen to the task of carrying out their duties during this challenging time and i applaud all of them. our budget requests includes over $1 billion to the superfund account to continue progress to
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revitalize lands. epa in the last fiscal year played our -- up 27 superfund sites which is the largest number of deletions and a single year since 2001. under president trump, the epa deregulatory actions saving american $77 billion in costs. i want to be clear that we are not achieving this at the expense of environmental laws enacted by congress. some of this important work is modernizing decades of old regulations and bringing them up to date. thes worth remembering 1970's, more than 40% of our nation's drinking water systems failed to meet the most basic health standards. meet allr 93% standards all the time. our air today and 74% cleaner than it was in 1970 with all six criteria air pollutants having
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decreased during this administration. our nation's children are vulnerable to the health impacts of unsafe drinking water. especially lead exposure. the epa is coordinating with federal partners to reduce children's exposure to lead to them lead exposure reduction initiative included in this budget request. an additional $45 million will help decrease lead exposure on multiple fronts. includest request also new resources for epa to mass actione chief plan, the first multi-program national research and risk communication plan to address an emerging class of chemicals of concern. never been done in our 50 year history. the budget continues with the loan support which is producing results for the american people. loans in total over $4.2 billion of help finance $8 billion for
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water infrastructure projects creating 16,000 jobs. continues to meet the major deadlines of the new cost -- and is working its way to the final risk evaluation for the first 10 last december we identified the next 20 high priority chemicals. as we approach the 50th anniversary in december we can say that americans now have significantly cleaner air, land, and water than in the past. the trump administration is proving that environmental protection and economic health can go hand in hand. this message of hope for our environment today and in the future is as important as ever during this challenging time. of the example epa career employees and managers upset in the past several months. and he comforted with the fact that great progress in human and environmental health is being shared with all americans everywhere regardless of where they live. thank you. >> thank you so very much for
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your testimony. since we have members are here, in the room and members who are watching from their offices and participating that way. the ranking member and i agreed to allow members a better sense of when they will be able to ask a question that we dispense with the earlybird rule. it will go by seniority on the committee today. remember people watching from your offices. let me start with a question. so much ofto apply the work the epa has done during your 10 year. withstill deeply troubled the record of the epa on the renewable fuel standard, especially in regard to small refineries. epa's failure to challenge the standing claims of the biofuel producers in the 10th circuit is inexcusable. the epa's failure to seek a hearing on the recent 10th circuit ruling was inexplicable. unless the epa identifies ways to provide similar levels of relief to small refineries, the
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consequences of the decisions made by the epa are going to be devastating for communities and .yoming and elsewhere what steps it are taking to help small refineries in light of the 10th circuit's ruling and will you ensure that the epa gives any petitions for hardship relief in prior years prompt consideration? >> the last part of your question on request for waivers when and ass years, we receive any requests for prior-year waivers we will be sending those straight to the part apartment of energy for review. -- to the department of energy for review. energy the department of that they supply to us the information as far as whether or not there is an economic hardship or waiver. as soon as her receive any request from small refineries for prior years, we will report those two doe.
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i have talked personally with a number of small refineries including every small refinery in wyoming. we are working with them to see what we can do to help them during this time. this was a double hit to the program, not just with the 10th theuit decision but also decrease in vehicle miles traveled by americans. we have extraordinary circumstances this year. and we are looking to see what relief we can provide everyone. the ethanol industry is hurting as well. the small refineries because of the 10th circuit decision and because of the amount of gasoline that is currently being sold and used is a hardship. will you ensure the epa will probably be considered petitions which it wrongfully denied prior to the sinclair decision? >> are you referring to the years?s
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as soon as we get that information back from department of energy, the first step is for the department of energy to look at the application and make determinations as far as whether or not there are economic hardships. >> i will turn to another topic. the state of wyoming issued temporary guidance to address challenges posed by the coronavirus. the epa provided important direction to states and businesses during an unprecedented time of social distancing. aboutu talk a little bit the objectives of the enforcement and compliance program guidance? >> absolutely. not only wyoming but every single state represented by this committee except for delaware is issued enforcement discretion policies since march. every state on this committee except delaware. this is normal. discretion, the policy we issued is much more mild than any we have done in the past. for example, during the obama administration with hurricane tody, they allow facilities
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increase their emissions without checking with epa first in the state impacted. the covid-19 impacts all 50 states. to increaseowed their emissions. zero. nobody is allowed to increase their emissions under our enforcement. it only refers to routine monitoring and routine bookkeeping reports they have to file with the agency. >> i want to talk about carbon capture. and utilization and sequestration. it came up yesterday in our discussions with the president. of supporter earlier this year, the epa started a rulemaking to give wyoming the authority to issue , whens on carbon dioxide it is injected underground. wyoming has the expertise to issue permits. the wyoming integrated test center for carbon utilization is located next to -- the station outside of gillette. proposal us the epa's
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would provide much-needed certainty for -- to wyoming for projects. there is bipartisan support on this committee for carbon capture utilization sequestration. will you commit to prioritizing this rulemaking and other actions that support the development of carbon capture projects? on april 1 we propose to grant wyoming the permit for six wells. leaderships women's and protecting their natural resources and environment and we encourage other states to follow their example to implement and enforce this important program under the safe drinking water act. thank you. >> senator carper. >> mr. chairman, colleagues, delaware is right in the middle of a lot of busy corridor in the northeast. a lot of people live in the northeast. there's a lot of traffic in the northeast. i-95, 295.
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and a lot comes right through my state. 80% of the pollution, particularly northern delaware, comes from sources outside of our state. generated by sources outside of our state. we have the fortunate of being downwind from a lot of the pollution that comes to delaware. it keeps us out of compliance with some of the area pollution, clean air requirements, that others are able to meet because they live in places like wyoming and oklahoma where they don't have all those millions of cars and trucks and advance coming through there every month. there happens to be a couple of coal fired plants. three in pennsylvania. one in west virginia. that spew pollution into the air that, guess where it blows,? it blows in my state. helps keeps us out of compliance with clean air requirements. we have gone to court. we've asked the courts to say
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basically these four polluting plants, you can't turn off -- you cannot turn off your pollution prevention, your pollution controls. and the courts have basically ruled and said, d.c. circuit court of appeals ruled this week and said they have to keep their pollution control equipment operating so states like mine don't drown in pollution from other places. now, e.p.a. can appeal that decision if they choose to. administrator wheeler, i ask you not appeal that decision. circuit court has appealed. if there's ever a true example of the golden rule, treating other people the way you want to be treated, i think this is it. i want to have your assurances you won't repeal the d.c. circuit court of appeals? administrator wheeler: i want to reserve judgment until the mr. wheeler: i am supposed to
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have a briefing later this afternoon. i didn't want to reserve judgment until the office of the general counsel -- sen. carper: we look forward to hearing from you further. research shows people exposed to more air pollution may have greater cup of 19 risk light -- like we saw with the sars virus. covid-19 is having a more serious impact on lower income and minority communities, which often experience more air and water pollution. while epa used congress -- funding provided in the cares act to study whether covid-19 can be detected in wastewater, it is clear that there is much to be learned about the disease and its impact on americans. will you commit to reallocate unused epa funds to study whether exposure to air pollution causes people with covid-19 to have worse outcomes or more difficult recoveries, or to be more susceptible to other
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diseases once they have recovered? could you commit to doing that please? mr. wheeler: we are looking at those research areas. a lot of other people are researching that. you have the harvard study, although that hasn't -- has a number of problems, the other study in your staff report you issued -- sen. carper: i'm sorry, we have five minutes. we have votes in 30 minutes. i will ask you to answer my question for the record. add all thek, to studies, some of which, most of which have been peer-reviewed, that my staff report referenced in for the record. if i could ask for consent. >> without objection. sen. carper: my last question, given our time constraints, we know covid-19 is going to be with us for many months, probably for years. developmentsine
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are successful. you observed the early studies linking air pollution and covid-19 have not been peer-reviewed. the centers for disease control says people with diabetes and heart disease may be at higher risk for serious illness from covid-19. these yes or no questions if we could. the first one, do you agree epa's own work has demonstrated there is a clear link between exposure to air pollution and higher incidence of diabetes and heart disease? you agree with that you can mr. wheeler: i believe that is true. then irper: another one, am done. yes or no, if the link between exposure to pollution and the covid risk is further established ieepa or other peer-reviewed research, will you commit to ensuring that these health effects and risks are factored into all of the andcy's future rulemaking
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its environmental justice efforts? mr. wheeler: we factor this into all of our rulemaking already and we factor that into our environmental justice programs. it was actually out of date so we are not sure the validity of that as far as covid is concerned. sen. carper: if the link is established, will you facture it into future rules and epa activities or not? will you stop writing rules that make things worse, not better? mr. wheeler: all of our rules make things better, sir. chairman, mymr. other unanimous or -- consent request. >> i would point out only a few weeks after releasing their research, the authors of the harvard study have already had to revise their findings instead ,f focusing on unproven studies
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i recommend we rely on what the cdc tells us, that proximity matters. we should evaluate how public transit has contributed to the spread, as the new york times reported. the times says coronavirus drained the subway of more than 90% of its riders, killed nearly 100 workers and second thousands more. i ask unanimous consent to enter this into the record. senator inhofe? : thank you. i think that was one of the best opening statements i have heard. i told the administrator, we really need to hear the truth. we need to get into the record. i have to share something with my fellow senators. andrew, were confirmed, i remembered there was a very large meeting of all the employees, i think it was all the employees were invited.
