tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN March 9, 2016 7:00pm-12:01am EST
a reminder, we'll have live coverage of mrs. reagan's funeral from the presidential library in simi valley friday at 2:00 p.m. eastern. white house spokesman josh earnest took reporter's questions about the supreme court vacancy, last night's presidential primary and this is a one hour portion of today's briefing. >> good afternoon, everybody. i do not have anything off the top so we can go straight to questions. darlene, would you like to start? >> do you have anything to add to your reports that u.s. special forces are questioning the head of the islamic state
units trying to develop nuclear weapons? >> unfortunately, i do not. i've seen those reports. at this point i'm still constrained -- i'm still constrained by some operational security concerns from answering them. you do know there are u.s. military forces that are on the ground in iraq that are part of these forces that are dedicated to carrying out raids, collecting intelligence and where possible getting access to high value targets, but as it relates to any specific operation, i just don't have any information for you about that. any information that does come from the operations will be distributed by the department of defense. >> next question. was the president surprised by hillary clinton's upset last night in michigan? >> well, i haven't talked to him about the results of yesterday's election, but i think many people have expressed surprise
that the outcome of the election was different than the outcome that was predicted by the pre-election polls. there's been a lot of analysis that's been devoted to figuring out why the polls were wrong. i think what's more important is for us to acknowledge that there's a spirited debate on the democratic side. i think that's a really good thing for the party. i think we saw two candidates on the democratic side yesterday that have a demonstrated ability to energize and inspire passionate democratic voters, and when you're talking about a state that sometimes is a swing state, that's an important characteristic to have in your candidate. on the democratic side, we're fortunate to have two of them. >> lastly, i wanted to follow up on a question you got, i think it was last week, about legislation on the hill and the white house hadn't seen the
bill. the senate today finally passed the bill that will require the white house to set up teams for transition. do you have any update on whether they have a position on that? it's legislation to ensure smooth transitions. >> well, i can tell you even absent any legislation this administration is committed to making sure that president obama's successor has the full cooperation of his staff in ensuring a smooth transition. we've talked before about how president george w bush directed senior members of his team to ensure that proper planning was in place to allow president obama to transition to office as smoothly as possible. that, of course, is the responsibility of the incumbent president, but in the case of president bush, it demonstrated a commitment to the smooth
operation of the government even when it means cooperating with somebody who's in a different political party. president obama certainly hopes and expects to be succeeded by a democrat, but either way the incoming president can certainly count on the full cooperation of this administration in ensuring that the next administration can get off to a running start. >> i wanted to mention about the bill itself. >> on the bill itself, i don't have a question -- i don't have an answer in terms of whether or not we believe it is necessary, but at this point i do not anticipate that the president will veto the bill. i anticipate he will sign it. >> nice to see you, ted. >> thank you. same to you. on the isol and chemical weapons, how concerned is the administration that they're getting closer to developing more dangerous nerve gases and how far away might we be if they
are? >> well, at this point there has been some evidence and some discussion and even some reports about potential use of chemical weapons by isol. we're reviewing those reports, and obviously the use of chemical weapons by anybody is an atrocity and one that the international community will not stand for. however, if those reports are correct, it would not be an outlier in terms of the tactics that we know that isol uses. we know that isol is an extremist organization that seeks to achieve their aim by terrorizing innocent people, and so their use of chemical weapons, if true, will be consistent with those kinds of tactics. it's certainly something that the united states and our international partners take quite seriously. i think i'll leave it at that. >> what can the u.s. do to
prevent the development of nerve gases? >> certainly one of the things we have done already is we work effectively with the russians a couple of years ago to ensure that the declared chemical weapons stockpile of the assad regime was faithfully rounded up and destroyed. that was important not just because it took one dangerous weapon out of the arsenal of the assad regime. that was important because the assad regime was using that arsenal to attack people. it also made it less likely, basically at this point impossible, for that declared chemical weapons stockpile could fall into the hands of people like isol. eliminating that proliferation threat was another benefit of our success in destroying the assad regime's chemical weapons stockpile. that certainly is one thing that we have done. obviously there are a whole host of efforts that we've undertaken
as part of the international community to eliminate that kind of proliferation. we're mindful how important that is when it comes to the kind of chaos that we're seeing in iraq. >> turning to iran. the second day of this off set, does it look like the white house will go to the security council, when and what are the types of appropriate response? >> we are aware of reports of additional missile launches today in iran. we're going to take a close look at those launches in the same way that we're continuing to review the details of the launches carried out by iran earlier this week. unfortunately, iran's insistence of developing a ballistic program outside of widely recognized international standards is a long-standing concern, not just of the united states but of the international community. it is, in fact, one of the
reasons that the united states led the way to develop, negotiate and implement successfully the diplomatic agreement to prevent iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. the reason that was significant is we know iran is looking aggressively to try to enhance the ballistic missile capability and preventing them from being able to nuclearize their missiles is obviously important to our national security here in the united states. it's also important to the national security of our allies and partners in the region. so we are pleased that we've been able to successfully stop them from implementing a nuclear weapon. we will redouble our efforts to try to limit iran's ability to continue to develop their missile programs outside of international conventions.
