Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pallone Presses EPA Administrator on Funding for Superfund Clean-up, BEACH Grants, and Helicopter Monitoring of Coast

March 23, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ-06), senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, questioned EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy about cuts to programs responsible for monitoring coastal water health and Superfund site cleanup. Pallone emphasized that a clean environment is essential to public health and to a strong economy.

Video of Congressman Pallone’s questions can be found here.

Congressman Pallone expressed his concern over cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH) Grants, a program that was authored by Pallone to monitor coastal water quality nationwide. “As someone elected to represent part of the Jersey Shore, I understand the importance of protecting and improving the quality of our beaches and their importance to local economies,” said Pallone. “I am disappointed that, once again, your budget eliminates funding for this critical program, and I’m troubled by EPA’s apparent lack of concern over potential for waterborne pathogens or pollution affecting coastal recreation and public health. This program deserves continued support, and I will work with my colleagues to ensure adequate funding.”

Pallone also expressed concerns over funding for EPA programs to clean up Superfund sites. In December of last year, Pallone introduced legislation to help the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean up sites listed on the Superfund’s National Priority List. The Superfund Polluter Pays Act would reinstate the Superfund tax to ensure polluters—not taxpayers—pay for the cleanup of Superfund sites. New Jersey has the most superfund sites in the nation.

“While I appreciate EPA’s efforts, the remaining Superfund and Brownfield sites are becoming more complicated to clean-up and with limited resources, the time and cost to complete this work is extended significantly,” said Pallone in his remarks. “With so many people living near contaminated sites, we must continue providing robust support for these programs. Cleanup of these sites transforms them from liabilities to assets that generate needed revenues and economic opportunity.”

Additionally, Pallone asked that the agency’s helicopter monitoring program be reinstated. The program was cancelled in 2014 and has not been operating since. For years, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, EPA’s “Coastal Crusader” would monitor the waters along the Atlantic Coast for debris, such as trash, oil slicks and algal blooms known as floatables.

“EPA’s helicopter monitoring has operated at a nominal cost and has been incredibly successful in spotting and mitigating potential coastal disasters by spotting floatables before they reach the Shore,” said Pallone. “Cutting this program could have serious consequences for our tourism economy.”

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