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you didn't even know it but i was there. ofanted to see the reaction these people, to see the ones who realized that here is andrew wheeler, some of them may disagree with your philosophy in different areas but no one would say that you are not the most knowledgeable person, there is no one who is more knowledgeable than you who has ever crossed into that administrators position. i watched the expression on the faces, and what you would see there is, in their own way of saying, there is room at the top . you started your career with the epa and you have taken every ,osition and you have exceeded you have come to the top. that was a very heartwarming thing, not just because you worked for me for 14 years but knew that there
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is in fact room at the top. then, we, in your statement i thought you did a good job foring what we have done the environment, for the quality of life. for people to try to say that that is not the case, they don't have the facts. we just look and we see what happened since. i think they are covered very well by the chairman. , all pollutants have decreased, i often talked about, in the year 2017 in this administration, the united states led the world in co2 emission reductions. what you have done is incredible. i am very proud of you. you have had a lot of help. i think your first top person rj and we don't need to talk
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about him anymore because he is not there but you do have someone else in mandy, and i can tell you, you didn't do all this stuff alone. you had a lot of help. she was a skilled attorney, she was very active in the previous administration, and i am real proud. i see she is here so i want to say to you, mandy, you are doing a great job and what a great team we are looking at and we are proud of you. was going to bring up. one has been brought up effectively by the chairman and that is to -- the 10th circuit and what happened to small refiners. this is a major concern i have in my state of oklahoma. .t has been a serious problem what hasn't been mentioned is the whole industry is undergoing that are unprecedented. we do know right now saudi
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arabia and russia are trying to put us out of that business very clearly. to go asen suggested far as tariffs, talking to the secretary of commerce, and something like that needs to be done. when you talk about the refiners and the problems they are having, i think you have answered the question very well that our chairman asked about that. i appreciate the fact that you did it very athletic -- effectively. report we have heard over and over again. but i would like to do in keeping with the time, nothing has been said so far about the disastrous obama era fuel economy standards. we all knew what was happening at that time. i would like to have you look at the safe vehicle rule, specifically addressing the rule
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, in terms ofhoice vehicle price tags, in terms of passenger safety in the remaining time. would you do that you -- would you do that? mr. wheeler: there is a lot of misinformation out there. our safe rule will save more lives than not. that has been shown in our analysis. it will also help reduce automobiles americans want to purchase. one problem we have seen is the average age of cars on the road is increasing. it used to be eight-year-old cars on the road, today it is 12 euros cars on the road. older cars are less safe and worse for the environment. we have proposed increases each year, 1.5% better fuel efficiency. the obama administration had a higher percentage but companies were not complying. they were unable. in 2016, only four companies
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were able to comply. in 2017, only three. those fees and penalties reached $1 billion. that would have been passed on to the consumer in higher prices of cars. our regulation will save lives, it will reduce co2 over the long-term and it will allow detroit and the other automobile companies around the world to produced trump -- cars americans want to purchase. sen. barrasso: thank you. sen. cardin: thank you for your service. sorry i can't be there in person. disagree with my friend in regards to standards. [indiscernible] get american to
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[indiscernible] i am disappointed by [indiscernible] i will use my time first [indiscernible] a higher level than [indiscernible] the federal chair [indiscernible] does not set the rules. [indiscernible] suremed at making
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[indiscernible] the same thing you can do at times they are able to do. can you assure me that the aps will make sure [indiscernible] what is your position on this year -- on this? mr. wheeler: there has been lots of misinformation out there.
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lots of misinformation over the last few months. we are working with all the states to make sure they are implementing their 2025 targets under the tm dls. the obama administration argued that that is not legally enforceable. that doesn't mean we don't work with the states to make sure they are meeting their obligations. as of the phase three whips filed last year and reviewed, five states are not, currently not shown to meet their obligations by 2025. pennsylvania and new york are two of them but also maryland is in that set to meet their obligations by 2025. we are working with all the states to make sure they meet their obligations by 2025. we just announced on the new funding we received from congress, we announced this week $6 million of the $12 million is going to go to nitrogen reductions in the targeted
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states, a large percentage of that will go to pennsylvania because they have one of the largest problems. we are trying to use the funds to address the biggest problems where they are occurring. that very surprised to see based on the foundation and the attorney general for maryland and virginia they announced they will sue the epa over this. my epa staff has put in 22,000 hours of technical assistance to the states in order to help them comply. if i have to pull people off providing technical assistance to file a lawsuit it will hurt. >> [indiscernible]
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mr. wheeler: as the obama administration argued, this is not legally enforceable but we can use our permit authorities and we will continue to do so. the m pds will make sure the states are going to make -- going to achieve their targets for 2025. we are doing that across the board. we will continue to do so. the comments that spurred this was back at a january meeting with one of my career managers at a public meeting were his comments were taken out of context, which was directly on the tn dl this year. that doesn't mean we don't have other authorities. we continue to use those through the permitting process but hasn, first of all, nobody failed to meet their obligations and they won't until 2025 so
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these are premature at best. pull staff off providing technical assistance to the base states in order to answer these frivolous lawsuits. that will detract from getting our work done. >> [indiscernible] mr. wheeler: we are working with the maryland department. they are behind as well. they have five permits they were supposed issue in 2018. those have not been issued. we are working with them. i hope the maryland ag will
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decide to work with the department of environmental quality instead of pursuing frivolous lawsuits. thank you,so: senator. being here today and your testimony. i would like to say i would appreciate a year ago we were down in west virginia looking at a site and i know you have continued to do soil samples. i understand it has been put on hold because of the covid-19 response. can you give me a quick update on that and where you are? >> we are continuing to work on all of our sites around the country. there is some sampling we cannot do right now. as far as having employees in the field. that does not mean we are not cleaning up the sites. i fully intend to visit the community again. it is a community that was
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forgotten for years. it is forgotten no more. >> i appreciate that. i know that will be welcomed to the folks in mandan. as something i am very interested in, you and i have talked about a lot over the last several years. i am pleased the epa has moved forward on the language that senator carter and i worked on with senator gillibrand. chemicals tilde ties release inventory, so thank you for that. that is a major development providing more information for individuals and folks in those communities. looking forward, what can we expect for a finalization? as you know, we passed out of this committee a drinking water infrastructure act. and asked that that standard be
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set within a year. could you meet that deadline and where are you on this critical issue? >> we continue to work through the process as laid out for the safe drinking water act. i may -- i believe that was published in february. to comment on that, we are moving forward. as far as meeting a one-year deadline, i do not believe the agency can set an mcl on their own following the drinking water act within a year. we are working through the issues. it is important to work through those issues. the main point i went to size, while we are doing this, and the determination we made or proposed, we are continuing to enforce cleanups around the country. ofhave enforced 12 cleanups contaminated communities around the country and have assisted states and local governments with another two dozen. going the problem, we are