and there is more that we can do to enforce sanctions that are in place. there are also a set of restrictions about what kind of equipment and materials can be shipped to iran and there's more that we can do to work with our partners to interdict those kinds of shipments that may include those illicit products. it's something we've been mindful of. it's the reason we've obtained the international agreement. as we obtain more information about what they have done, we'll determine an appropriate response. the other thing i will point be out is that we know that iran is in a season of carrying out a number of military activities and so it certainly would not be a surprise if there are additional launches over the next several days that are similar to the launches that we've seen already a couple of times this week.
okay? >> yeah. and lastly, time range yesterday. senator sanders came through with a surprise win. should that show that they are out of the base. should the white house delay a push in congress for tpp approval? >> well, let me take that in a couple of different steps. i think we've acknowledged that there are a lot of democrats who have a reflexive opposition of expanding international trade and that does make the politics of this particular issue complicated but it doesn't in any way undermine the case that we make on the merits about how agreements like the trans-pacific partnership that have stronger than ever standards that relate to the environment, to labor rights and to human rights. those kinds of agreements are good for the u.s. economy.
the reason they're a net positive for the u.s. economy is that it begins to level the playing field. it gives them an opportunity to compete and the president is confident that when the american businesses, innovators and workers are given a fair playing field, that the americans are going to win more often than not. so there is this concern that is legitimate, that is articulated by many leaders in the democratic party, that the impact of broader forces of globalization are having on middle class families and middle class workers across the country. those concerns are entirely legitimate. we have seen it. there are certain sectors of our economy and even certain -- certain communities that have been more negatively affected by the forces of globalization. and so the questions the president has, he asks himself as the leader of the country,
what can we do about it? as the leader of the united states, i have a responsibility to look out for the economy of the country and every community so what are we going to do about the forces of globalization? we haven't heard the opponents of the trans-pacific partnership articulate a legitimate or realistic strategy for doing so. the president has laid out a very clear strategy to make sure the united states does more to engage with those countries, including some countries in southeast asia that have some of the more -- the most dynamic countries in the world. we can make sure that u.s. businesses are not at a disadvantage when they're competing with those businesses in southeast asia. the other thing that we're doing is we're also making sure that those growing economies are going to -- that we can do away with the 18,000 taxes that are currently imposed on goods that are stamped made in the u.s.a.
