On Wednesday, April 28, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing to discuss the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) discretionary funding request for Fiscal Year 2022. The discussion was largely focused on how the Agency will address water quality, contamination, and pollution issues within communities that already bear a disproportionate burden. Additionally, Committee Members raised questions about the intersection of the Agency’s priorities and Administration’s American Jobs Plan (AJP), the role of biofuels and the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), ways the Agency plans to address establishing Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) standards, regulating methane gas emissions, and the steps the Agency is taking to reach President Biden’s climate goals.
Several Members asked what EPA is doing to meet the needs of disadvantaged communities and how EPA’s budget proposal will assist those efforts. Members also discussed the low-income communities and communities of color that bear disproportionate impacts from Superfund sites, citing that 70 percent of Superfund sites are within one mile of federal assisted housing. Mr. Regan responded that both the proposed EPA budget and the AJP are critical. The EPA’s budget proposal includes grant applications, advanced monitoring for air and water quality, and additional funding to build up infrastructure to help uplift communities through equitable opportunities.
Members also highlight the benefits of low carbon biofuels and their role in reducing greenhouse gasses. Sen. Ernst noted the lack of substantial inclusion or support in the $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill and the 2030 emissions target. Mr. Regan responded that the President has been clear that agriculture is at the table and biofuels, and voluntary ag practices, have a role in reducing carbon emissions. Mr. Regan also highlighted his conversations with Secretary Vilsack around the promising future uses of biofuels and the role of ethanol in moving the United States forward. Several Members also discussed the benefits of renewable fuels and the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). There was concern that officials within this administration only talk about biofuels in the context of new fuels and new markets, such as aviation and marine fuels. Mr. Regan responded that agriculture is at the forefront when talking about the promising future of electric vehicles and advanced biofuels Sen. Ernst specifically asked if corn ethanol would continue to have a role in the future. Mr. Regan said that he will continue to engage with stakeholders to determine what the evolution of ethanol will be and where the markets will lean to ensure the lowest carbon economy.
Another significant topic of discussion was the was the administration plans to meet the ambitious climate goals laid out by President Biden. Chairman Carper praised the ambitious climate goals of the Administration and asked about the importance of meeting these goals. Mr. Regan emphasized that it is crucial; not only to help the planet, but to create numerous opportunities in the job sector and allow the U.S. to be a leader in renewable energy job creation.
Sen. Inhofe raised significant concern about the Administration’s initiatives and the impact they will have on jobs across the country. Sen. Inhofe expressed his confusion as to why the Administration would push an effort that would hurt so many American jobs and encourage American companies to move overseas, while China is the largest polluter. Mr. Regan explained that the initiative of EPA and those within the AJP are not only an opportunity to mitigate the impact on the climate change, but also an opportunity to lead in technological advancement and create jobs. Mr. Regan explained that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other organizations are looking at regulations that pursue deep cuts in methane. Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) and menthane technologies will help the U.S. make these cuts, while creating jobs. The U.S. is also poised to deploy these technologies internationally. Sen. Inhofe was also concerned about the cost of employing these initiatives. Mr. Regan responded that he, and President Biden’s AJP, do not follow China, and they both see and treat the U.S. as a leader. Additionally, EPA has developed a range in how the U.S. plays in the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) level and will use cost-benefit analysis to determine which programs would work best once EPA’s budget has been set.
Sen. Inhofe also asked how Mr. Regan saw government regulation affecting U.S. businesses, expressing concern that it would cause an outflow of companies. Mr. Regan stated that the AJP is not just trying to mitigate climate change using regulations, but also work with the industry to create new technical jobs that mirror how the market is adapting as well as help reduce methane emissions.