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after it aggressively to make sure everyone has safe working water. >> this is a source of concern for many of us. certainly those around military bases. we worked with the dod on this. i want to tell you to expect from me a very aggressive posture on this because i am passionate about this particular issue and it comes to safe drinking water. i encourage the epa to be as quick and thorough as possible on this area. the last thing i want to ask you about -- i would like to ask you two more things. one of them is over the weekend, the epa allowed the sellthrough of manufactured wood heaters compliant with step one. we have had that discussion. we cannot get the bill passed through this committee. many people have the wood heaters and they would like to sell out their inventory before they have to meet the new standard. offered anper
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amendment to allow a year for this. i understand you are catching some criticism from others on this. what is the status of this? how do you think this is going to be impacted? >> senator carper referred to it as antiquated wood heaters. it is important to remember the wood heaters meet the obama 2015 standards. we are not talking about standards that are 20 or 30 years old. the standards before 2015 were 1988 the wood heaters. -- were 1988. these wood heaters meet the 2015 obama standards. the reason we increased this even though we decided last year not to was after talking to a number of people and the wood heating industry and i think it is 80 or 90% or small businesses -- they sell off their inventory and the marks -- in the march to may timeframe at the end of the winter season around the country. with the closure of all the
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stores across the country, they were unable to sell the inventory. under their contracts, they have to buy back the wood heaters still on the shelves of your home depot or lowes department stores. they have to buy back the older inventory on those shelves. that could have easily bankrupt a number of small manufacturers. toextended the sellthrough november. they can sell those at the beginning of the winter season this coming fall and try to get rid of that inventory before they start selling the 2020 heaters. >> i appreciate the distinction that these are meeting the 2015 standard. i think that is an important distinction to make. in the current environment we are in, when we are looking to protect small businesses at a lot of these wood heaters are sold at our locally owned small businesses in certain areas of the country where people really enjoy and use this not just for fundamental heating but for
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second-home type things on the cabinsand in the hunting all across the state of west virginia. i appreciate you looking out for the small business interests. we have been trying to do that here during this covid crisis. i am fully supportive of what you have done. if that gets the desired result, that sounds good to me. i'm going to ask a question on the eighth rule, but i have when out of time. >> senator whitehouse. senator whitehouse: let me start that chairman cole purchased -- [indiscernible] the chairman -- [indiscernible]
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[indiscernible] particularly the role of -- [indiscernible] under your watch, -- [indiscernible] senator, i did not catch everything you said at the beginning. as far as your questions on the standards, i did not meet with
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or discuss with marathon oil company or any oil company on our cafe standards. them.not discuss with and my hearing last year, senator markey told me the oil industry was supportive. this is not something -- we are working this out. we spent a number of years going over the technical data behind this. this was not done on behalf of any oil company at all. staff --pa [indiscernible] not that i am aware of. i certainly never discussed that with any of my staff. of.that i am aware i certainly did not myself. [indiscernible]
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well, again, i get confused between marathon oil and marathon petroleum shared i know one of the lobbyists because used to work at my law firm and i was refused for meeting with him. somew some of the names of of the people who represent both companies. >> [indiscernible] >> it might be, but i did not meet with him. i kept track of who is working with which country. --are you aware [indiscernible] >> certainly. >> are you aware of any contact -- [indiscernible]
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no, i would not have knowledge of that. no. of the epa ande the department of justice -- [indiscernible] >> not that i'm aware of. no. [indiscernible] >> i am sorry. you cut off on that kid another -- you cut off on that. another question a marathon petroleum. >> [indiscernible] >> i am not aware. i would prefer to respond on the record because i am not sure i am catching your entire question. >> [indiscernible] >> again, i am sorry. i'm having a hard time hearing you. i would be happy to respond on
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the record to questions about marathon petroleum care i have not met with any oil company to talk about the standard since i have been at the agency. i did not have any conversations with any of my staff about the standards. >> you are not in contact with them? >> no. i can hear you now. no, i am not. that is it for now . >> i do want to follow up with you. my meetings in brazil were very fruitful. i look forward to having further discussions with you about that. we are making a lot of progress on trying to clean up the plastic debris and the oceans. >> this is the area where you
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and i agree. i'm going to make a comment. theepa decision to change greenhouse standards was said by a prior administration. it was warranted. 2017, the alliance of automobile manufacturers sent a letter to the agency. the letter said if left unchanged, though standards could cause up to 1.1 million americans to lose their jobs due to vehicle sales and low income households would be hit the hardest. enter this into the record. who is next on here? senator cramer. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, administrator wheeler for being here.
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your opening statement was fantastic. i cannot wait to post it because a lot of people would do well to listen to that five minutes of accomplishments of this administration under your leadership at the epa. i am not certain about the 500 or so people you are going to hire. i will look into that. i will give you the benefit of the doubt they are important. and necessary thank you for being here -- important and necessary. thank you for being here. such an important move. the previous administration's rule was burdensome and illegal as were previous attempts. the fact you guys finished off one that actually listened to states, listened to landowners waters in an appropriate way while also protecting rights of states and landowners was really important.
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i thank you for coming to north dakota and meeting a number of them at my roundtable. i want to shift gears and get to your insights on the regional program. this is an issue very important to north dakota. i brought this issue up with mr. bennet vento as well at his hearing. as you know, we are a major energy producing state that includes coal, oil, gas, wind. we have lots of wind as well. the last administration wanted to keep driving admissions down -- driving emissions down without stopping to think what the program is about. that is visibility improvement. visibility improvement. the cost of compliance can actually cause plant staff to be shut down. which seems like an awfully steep price to pay for visual improvements that are literally
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unnoticeable to the naked human eye. north dakota is already a national leader in air quality. we are one of few states who meet all of the ambient air quality standards prescribed by the epa. the previous administration was not about visibility standards. . it was about using every tool they could to get after things both -- certainly on the clean water act also the clean air act. utilize regional haze to accomplish those goals. last year, the epa released final guidance outlining the flexibility that states once again recognizing states have to comply with the program under the clean air act. i have a few questions. ae, regional haze could be reason for plant closures. or any ofwas congress
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the administration's goal to put producers out of business? >> i do not. i think there is a difference between the health-based standards versus the visibility aesthetic standard. >> would you agree that the regional haze program drives states toward a goal but does not dictate how states would achieve reasonable progress toward that goal with their state implementation plan? >> the problem we have right now and we have been trying to correct is the obama administration issued federal implementation plans. on the regional haze side, we have changed 15 of those into years,er the last three which is working more cooperatively with the states instead of directing from washington, d.c. >> states do have a lot of flexibility in how they show that progress and they can do that through their sips as opposed to complying with the fip.