and that by cutting those taxes we can actually make it easier for u.s. businesses to do business overseas. that is going to only expand economic opportunity, expand economic growth and expand job creation right here in the united states. the other thing we know from economists is that jobs that are directly connected to international trade on average pay more than jobs that aren't. so if we're looking to create good jobs in the united states, including good paying jobs, then we need to look for ways that we can open up more markets to u.s. business services. so all of that is a good things, and that is the strategy that the president has for confronting this significant challenge. i recognize that this is not going to immediately overcome the decades of democratic party orthodoxy when it comes to opposing trade, but for people
who are willing to consider this specific trade agreement on the merits, there's no mystery why the president and some members of congress are supportive of it. we're going to continue to make that case across the country. mary? >> on robert levinson, today z is the ninth year anniversary of his disappearance. there haven't seen to be any changes for or strides made. have they provided any useful information or leads? are they cooperating at all? >> the white house issued a statement on pamer from me marking the anniversary of mr. levinson's disappearance and noting our continued efforts to determine his whereabouts. as a part of securing the release of a handful of americans that we know were unjustly detained by iran, we
secured an agreement from iran to determine his whereabouts. the reason that's important is the last time mr. levinson was seen he was in iran. so we've got some pretty pointed questions that we're asking the iranians about what they may know about his current whereabouts. i don't have a lot of information to share about those discussio discussions. i can tell you those discussions are ongoing. i can tell you we take seriously the u.s. government's responsibility to find mr. levinson but we also are going to take seriously iran's commitment and we're going to hold them to that commitment for his whereabouts. >> the attorney general's taken her name out of the running to be the president al appointment to the supreme court. she said it would be too cumbersome. does it figure into the president's calculus that
whoever he nominates has to be willing to get kicked around by republicans and ultimately may not go through the confirmation process? >> let me answer that a couple of different ways. the reference to the cumbersome nomination process is the fact that ms. lynch has quite an important job already and to put her through that process right now would prevent her from doing the job that she is tasked with. that is the circumstance we're seeking to avoid. that's a circumstance she's seeking to avoid. that's why she's made it clear she doesn't want to be considered. more generally, this is something we discussed a little bit yesterday, that we see a leading republican in the united states senate indicate that republicans would treat the president's nominee as a pinata. he offers up this rather colorful description despite the fact he doesn't know who the
president's nominee is. i think that is a clear indication that republicans in the united states senate have no intention of being fair to the president's nominee. and i don't think that fits with anybody's description of what the senate's constitutional responsibility is. it certainly doesn't fit with senator cornin's description of that responsibility because i'll note that senator cornin used similarly colorful language in 2006 when talking about the senate's treatment of president bush's nominees to the court. let me quote from senator cornin who said the current court treats nominees more like pinatas than human beings. that's from 2006. that's something none of us should be willing to tolerate. let me point out, senator cornin was referring to a nominee from
president bush. judge alito when he was appointed received a timely hearing. he got an up or down vote in the united states senate and he was confirmed to the supreme court. so if senator cornin believes that judge alito was unfairly treated like a pinata, what he is vowing to do to president obama's as yet unnamed nominee is far, far worse and that's why we make a strong case that what republicans are proposing to do and have been doing in this process thus far is an unprecedented and unwarranted escalation of partisan politics when it comes to the one branch of government that's supposed to be insulated from it, and that's the supreme court. so, you know, obviously we've got -- republicans are going to have a difficult time, i think, trying to defend both the way
they have handled this thus far and i think they're going to have a tough time defending on following through on their threats to treat the president's nominee as a pinata. >> as you try to sway senate republicans to consider the president's supreme court nominee, how much of the state of the presidential race -- how much -- what role is that playing in your argument? are you suggesting or arguing that the republicans may have a better chance trying their luck with the president's pick as opposed to, say, waiting down the road for anyone who is nominated by the incoming administration? >> i do think the republicans are in a bit of a curious position, primarily because president obama has had an opportunity over the course of his presidency to nominate two individuals to fill supreme court vacancies. both of those individuals have received bipartisan support. that is an ind -- i would note that was bipartisan support they
received even though democrats had a healthy majority in the united states senate. even though he wasn't necessarily required to take someone who had the kind of credentials and temperament and judgment that would earn bipartisan support, the president felt that was an important part of the job description, that's what was required by the constitution and that's what the president did. what senator republicans are in the position of doing are saying that they're going to oppose president obama's nominee no matter who it is regardless of who he chooses because they're going to let the next president decide. the reason this is a curious decision is each of those members of the senate didn't run for five year terms, they ran for six year terms. they have a responsibility in the final year in office. he didn't run for a three-year term when he was running for re-election in 2012, he was elected to a four-year term.
