Floor and Committee Statements

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Hearing on the EPA Budget
Environment and Public Works Committee

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Just Mister -- well, there are two Mr. Johnsons. Say Mr. Johnson, everybody's going to jump.

Mr. Stephen L. Johnson: We're unrelated, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

Sen. Isakson: I thank you for coming, thank you for your testimony.

You made a comment with regard to mercury in answering the question of Senator Jeffords. Clear Skies is the first time that we've established targeted goals, I believe 70 percent reduction of mercury. That is correct.

And I applaud the president for his recommendation and you for the encouragement of that because there's no question that mercury is something that we have got to regulate and that Clear Skies is clearly an opportunity to have a significant reduction in that over a meaningful period of time.

Second thing. In your written statement, and I'm not sure you said this, because you were leaving some of it out, there's a sentence that says, "This funding provides additional resources to states in order for them to contribute to the development of this baseline of water conditions across our country," and what you're referring to, I believe, is a $24 million program in terms of monitoring of water and clean water.

My state of Georgia is -- and this may be unique only to my state -- we have more counties than any state in the country except the state of Texas, and we have more incorporated municipalities than anybody I think in the world. So we've got a lot of governments.

And throughout your testimony -- your written testimony -- you refer to watershed rather than government, because water doesn't pay attention to political boundaries.

Are there any incentive monies to encourage multi-jurisdictional participation in storm water management, soil sediment erosion control and other water quality issues at the department?

Mr. Johnson: Yes, there are, and if it would please the senator I would like to invite our assistant administrator, Ben Grumbles, heads up our water program, to give you some specifics.

Ben?

Mr. Ben Grumbles: Thank you.

Senator, you've hit the nail right on the head in terms of one of the greatest challenges and opportunities, and that is, if we truly want to manage our water resources on a watershed basis, it has to be based on both voluntary approaches and incentives, and also working together.

The monitoring initiatives that you pointed out, the $24 million which is additional funding being requested in the budget, is for states to develop tools to better monitor their water, but it also complements the whole targeted watershed approach that we're trying to achieve.

There's a $50 million request in the president's budget, Senator, for collaborations, voluntary innovative approaches to respond to nutrients or invasive species or whatever the challenge is in a particular watershed to try to provide incentives for local groups, governments, local governments, watershed organizations to work together. And that includes on storm water, as well as other types of water challenges.

Sen. Isakson: Well, I commend you for doing that. I was hoping that's what it meant because in our particular state and in my personal experience we can move light years ahead in terms of water quality if we get multi-jurisdictional cooperation within watersheds and have a team approach rather than some of the problems we have in other areas where one community is directly hurting another community because of an absence of attention and cooperation.

My other comment would not be a question, but it would be to thank the department.

I don't know, how long have you been there, Mr. Johnson?

Mr. Johnson: Almost 25 years, sir.

Sen. Isakson: You were there then. I'll thank you and I'll thank you, Mr. Johnson, general principles, as well.

Five years ago we came to the department to ask for a waiver. The city of Atlanta, as you know, has been a poster child for non- attainment, and we have had significant clean air difficulties. We also had probably one of the dirtiest cleanup jobs known to man, known as the Atlantic Steel Plant right downtown.

We came to the department and asked for a waiver to allow us to construct a bridge across the dual Interstate 75 and 85 to go to the center of town to open up that property to development. The department, and Secretary Browner, I think at the time was ahead of the department, granted that waiver. I'd like to tell you what the result of that is today.

The bridge is built, traffic on the interstate is reduced significantly because it now flows with people going from one destination to another downtown, don't have to get on the interstate to go there.

The dirtiest cleanup site in the state, in fact, Atlantic Steel kept a skeleton crew employed and kept the plant open so as not to ever have to clean it up. The new buyers came in, completely replaced all the soil, completely cleaned the entire area up.

It has now been redeveloped into one of the most successful residential, commercial, office, retail and entertainment mix-use developments in the country.

And five years ago it was a wasteland, and it was regulation that prohibited the clean up. You all were open minded, willing, granted that waiver. And I just want to let you know the next time you're in Atlanta, if you'll drive by that, you'll be very glad you did it, and we're very appreciative that you did it.

My principle has always been in environmental management that there are best management practices and sometimes what someone might fight as seeing a waiver actually can take us to a period of time of far cleaner air and far cleaner water, and that's a shining example of it and we're grateful to you for your work on that.

Mr. Johnson:
Thank you.

Sen. Isakson: I yield back, Mr. Chairman.