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any examples of states flexibility? oh, i would rather get a specific list to you. >> that is fine. moving forward, i want to encourage you and the regional administrator to continue the constructive conversations with ned -- with the north dakota department of environment will quality as they develop their state implantation plan. it is one more great example of how cooperative federalism can work and has as you have stated many times. the goal of being better for the environment and better for the economy. appreciate that. i will follow up with a question on the record relating to section 41, abuses of places and washington state and what the epa is doing
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to ensure the efforts of abuses do not happen. thank you for being here. >> senator merkley. >we will go to senator booker. last try here. senator van hollen. ok. senator booker. trouble. you, mr.ooker: thank chairman. thank you for being here. thank you thousand 15, the grassroots world --
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was passed and signed into law on may 6 of this year. ,he committee passed a bill drinking water infrastructure act, which would reauthorize the grassroots rule and community water systems act. letterreviously sent a two years ago regarding concerns about the technical assistance thing funded by epa. that letter, i mentioned epa was awarding grants to organizations not located near the community seeking help, which resulted in remote assistance. remote assistance i am hearing from out there in my state is simply not adequate. do you agree this remote
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assistance is not desirable? it is not optimal, and when you commit to ensuring rural and small communities receive the necessary on-site technical assistance that they require? >> we certainly strive to provide the best technical sense is we can. on-site is preferable. i would have to check the funding as to what our capabilities are. we try to provide assistance to small water systems as much as we can. is thenderstanding program received $50 million, an increase of $2.7 million from the amount appropriated in fy 2019. work with us on that. next, mr. administrator. the 2018 america's water afrastructure act included
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piece of legislation i authored entitled small rural community technical assistance to small and rural publicly owned treatment works. -- congress appropriated 12.3 million but epa has not yet to request applications for this funding. when does epa expect to move forward with him lamenting this legislation -- with implementing this legislation so our world treatment works can receive the technical assistance they need and in particular, the issuance of applications with this funding? >> we are working on that as we speak. i believe that was funding we received for 2020. we are working to get that program up and running. >> get back to us on that. eagerness for action
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there. when congress passed the clean water act, it made it clear that groundwater should not be subject to federal permitting requirements. as a result, states have traditionally taken the lead on regulating groundwater. the supreme court recently ofued a ruling in the county hawaii wildlife fund that could change this. the epa considers implementation of the supreme court ruling. ensure the traditional role of state be preserved in regulating groundwater? >> we are still reviewing the decision from the maui case, trying to determine whether we need to reissue new guidance. we have not reached any conclusions on the best way of
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implanting the malley decision at this point. >> what is your initial impression? hesitant to say anything critical of the courts. -- they have provided a new balancing test in the decision that is going to be a little difficult. we are hoping for more clear-cut direction. we are reviewing the decision to see what flexibilities we have two make sure the program can operate. ask, on thejust consolidated appropriation act of 2020, there is a provision directing your agency to establish clear policies that reflect the carbon neutrality of biomass. it is important epa published a to ensurehis year
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u.s. manufacturing can compete globally. what is the timeline for proposing and finalizing a rule recognizing the carbon neutrality of biomass? >> our proposed rule is going through interagency review. we hope to publish the proposal in june. >> ok. thank you and i yield back. >> senator merkley. >> can you hear me ok? >> loud and clear. senator merkley: i wanted to --rt with the expiration [indiscernible] the key -- [indiscernible]
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in order to -- [indiscernible] whether or not the effort is reflecting -- [indiscernible] proceeded to exclude -- [indiscernible] [indiscernible]
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[indiscernible] >> senator, thank you. our deadline for the first 10
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risk evaluations is june 22. i do not know if this will make you feel better or not, but we probably will not need that deadline. we are spending more time the first 10. we went to make sure we get them right. the peer reviewer's have taken longer than we anticipated. the interagency process has taken longer than we anticipated. we are on track to have at least two of the first 10 done and their mentor by the end of the summer. we are spending more time on them because we want to make sure we get them correct. we want to make sure we have the full advice of the peer review process. we are taking more time on the peer review process and the first 10 chemicals. on asbestos in ticketleap shared we are going -- in particular. we are going to do a supplemental evaluation on the legacy use. for the other uses, we can
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finalize that the summer. the legacy use is going to take longer. that court decision just came down last year. we will not be able to complete the legacy risk evaluation in time for the rest of the evaluation for asbestos this summer. we will be looking at the broader asbestos issues as part of the risk assessment. commit --ey: will you [indiscernible] >> i believe we have that rural. under our new use if that is not the case, i will get back to you on that and provide an answer to you. it is my understanding we are addressing that in our process in tandem with our risk evaluation. commit --ey: will you [indiscernible]
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thehen a chemical under review process is being regulated under a different program in setting out the parameters for the risk evaluation that we would not double regulate that. to focus time on the areas of the chemicals that are unregulated. thee we are finishing up first 10, we have started the next 20. we announced those in december and are moving forward on the initial risk assessments for the next 20. under the new law, we have very strict deadlines. we are trying hard to meet those deadlines. the way to do that is allow the other programs are ready regulating aspects of these chemicals to continue to regulate them whether it is under the air program or regulation under the water program. [indiscernible]
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>> the senator's time has expired. we have members that need to go vote that have been waiting. sen. merkley: thank you very much, mr. chairman. could toest if i submit a 2019 letter from 17 automakers in which they ask that epa not finalize averill that would lead to more litigation but instead a negotiated deal with california and 13 other states. >> without objection. senator ernst. senator ernst: administrator wheeler, it is good to see you. thank you very much. as we face this global pandemic,
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no sector has been spared. as resilient and to nation -- as iowa's fuel industry is being hit hard. just as oil has lost demand due to people not traveling as much, so has ethanol. close to 40% of ethanol production is off-line. these are jobs lost and lives upended across iowa and throughout rural america. on these markets and many of the livestock producers rely on the grains for their feed rations. administrator, first, are you fully aware of the situation facing ethanol producers and how closely the situation mirrors what is going on in the petroleum industry? adm. wheeler: yes. before you entered the room, a faction -- i mentioned the
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it is hurting the ethanol industry and the refinery industry. sen. ernst: thank you for recognizing that. one thing that has attracted the attention of the farmers and biofuel producers in my state is the attempt to buy some in the petroleum sector to blame renewable fuels for the recent downturn, turning to the severe economic harm waiver to argue that the rfs is the cause of their recent business troubles, not the covid-19 pandemic. are you familiar with this request? adm. wheeler: yes, i am familiar with the request. sen. ernst: to me, the idea that the rfs is the cause of harm to the petroleum sector when it is very clearly covid-19 pandemic as well as worries between russia and saudi arabia on oil production. this is frustrating to me and to
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my farmers in iowa. time and again, we are seeing these battles play out around the rfs program. it is my hope that epa follows the president around this provision established by both republicans and democrats. those administrations. that this waiver requires clear evidence the source of economic pain is the rfs and not these other factors. has epa made a decision on how to handle this waiver request? adm. wheeler: no, we have not yet. sen. ernst: will you commit your determination will include president from 2008 and 2012 about economic harm? adm. wheeler: everything we have done under the rfs program has president andpast the ever-changing litigation decisions we received from court decisions. sen. ernst: so the answer is,
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yes, you will look at president. adm. wheeler: yes. sen. ernst: administrator wheeler, when you and i were in the white house debating those small refinery exemptions last fall, you made commitments to eliminate the ee 15 warning labels and to allow you 15 to be sold through existing upper structure. as part of the broader agreement, secretary perdue was to provide funding for rolling out more infrastructure for higher blends of biofuels. secretary perdue put out finer roles this month. i have not seen anything on infrastructure yet from the epa. since your agency approves you 15 for all vehicle -- approves e 15 for all giggle models and -- for all vehicle models, will you finally illuminate the warning
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labels as you committed to do? adm. wheeler: after that meeting in the white house, we did state that my staff reminded me when i got back from the buddha -- from the meeting, i was only looking at the actual palms and at the tanks underground. it is more complicated than what i said in that meeting. we were looking at the warning labels because it influences the restrictions on the tanks. you cannot have product going into the tanks. you have to make sure the winning labels apply not just to the pumps but also to the underground tanks. we do not want to see any fuel get into the water system. sen. ernst: when you expect to see a resolution with that issue -- when do you expect to see a resolution with that issue? adm. wheeler: with the 10th circuit decision and the other impacts to the program that has come out over the last few months, the same small group of staff working on that are also working on other rfs issues as