he's fulfilling his constitutional duty as described in the cons city fusion which is that the president -- or the constitution says the president shall appoint a nominee and fill a vacancy in the supreme court. that's what the president is going to do. the senate has a responsibility to give that person a timely consideration in the context of a hearing and a yes or no vote. let's move around. mark. >> josh, does the white house regard robert levenson as a hostage? >> mark, right now the -- the white house does not know the whereabouts of mr. levenson. the last time we knew of his whereabouts was nine years ago today and he was in iran. that is why we have compelled the iranians in the context of the agreement that was reached earlier this year to work with us to determine exactly where mr. levenson is. >> they issued a statement today referring to robert levenson as
the longest held american hostage ever. is that not part of policy with the white house? >> i haven't seen the fbi statement. i can tell you what the -- what the white house view of this is, and it's simply that we'd like to know mr. levenson's whereabouts. we are legitimately concerned about his well-being based on the fact that we don't know his whereabouts and we are working with the iranians who have agreed to provide us information about his location and we're working with them to try and determine exactly where he is. >> on the supreme court nomination, has the president started meeting with prospective nominees? >> i will not be in a position -- i do not anticipate being in a position to confirm any individual meetings or conversations that the president had. i can tell you that the process is ongoing. the president does continue to
meet with members of his team to discuss this issue and to discuss the important decision but i don't have any updates for you in terms of whether or not he's talking to any potential nominees. >> you called this an announcement today? >> i would not anticipate any significant supreme court news for today. >> tomorrow? >> i don't have any guidance for tomorrow. >> all right. >> josh, i saw reports that the president had endorsed an illinois state legislative race this week. last week he endorsed two senate primaries. you said that the president wants to give democratic voters a chance to weigh in on the democratic race. what's the difference? >> each of them is a little bit different. i can take the illinois one first. it's relevant to the question you asked me about the ohio senate race. one of the reasons the president
wade weighed in is they were not committed to pursuing common sense gun safety legislation. the president made a promise earlier this year that he would ensure that hess name would not be associated with, he wouldn't support or advocate for the election of democrats who don't support common sense gun safety legislation. this is an example of the president following through. now, what's also true, i'll acknowledge this on the front end, is that we're not going to scrub the records in the campaign statements of every single democrat all over the country. the president's home state of illinois is a place that he knows well and he knows some of the individuals as well. and the president felt like it was an important race for him to weigh in on. as it relates to mr. murphy and
governor strictland, the president is interested in doing as much as he can to support democrats in their effort to retake the majority in the united states senate and he certainly has put his endorsement alongside who he believes have the strongest candidates in those two key states. >> philosophically what's the difference between intervening and endorsing in a presidential race? >> at this point i haven't ruled out endorsing in the presidential race. the president hasn't either. however, we do not plan to. what i think the dynamics of each race are different and i think some of it also has to do with the president's view that particularly at the presidential level the democratic candidates are likely to benefit from having a longer than expected campaign. that certainly watts true when he ran in 2008. we were remarking earlier today
that, you know, after the election -- after the outcome in michigan that that many people are voting again. the democratic contest will last longer than most people expected. people were observing the same thing eight years ago today. we were a week out of the texas and ohio contest in 2008. of course, like i said, clinton won in ohio and she very narrowly won the primary in texas but lost the caucus. they have a rather peculiar system in texas for choosing their girlfriends. if president obama had won one of those two states that he might be able to seal the nomination, but because secretary clinton or then senator clinton emerged notorious there were many people who worried.
i thil indiana is the best example of that kind of state because barack obama won indiana in 2008. that's a place the democrats hadn't even competed in quite some time. so those who are concerned that this will last longer than anticipated, that's not bad news. >> one more topic. congress is in the final stages of passing legislation to deal with the opioid crisis. i know the white house has administration policy asking for
additional funding in the bill. is the white house prepared to sign a bill in its current form? >> my understanding is it's something that's still being negotiated up on capitol hill. at this point, you know, our view is that we welcome recognition on the part of both democrats and republicans that opioid abuse is a significant problem in too many communities across the country. the problem with his bill is that it doesn't include nearly enough resources to begin to address that problem. so what we'd like to see the congress do is do more than pay lip service to the problem and actually put forward some specific ideas with funding to address it. the president in his budget proposal laid out about a billion dollars in resources that could be used to effectively combat this scourge in communities large and small all across the country.