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well. we certainly hope to get through that as quickly as we can. sen. ernst: i appreciate the willingness to work with us and work with rural america on the rfs. it is important the epa continue to follow the original congressional intent of that law. thank you, administrator wheeler. >> thank you, senator ernst. senator van hollen. hollen: i would like to follow up on some of the questions regarding -- [indiscernible] i appreciate the statement you personally made in support of the chesapeake bay cleanup effort. [indiscernible] we are now -- [indiscernible]
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[indiscernible] i heard you say -- [indiscernible] i think we all know -- [indiscernible] we know that pennsylvania in particular continues -- [indiscernible]
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no way will meet the 2025 goal. target. 25% below their [indiscernible] disagreemente a with respect to epa's authority. [indiscernible] i would have to disagree. i did hear you say [indiscernible] willing to use -- [indiscernible]
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adm. wheeler: absolutely. we have and we will continue to. as far as the funding question is concerned, believe the funds requested by the chesapeake bay program is what we need for that program. we are using other programs at the agency to meet the goals of cleaning up the chesapeake bay. you are with me when we gave the 202 loan -- standard $52 million loan with the purpose of cleaning up the bay. we have invited baltimore to apply for two additional water infrastructure projects that will help obligations for cleaning up the bay. the amount of money -- the amount of money we are spending is not limited to the program finds at the chesapeake bay office. we are using resources across the board to ensure everyone reaches their compliance guidelines and targets by 2025. we appreciaten:
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-- [indiscernible] can you talk a little more about -- [indiscernible] to make sure we are meeting the goals of 2025. adm. wheeler: that is what we are doing with the state of maryland. they are lay on five of their permits. -- late on five of their permits. sen. van hollen: [indiscernible]
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we are working to fix it. as you also know, it is not going to have any impact on our ability to meet our need the five [indiscernible] maryland's issues with storm water [indiscernible] 25% shortfall in pennsylvania is apples to oranges. mr. wheeler: i have to disagree. included ins are maryland's whip and those will be completed as part of their obligations. maryland'shollen: plan meets requirements for nitrogen at phosphorus. i want to ask about the mercury change. this is the change you proposed with the ruling that went into effect in 2012. is that correct? mr. wheeler: it is. in -- >> theyll
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reduce mercury emissions. mr. wheeler: the industry has done an incredible job reducing mercury emissions and we are proud of that. to take will do nothing away mercury reductions are the technologies that have been deployed because part of the mercury decision was also residual risk and technology review and that was a bootstrap to make sure that the current standards continued to be implemented. >> your rule had been in effect in 2012. those interested you's -- industries [indiscernible] mr. wheeler: we would've taken a different approach in 2012. >> yes or no? you know the answer is no. you know they wouldn't have done this. your suggestion that there will definitely be no increase in mercury pollution when you are changing your rule that did in int lead to productions
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mercury emissions is speculation on your part. this was a gift to murray -- sen. barrasso: the senator's time is expired. mr. wheeler: that is offensive, sir. we were following the supreme court decision. sen. barrasso: the senators time is expired. senator braun. good to see you again, administrator wheeler. the first time we met i told you how dear the environment is to me. i spent many years involved in agriculture, still due to the extent i can and i have been a tree farmer. we have also gotten now a senate climate caucus, the first across the threshold as a republican. have six others on it come along with seven democrats. i think the position you are in now more than ever has such importance, and i view that
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because i've got four kids. younger generations really believe that we need to do a really protective job of taking care of mother earth, and i think you cited the progress we have made over time. also, i heard senator wicker ask you about forest biomass and the ruling will be fleshed out in june. that is great to hear. agriculture, according to the letter from the 21 experts said -- scientists and so forth, said it probably even has more applicable -- applicability with that same principle. is there currently in the epa --sideration of a diminished for crops rule similar to what you want with trees? mr. wheeler: we are doing that
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in a three-phase process. we are doing the woody biomass first. we will be looking at the crops. i'm sorry, i don't remember if that is phase two or three but over the next year and a half we will rollout the other co2. understanding in detail the benefits of both, there might be more marginal benefit as you look into it from the crop side of it. keep that in mind. last month, the epa announced , lake,ndiana counties porter and delaware, returned to compliance with federal air quality standards. this significant environmental achievement is the result of hard work both the trump administration and your agency and the state of indiana, yet it seems to be a story that is rarely highlighted. i am glad that you mentioned earlier the progress that we
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made, and like i said, along with that, can you explain how the trump administration's focus on technical issues like ambient air quality standards has made real improvements in the health and life's -- lives of hoosiers and across the country? 38 wheeler: we redesignated nonattainment areas as attainment, and we have more in the works. we intend to reach 65 by 2022. this is working with the states and local governments to make sure they are implementing different procedures and processes to improve the air quality in their communities. i guess it was last month, we redesignated the last nonattainment area in florida. as of today, the entire state of florida is in attainment. we have read as it did a number of communities, in addition to the three mentioned in indiana, and number of communities in ohio, across the midwest so-called rust belt.
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we are working with communities to make sure they are providing clean air and meeting the standards across the board. and thank you for raising that, because that is a lot of hard work not just by our employees at epa but at the state level and the local government level. there's a lot of hard work that has gone into reaching and maintaining air-quality standards we have today. sen. braun: you said 38 recently have changed their designation. how many out there still are at the nonattainment level roughly? mr. wheeler: we started with, i believe, 100 60-some nonattainment communities across the country. we are making a lot of progress there. sen. braun: ok, it would be nice to keep posted on that. mr. wheeler: yes. sen. braun: talking about standards, the 2012 standard was the one set by the obama administration's epa. can you describe how the agency came to the determination to keep the same standard from the obama-era levels? mr. wheeler: certainly.
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we have our casac panel that they recommended that we keep the same standard. there's a number of scientific uncertainties that they believe we need to further investigate before we make any additional changes to the standard, and we will be doing that. we will be meeting our five-year a the clean air act sets out five timetable. we need to update the standards every five years. the agency has never complied with that. we are on track to do that for the first time this year. the important thing to remember is once the five-year review ends, the next five-year review begins the very next day, so for some of the scientific uncertainties that were brought to our attention during this review, we have already started some of the research to answer those questions for the next five-year review, and we will start working on that the day after we finalize this one. sen. braun: thank you. sen. barrasso: thank you, senator braun. senator duckworth. sen. duckworth: thank you, mr. chairman.
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mr. wheeler, welcome. last week -- sen. barrasso: the white house asked if we can ask more questions. >> -- the worst air pollution in the world. for the first time in decades [indiscernible] on average, april [indiscernible] enforcement policy [indiscernible] the industry the message they can operate with [indiscernible] this nonenforcement policy [indiscernible] industries that operate without regulation. epa [indiscernible] thate very seriously [indiscernible] appalled that [indiscernible] nonenforcement closing
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[indiscernible] specific commission [indiscernible] unable to comply with [indiscernible] if you could answer yes or no, is [indiscernible] regulated company that claims it is unable to [indiscernible] monitoring, reporting or other compliance due to covid-19 [indiscernible] willheeler: they eventually have to, but senator, no one is allowed to increase their emissions under our enforcement discretion policy, so the premise of your question is incorrect, and our enforcement staff has been very busy. since march 16, we have opened 52 criminal enforcement cases. we have charged 10 defendants. we have concluded 122 civil enforcement actions. we have initiated another 115 civil enforcement actions. we have secured $21.5 million in superfund response commitments. we have build more than $20 million in oversight costs. we have attained commitments for parties from cleaning up 68,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and water, all since march 16.
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no one anywhere in this country is allowed to increase their emissions under our enforcement discretion. the enforcement discretion policy only goes to routine reporting mechanisms that they have to comply with, and we had to issue that because we regulate over 1.1 million facilities across the country, and many of those facilities have been shut down, and they do not have the staff on hand to submit their reports to us. they still have to submit the reports, it is just, if because of covid-19, they have to be late, then they have to cite why they were late when they submit their reports to us, so no one is allowed to increase their emissions. and if they do, as i said, 62 -- 52 criminal enforcement cases, 122 civil actions since march 16, so no one is off the hook on environmental enforcement across this country.