and congress should consider legislation rather than just passing a bill. >> if this came to your desk or the president's desk, would he sign it? >> again, we'll take a look at the bill as it works through the legislative process, but our view is that congress should actually pass some legislation that has the necessary resources to begin to confront this issue. if they're wondering about what sort of good ideas are out there in terms of programs that deserve funding, well, we've included them in our budget. i suggest that the republicans on the budget committee hadn't canceled the budget hearings before the president released his budget, we would have had more of an opportunity to talk about this. ron. >> back to the trades issue and michigan vote and this whole idea of saying how the tpp levels the playing field, one of
the arguments that person any sanders make is there can't be a fair trade when the pay disparity is there. how do you get a level playing field on a trade deal when workers make 50 cents per hour versus american workers making at a time when wages are flat or not increasing significantly -- >> right. >> -- it's one of the weaknesses of the economy. how do you get a level playing field in that paradigm. >> it doesn't level the playing field at all, ron, doing nothing. complaining about it. that's not going to have any impact on policy in vietnam, none. what will have an impact on policy in vietnam is telling the vietnamese government if they want more access to the u.s. government, which we know they would like, you need to do something about labor standards. if you don't, you won't have
access to our market. you need to start observing legitimate environmental standards in your country and if you don't, then you won't have access to u.s. markets. you need to start protecting human rights. >> how is that going to raise the 56 cent wage. is that anywhere near comparable to what an american worker makes? the basic argument is that with that kind of disparity, which is pretty striking, you can't have a -- what you say is a level playing field. >> my retort to that, ron, is what are they doing? what do they propose? there's no strategy laying out by the antitpp forces of what they would do to counter the forces of globalization and stand up for middle class workers in this country. we lay out a clear strategy. we're going to impose enforceable standards. if they want access they're going to have to put in place higher standards when it comes to labor, when it comes to
environmental rights and when it comes to human rights. the other thing they're going to have to do is treat u.s. goods fairly when we want to do business in their country. that's significant because vietnam has a rapidly growing middle class. we are seeing significant economic growth rates. that is a tremendous opportunity for u.s. businesses to invest in vietnam, do business in vietnam in a way that will yield economic growth, job creation and higher wages back here in the united states. we're going to cut taxes on 18,000 american goods that are imposed by other countries. that is a coherent strategy for countering the forces of globalizati globalization, increasing wages and creating jobs here in the united states of america. that's what we should do. it's not just that i disagree with the argument, there is no counter proposal. there is no argument being made by the other side so we all
share concerns about the impact of globalization. there are communities in this country that are hurting as a result, but the question really is not whether or not that's occurring, the question is what are we going to do about it? president obama has laid out a clear strategy for how we can tackle this challenge. >> what are the criteria that gets a visit to that level? this will be the 12th during the presidency and is it -- do the comments about donald trump and him being an anti-trump as you've read have anything to do with the fact that he is visiting the white house at this time? >> no. the reason that the prime minister trudeau is visiting the white house, he was invited by president obama back in november to do so. he is the leader of america's closest economic partner and he is the leader of a country that does some really important work
that's critical to the national security of the united states. the united states of america has a strong interest in cultivating strong ties with the nation of canada, the people of canada and the new prime minister of canada and we're looking forward to his visit. that's been the case for many years, for 20 or so years now. the timing is perhaps political. >> i think the timing is it coincides with a new prime minister in canada. i think it's pretty straightforward. >> anything about the guest list or anything else? i know there's a preview. >> we'll have more information on the guest list tomorrow. april? >> two subjects. i want to do wednesday morning quarterbacking on michigan last night. how did the auto industry bailout factor in last night? especially hillary clinton hides herself. >> well, look, all of your news
organizations have hundreds of people on the payroll doing post election analysis. seems like pretty good work if you can get it, maybe some day i will but not today. the president made a very strong case about the positive impacts that the -- that his policies that he put in place had on the auto industry in michigan. that industry, the great american industry, was on the verge of clashing and it was very difficult, unpopular decisions that this president made very early on in his presidency that we've seen. the american auto industry came roaring back. that is thanks primarily to the grit and determination of american workers but it wouldn't have been possible without the policy decisions that this president made and that this administration implemented. i don't know what impact that had on the primary.
i can tell you that it had a pretty significant impact in the general election in 2012 when this came up. you had a pretty stark contrast between president obama's record of trying to support the american auto industry and a republican candidate who famously wrote an on ed suggesting we should let detroit go bankrupt. when faced with that stark choice, even the republican nominee's close ties to that debate didn't make it particularly beneficial. i think that's the closest we have to a referendum. we'll have to see how things shake out in 2016 but i wouldn't be surprised if we are faced with a general election choice between a democratic candidate who believes strongly in the value of having invested in american manufacturing and republican candidates who -- or a republican candidate who don't recognize whether that should be a priority.