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sen. duckworth: [indiscernible] report to epa [indiscernible] mr. wheeler: we didn't put a deadline on when they have to comply because many of these facilities don't have any employees at their facilities. we don't have to want to require people to come in to fill out a standard report and some permits require biweekly, monthly, quarterly reports to be filed with the agency and we don't -- some of these facilities are not operating. they are still required to submit reports. if because of covid-19, if they cannot submit reports on time, they are allowed to submit -- site coronavirus. they still have to report to us, but if they are going to be late because of coronavirus, they
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have to cite specifically coronavirus is the reason why they are late. to increase allowed their in missions and if they increase in missions we will go after them. we have been and we will continue to. sen. duckworth: [indiscernible] epa has shut down [indiscernible] covid-19 pandemic? mr. wheeler: all the air monitors are required to be up and running. these are the monitors the states deployed. the data that comes into us from those monitors is automated so you don't have to go in the field. we have i believe it was in michigan, one of the air monitors triggered i believe it was magnesium and we sent out a team to look at the monitor to see if the monitor was accurate. we are still getting all the data we normally get from our air monitoring network that is deployed across the country. sen. duckworth: one final question. [indiscernible] we finalized with
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the ig i believe it was last week and there are no outstanding issues with the ig on the ethylene oxide report and we are in agreement with the ig on the steps that need to be taken going forward. there are no outstanding steps to that report. everything has been agreed to. you,barrasso: thank senator duckworth. senator whitehouse, i understand you have additional west jens. -- questions. i apologize. one second. i apologize, senator gillibrand has been waiting patiently so i will go to her than i will go to you, senator whitehouse, for your second round of west ginning. -- questioning. gillibrand -- senator gillibrand: according to the most official counts, [indiscernible]
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lost their lives. the highest death rate [indiscernible] communities of color [indiscernible] sen. barrasso: i'm sorry, i'm having trouble hearing your question. gillibrand: maybe i can do the earphones. ok. can you hear me better now? mr. wheeler: yes i can. sen. barrasso: much better. gillibrand: new york has been among the hardest hit states in the pandemic and according to the most recent official counts, at least 22,800 people lost their lives.
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that is the highest death rate. the highest death rates have been occurring in communities of color. have the highest rates of hospitalization, for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases that are attributable to particulate matter and other air pollutants in new york. preliminary studies are showing a higher rate of mortality from covid-19 among people with chronic diseases like respiratory lung disease and coronary heart disease. these communities are often downriver from power plants and industrial emissions or experience high levels of emissions from transportation, including heavy-duty trucks and buses. it's not hard to connect the dots as to why covid-19 is not only affecting the poorest communities in new york, it should be clear to anyone paying attention that we are seeing
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much more than a coincidence. this should be a wake-up call to those who have a responsibility to enforce policies to protect public health. this is what -- this is why [indiscernible] unprecedented crisis, the epa has chosen to elect its own -- relax its enforcement role. the state of new york filed a complaint last week, objecting to epa's nonenforcement policy during the national emergency. my question is, what are the expected public health outcomes , particularly related to air pollution in populations with higher vulnerability to covid-19 ? have aeler: we don't nonenforcement policy. that is a fallacy. your attorney general made a lot of legal mistakes in their announcement last week. we don't have a nonenforcement
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policy. as i was explaining to senator duckworth, we opened 52 criminal enforcement cases since march 16 and have charged 10 defendants. we have conducted 100 -- concluded 122 civil enforcement activities since march 16. we initiated another 115. we are very active on the enforcement side and i am proud of our personnel across the country who are still enforcing our environmental statutes. you make a very good point on the heavy-duty truck emissions, which is why we are moving forward on heavy-duty diesel truck emissions regulations, which is not required under statute and not required under any court order, but it is very important because by 2025 it will be the largest source of knock simitian's from mobile emissions, -- knox and it does have disproportionate impact, particularly on inner cities. we believe it's important to move forward on new regulations to reduce emissions from heavy-duty trucks.
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we are moving forward on that and that will help in particular new york. i want to point out am a we have been working closely with the new york city transit authority on long-lasting antimicrobial coating research. the transit authority praised the work, and this is not the work i have done or my political people but our career scientists at the agency that are working hand-in-hand with the transit authority to try to ensure that we have in place antimicrobial coatings on the transit system in new york to protect the new york residents as the city begins to reopen and we are working hard on that to see what he can develop. it is probably more long term or medium-term research but we want to make sure that the people who are dependent on mass transit in your city and other to applaud i want the new york transit authority because they are working hand-in-hand with us and the important research we are doing in new york will be able to be used in other communities around the country. gillibrand: sip --
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specifically last year, epa denied this, from ground-level ozone in states upwind from new york? new york petitioned the epa to to reduce omissions traveling across state lines resulting in adverse health for new yorkers. in the extraordinary circumstances now, the fact that continued exposure to ground-level ozone will atoubtedly put new yorkers risk, will the epa drop its opposition to new york section 126 petition? mr. wheeler: we have a number of different decisions from the courts over the last six months or so, i believe three decisions we are working to figure out how to move forward on. impact126 it doesn't just new york, but other states as well, and we have pushed back from those states. at the same time we are working on the 126 petitions and, as thetor carper referred to,
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good neighbor policies, we are working to make sure all of the communities, wherever they are located including new york, have the tools to reach attainment on their own. that is why we have worked with 38 communities around the country to redesignate them after they met air-quality standards and we will continue to work with all new york communities to make her -- make sure they all have healthy air, regardless of where the communities are. i do want to mentioned, you mentioned environmental justice. we put out a round of environmental justice grants a couple weeks ago to help environmental justice communities address covid-19. we are working aggressively on that as well. senator gillibrand: i want an about ai know you know facility that closed. we learned between 2018-20 19, 2 .1 million pounds of toxic [indiscernible] destroyed by incineration. ask barrasso: i'm going to
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him to respond in writing because you are a couple minutes over. we have more senators waiting to go. mr. wheeler: we are working hand-in-hand with the state and -- agency. sen. barrasso: senator markey, there is a lot of interest in this hearing. you are the 17th member to engage at this point. i know you have been patiently waiting. senator markey, it is your turn. sen. markey: the cornerstone of the worst burdens of the coronavirus. they are dying and becoming ill at disproportionately higher rates. research links higher rates of coronavirus to higher rates of air pollution. in massachusetts i have seen that firsthand in communicate -- communities like chelsea, which of boston andhub a vibrant community. it also has some of the highest infection rates in the state.
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in the country. the hardest hit community in massachusetts with a rate of coronavirus infection that is is fiveive -- that times the statewide average. despite this clear connection between air pollution and coronavirus infection and death, the trump administration is waging a full health assault on air-quality standards during this respiratory pandemic. since the beginning of march, finalizing eight different rules and guidance documents that would increase air pollution. just since the start of this. rules change. [indiscernible] fundnvironmental defense -- in a way that would result in 18,500 american deaths. [indiscernible] which your own epa scientists
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found could mean more than 12,500 americans die each and every year. you undermined the mercury and air toxics standards, the emissions standards that the epa itself estimates saved 11,000 american lives every single year. wheeler, even in the middle of a health crisis, attacking , the agency is supposed to be the air-quality fire department but instead you are throwing gasoline on a burning building. knowing breathing bad air can ,ake the coronavirus worse which we have seen firsthand in communities like chelsea, do you regret taking these actions to make air-quality worse? do you regret doing this? mr. wheeler: those regulations don't make air quality worse. cafe will improve air quality
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and reduce co2 emissions by 1.5% per year. between now and 2026. the next regulations, we are maintaining the obama p.m. recommendation. at this point, we are taking comment on this. we haven't made a final decision but that, we took the advice of our clean air science advisory committee. the career staff you referenced, they were divided. we had multiple recommendations on that. the panel specifically recommended we maintain the obama standard and under the mercury, mercury standard doesn't allow any increase in mercury emissions. the premise is off. as far as the studies -- >> you should be ashamed of yourself, your agency should be ashamed of itself. your job is to protect the public health. you are taking actions to make the crisis worse.
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you should apologize to the residence of chelsea and brockton and the communities across this country that are more exposed to this consequence . you should apologize to americans that have -- that you have taken these actions during a pandemic that will make the crisis worse. you have to know that black and brown communities are more likely to breathe the dirty air then white communities. , there isr: that is certainly environmental justice communities around the country where air-quality is worse, but there is also air-quality problems in other communities that are not brown or black. i think every american, regardless of where they live in this country, deserves to breathe clean air and drink clean water. that is why we are working with communities of all sizes across the country, all six criteria air pollutants under the trump administration have decreased over the past few years and we continue to work to decrease air pollution across the board and
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we have a strong record of decreasing air emissions, air pollution, and the air today is healthier than what we found it three years ago. sen. markey: shame on you, mr. administrator. you should be apologizing to the people of color in our country for what you are doing. shame on you. you need to apologize. you should do so immediately. every american is being asked to work together and you are taking actions that will likely make this pandemic worse. they will harm the most vulnerable amongst us. it's unconscionable and history will remember you and the environmental injustice you have perpetrated in the name of the epa. [indiscernible] harming the health of the most vulnerable people in our country
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as their lungs are being attacked by coronavirus. mr. wheeler: sir, your facts are not correct. air-quality is cleaner -- sen. barrasso: the senator's time has expired. the senator's time has expired. thank you very much. i would point out that the united states is a world leader in reducing emissions of fine particulate matter, known as pm 2.5. the environmental health journal published a study entitled implementing u.s. air-quality standard for pm 2.5 worldwide can prevent millions of premature deaths per year. a recent study found that the u.s. reduced its annual particulate matter 2.5 levels by 39% from 2000 to the year 2018 and we ask unanimous consent to enter the recent report into the record. at this point i would like to turn to senator whitehouse. we have about four minutes remaining. we were going to close at noon,
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but i would like to turn to senator whitehouse. i know you have a couple of additional questions. sen. whitehouse: administrator wheeler, to follow up on our questions about petroleum medlin , i the fuel efficiency rules would like to ask about how your lawyers are engaging [indiscernible] litigationext of the in the 22 states and the trump administration [indiscernible] fuel efficiency standards. i see you have no information on that. [indiscernible] on the record if that is ok. mr. wheeler: i have no information on that, sir. sen. whitehouse: i ask you to look into that. i would like to share a bit of history that we have put together. if you don't mind, this is something my office put together. in 1996, christopher horner, the
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lobbyist,lds acknowledged arbiter -- r.j. there was a virtual motion through behind-the-scenes leadership in constructing what he called a explicit procedural hurdles for epa to follow in this report. that original proposal tracked very closely [indiscernible] proposal. in 1997, a philip morris memo said the american petroleum [indiscernible] initiative.hat in 1998, a lobbying firm working for the tobacco industry branded this initiative in the so-called secret science room the same terms got [indiscernible] 2018. the program out in
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the philip morris group [indiscernible] throughn advanced this the 1990's with fossil fuel companies including amco, exxon mobil, and others. this group was run by [indiscernible] morris'sn philip retainer through 2005 and worked on a number of groups funded by others,bil and including serving as director of external policy and strategy [indiscernible] work in president trump's team at the epa. [indiscernible] the secret science proposal to declare he had been working on advancing it for 20 years. consider this proposal and the motivations of the people behind it, i'm
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[indiscernible] skepticism and worried about the sport -- what was supposedly secret in all of this, people's individual health. which obviously we want to keep private. [indiscernible] lose the protection of their personal health records. here's the problem. ande try to regulate covid come up with safety regulations to help with this pandemic, we're going to have to build regulations based on people's health records. haven't you created something that will [indiscernible] our ability to respond to the coronavirus crisis by attacking science based on health records unless you are looking to throw individual health records into the public in ways americans would not tolerate?
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senator, as usual you packed a lot of information into your question. let me see if i can answer the points you raised. i was not aware of the link to the tobacco lobbying in the 1990's. it is my understanding, this regulation was originally proposed before i joined the agency but it is my understanding a lot of the original regulation proposal was based on congressman lamar smith's legislation he introduced i believe a couple different congresses in the last 10 years or so. we received a lot of comments on the science transparency, the actual name of the regulation. science transparency regulation. we received, i want to say we received close to a million comments. we went back out again at my direction to re--propose and take additional comments because we want to make sure we get this right.
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notice andanother comment for this regulation. my goal is to get this right by the end of the day, but there are a number of safeguards in this. the administrator of the agency and that is any administrator in the future, as well, can allow any study to be used, even if the information is withheld, the data is withheld. as far as the personal information, the fda works with science research all the time where they mask the personal identification data of the science, of the subjects of the science research and we can do that at epa as well, follow the fda's lead on how they mask the individual people that are referenced in these scientific reports. when i started working there in 1991, i worked on the community right to know act implementing the tr right and pollution prevention act across the pri world. i believe the more information
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you put out to the public, the more transparent we are with the basis for our regulations, the more acceptance there will be with our regulations and the better understood our regulations will be. that is what is guiding me, to try to get as much as formation out to the public. that is why we went forward with our guidance document proposal which we issued this week to make sure our guidance documents are out there for the public to see. i believe in transparency and that is what is underlying all of my -- >> this is a ploy to prevent [indiscernible] getting into the regulatory dominion by playing on the on health privacy records on the part of individual americans. i think [indiscernible] very cynical play here [indiscernible] simply don't want awaited [indiscernible] it will reveal the dangers of
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their products or emissions so intohave put a mechanism the privacy of the american health records into the middle as a leverage point to try to protect their own [indiscernible] ,en. barrasso: we will go senator, your time is expiring. we have another member who arrived for his first round of questioning. i want -- thank you, i want to irn to, let me first say think the epa should be praised for its efforts to protect the environment while cutting applicant of resident -- regulations come over regulation but stymies economic activity and worsens public health. my staff issued a report in 2012 cataloging the links between regulatory overreach, worsening public health, and i ask for unanimous consent to enter into the record red tape making americans sick. that will be submitted. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i hope my good friend senator whitehouse is still watching, i want to compliment him and i
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want to compliment you, mr. administrator. i happen to think you are doing a great job. particularly relative to the, you know, some of your predecessors in the obama administration who were, in my view, lawless public servants who really, really hurt my state and never listened to my state about anything. trust me, we know more about the environment, we want to protect the environment more than gina mccarthy or these other folks. i just appreciate your work. first again, senator whitehouse, your work on ocean cleanup, it's great to see that you, the president, u.s. trade rep, have all made this a high priority. we will continue to press it. senator whitehouse and my legislation, the save our seas 2.0, which crs two point know mostus we could call the
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comprehensive ocean cleanup legislation ever to come out of the congress. we checked. that passed the senate unanimously in january. we are trying to get it moved through the house. can i get your commitment, i glad you see you highlighted it but can i get your commitment to highlight and get that signed into law and put on the president's desk? if you are in the house, encourage them to pass it. i think they are motivated to do it but can i get your commitment on that? mr. wheeler: you have my commitment to work with you on the issues. i'm not sure if omb has issued a statement on the legislation or not. i can't get ahead of the white house on endorsing legislation. sen. sullivan: well, you guys drafted the legislation, so hopefully you are good to go with it. take a look. we did work with the administration on this quite a lot. one of the things that is interesting, people talk about science. my colleagues on the other side,
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i work well with them, lots of them are good friends but they trot out science some of the word science sometimes, there is occasionally, we had a great example in alaska during the obama administration. the science of federal agencies said the national petroleum reserve of alaska had no more oil in it. really? i was the dnr commission at the time. we knew that was a bunch of bunk science, totally politicized. until this pandemic having one of the biggest booms in the national petroleum reserve in alaska ever because there is so much natural resources. when i hear the science thing from the other side i get skeptical how much the obama guys politicized science, certainly in my state, to try to shut down resource development and kill the jobs in my state that are so critical to my economy but also the u.s. economy. mr. administrator, i want to talk about an issue that you and i highlighted in alaska on your visit.
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again, think you for coming, we welcome you to come back again. in the 2016 win act, one of my first bills that was signed into law under president obama and him this committee, we had a new program focused on small and disadvantaged community water systems. as you know, in alaska we have over 30 communities that have no running water or flush toilets. think about that, america. 30 communities, thousands of patriotic americans. these are some of the people, you go to these communities in rural alaska, every person there, every guy there is a veteran. the most patriotic places you have ever been and yet they can't even wash their hands. cdc says wash your hands frequently? they don't even have running water. american citizens. it's a scandal. drives me crazy. this program was meant to address this.
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i appreciate you seeing some of the first-hand challenges. unfortunately as we discussed, when the epa implemented this last year, they failed to fully understand the congressional intent, which was very clear, this was meant to focus on communities that actually don't have water and sewer. unfortunately, my state has a lot of these communities. so, can i get your commitment, i know i got it in alaska but i would like to get it in this hearing, to again work with my theunities, align implementation of this uponlation with congress original intent to make sure those resources, which by the way you may have seen in the bill we marked up last week, there are additional resources for these disadvantaged communities that you can really help us focus on, on the implementation of that legislation. absolutely.
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it is my understanding, my staff have been working with your staff and we are revamping that program to mirror the congressional intent behind it. sen. sullivan: i appreciate that. it is -- is it ok if i ask one more question? i want to commend you, mr. administrator, what the chairman just said, the ability to actually get rid of excessive regulations, and yet continue to keep our air and water clean. you know, we have very pristine air and water in our great state. some of the most pristine, beautiful environment in the world. but as you mentioned, you can do both. i think that what you guys are demonstrating is important. when you cite these statistics on the progress we have made on pollutants, particularly 50 years of the epa in existence,
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how much progress has been made, because when you read the national media it always sounds like it's a disaster on the environment, yet as you highlighted, we are actually making significant progress. again, democrats, republicans. but people need to know that. whether it is greenhouse gas particulatesad, or . just two quick final questions. you know we did the roundtable in fairbanks on the 2.5 issue. i would like to get an update from you on that. if you have got -- if you have that. it's an important issue for my community. continuing the work that we need from the epa on the big issue of wetlands the reason i raise that, as you know, mr. administrator, alaska is currently home to 63% of the nation's jurisdictional waters and 65% of wetlands.
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one state. and when the epa comes and tries to regulate everything, like they did in the obama administration, it shuts down the entire state because we take a gigantic burden for the country on these issues. i was pleased that you worked on the wood us rule, which was usurpation of the congressional authority. can i get your commitment to continue to work with my state on innovative ways to address these mitigation issues that are unfairly burdening one state in the nation that has so much of the nation's wetlands, yet there is very little recognition of that and i think you are starting to do that, but innovative ways to work on mitigation that take into account what one state has essentially done to carry the load for much of the country on this. so, those two questions.
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mr. wheeler: absolutely. on your first question, we continue to work with your community on the pm 2.5. we want to make sure alaskans have clean-air but it doesn't proportionately impact your industry on the problems you have with the unique air bowl, you basically have in that community. on the wotus, waters of the u.s., for the first time ever in drafting national wetlands regulations, we acknowledged the important role of the states. just because a water of the united states, just an important test -- just because a wetland body is in the united states doesn't mean it is not already protected. i believe this is a sea change, pardon the metaphor, in
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the way that we are working with the states in protecting their own water resources. , theifference congress original clean water act as far as navigable waters, this has been expanded by the supreme court which is why we crafted our replacement rule this year, rule,he water protection to ensure we are following the best supreme court cases as well as the intent behind the clean water act. for the first time we are recognizing the important partnership that we have with the states and local communities but primarily states and tribes, on protecting water resources around the country. sen. sullivan: great, i will have additional questions for the record. thank you, mr. chairman. sen. barrasso: at this point, with no more members asking questions, i ask for unanimous consent to enter materials from the american farm bureau corporation and the electric
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power cooperative as well as the hearth, patio, and barbecue association for today's hearing. without objection we will do that. i would also point out in the front page this morning of "the washington post, and you may not have seen it yet, in -- administrator wheeler, but it -- emissions plunged 17% in unprecedented decline. when i hear democrats claiming the issue of emissions causing deaths related to coronavirus, emissions are specifically down. senator sullivan, you wanted to make a comment? sen. sullivan: i recognize there are no more of my colleagues waiting. i had one final question. it was an innovative idea that came up and again, relating to mitigation and stuff in alaska. alaskaknow, we have native corporation lands that were given to the native people 44 millionress, acres. a lot of that land was
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contaminated before it was received. the cleanup costs are in or miss enormous. these are the issues i want to continue to discuss with your office in looking at ways to save people are helping clean up those ,ands, that can be an offset not a one for one offset as it relates normally in the clean water act. i would like to get your commitment to continue to look at those kinds of innovative solutions, particularly for my state, which as i mentioned had so much of the country's wetlands. it is obviously a big focus of this. mr. wheeler: absolutely. i believe the last meeting i had in alaska was with some tribal leaders to talk specifically about that issue. it's something i hope we have made some progress since i was there and i will go check with my staff to make sure we are making progress. but that is very important. , and that cuts across a
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number of areas. not just for the lands that they took possession of from the federal government, but if you look at the abandoned mines across the country, i know senator gardner has important good samaritan legislation that would go a long way towards cleaning up the sites that we need to get cleaned up. sen. sullivan: thank you. sen. barrasso: the other administered the -- the other issue was on the "usa today" coronavirus pandemic page, it it has led to a 70% drop in carbon emissions. -- a 17% drop in carbon emissions. again, the comments we're hearing from colleagues on the other side of the aisle on the issues of in missions in court -- of emissions and a coronavirus,ith emissions are down significantly because of the diminished amount of commerce being done. mr. wheeler: can you indulge me for two more minutes yet, would like to praise the career epa staff. 6 they have approved
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over 400 disinfectants that can be used by the public to clean their homes, offices, factories, exactly. this is, we have it available on epa.govable database at and we created a mobile app so when you are shopping and trying to purchase disinfectants, to make sure it is important people by a disinfectant that is to bely authorized effective against coronavirus. i don't want people to buy a product that is not effective. it's important for the health and safety of all families across the country and our epa scientists have been working seven days a week around the clock to approve these disinfectants and they have done an outstanding job at getting these approved. sen. barrasso: thank you very much. i appreciate the good work being done by the epa and your dedicated staff. in this room, you will notice every member has disinfectant available to them at every seat. we are distanced from six feet, we have our masks.
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i do want to thank you all for being here today with us. thank you for your time, thank you for your testimony. the hearing is adjourned. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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>> what c-span's daily unfiltered coverage of the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic with briefings from the white house, congress, and governors from across the country. join in the conversation on our live call-in program, washington journal. if you missed our live coverage, watch anytime on-demand at >> he look at our live coverage thursday. on c-span, the senate judiciary committee meets at 10:00 a.m. eastern to consider subpoena authorization documents and witnesses related to the committee's investigation of the fisa process and the fbi's 2016 russia probe. on c-span2, the senate is back on thete and vote nomination of texas congressman
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--n ratcliffe to be the next >> with the federal government at work in dcm through the country, use the congressional directory for contact information for members of congress, governors and federal agencies. order your copy online today at c-span >> at the white house, president trump met with arkansas governor h -- asa hutchinson and kansas governor laura kelly to discuss the pandemic. the president also gave an update on his use of hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure -- measure against covid-19. >> thank you very much is an honor to have asa hutchinson, the governor of arkansas, he has been doing a tremendous job and likewise, governor laura kelly terrific st


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