>> the community and michigan that are touched or impacted by the auto industry. how does the administration look at that community economically. >> there's no denying that tremendous progress the state of michigan has made in digging out of the hole created by the great recession. in many ways the state of michigan was hurt as badly as any other state because of how closely tied their broader economy is to the american manufacturing sector, to the auto industry in particular. and, look, you can go back to look at the news reports at the time. the american auto industry was, you know, weeks or even days away from totally collapsing and that just wouldn't have affected the big three u.s. automakers, it would have had an impact up and down their supply chain in more than 1 million jobs
potentially at steak here. you know, that's why the president believes that bold action was required to go and support that industry and make the recovery that we see today possible. and, you know, the reason that the michigan economy is doing quite well now is that we do see it. the american auto industry is performing at unseen levels. their profits are higher, they're making more cars and they're selling more cars than ever before. that's a really good thing for the michigan economy. it also happens to be a pretty good darn thing for the u.s. economy as well. >> on the supreme court nominee. could you talk to us about the letters the white house has been getting on reports on the black women's roundtable and other organizations, this is something that's happened before. can you talk about the process once you get the names, do you compare them to the list that you have, the open binder that you continue to get or do you
add anything? could you talk about the process, how the letters are handled? >> well, you know, the -- obviously the process of filling a vacancy on the supreme court is something that a lot of people are quite interested in. that's understandable when you consider the broad impact the supreme court has in policy maki making. we've seen some of the policies in this administration prioritized were at risk until the supreme court made a final ruling. i have in mind some of the affordable care act rulings that would have significantly changed our ability to implement that law had the supreme court ruled in a different way. so the stakes are high and obviously there are a lot of organizations that exist here in dc that are trying to influence policy that have some ideas about who should serve on the supreme court.
what you've seen the administration do is something that we do on a range of issues, which is to engage with people outside of this building to have a conversation with them about their views. and that's part of the reason that the president is consulting with so many members of the united states senate. i can tell you that there are democrats and republicans across washington and the country that have been consulted by the white house on this specific decision that the president has to make. all of that is fed into the process that's being run by senior members of the president's team to present him with the information that he needs to make a decision and this kind of consultation and outreach is part and parcel of what we do here every day at the white house. >> you said that these groups in d.c. are trying to influence and then you just said it's fed into a process. you're saying to me they have some level of influence on the process. was that too strong? >> no. i think what i'm saying is that there has been a concerted
effort on the part of white house officials to reach out beyond the white house to consult with interested parties on this decision. we obviously take that feedback seriously. we welcome the input we've received out of the many conversations that have occurred thus far. >> is there feedback from the black caucus, the black woman's caucus that say loretta lynch should be your nominee. do you take that seriously? >> absolutely. absolutely. now ms. lynch has also indicated that she does not want to be considered for the appointment because she has a lot of important work to do at the department of justice. that is an understandable position. she does have a lot of work to do at the department of justice. serving as a nominee for the supreme court would interfere with her getting that done. >> you have taken her name off the list? >> she has indicated she doesn't
wish to be considered and we've takin her name off the list. >> the arrest of kyle andrew odom here at the white house who is suspected of shooting the pastor in idaho, whether or not the white house is a target, the president, the list, the manifesto regarding the pastor's name, members of the senate as well as the house and israeli officials that he was targeting in some way. what can you tell us about that? >> susan, i don't have much of an update on the case. you saw that the secret service put out a statement yesterday, earlier today, detailing what exactly happened. this individual was apprehended by united states secret service personnel after he threw some material over the south end of the white house. once he was detained and questioned, they ran his information through the database and learned he was wanted in connection with an attempted
murd did he in idaho. those are obviously serious charges and i'll defer to the local officials in idaho for their ongoing investigation. but obviously given where this individual was detained, you know, the secret service had some questions for him as well, but i don't have any update for you in terms of their investigation. >> is there any concern in light of the fact that local officials did put him on that database right after they had surveillance video showing the incident, the shooting of a pastor, that he was able to bored a plane in boise. are there discussions happening between the tsa and the white house involving that? >> i'm not aware of any discussions along those lines right now. i think that's more of a matter of local law enforcement. >> another matter, the vice president yesterday condemned the palestinian leaders for not coming out aggressively and
strongly saying that the terrorist attack in tel aviv was something that shouldn't have happened. he's meeting with mahmoud abbas. will that be front and center of the conversation? >> the reports of this particular incident were just emerging prior to my briefing yesterday, and at that point, you know, i have strong condemnation as we routinely do when these kinds of terrorist incidents occurred. at the time we weren't aware that the american citizen was a victim of this. this kind of attack would be outrageous even if it didn't involve an american, but clearly it does and that's why the thoughts and prayers are here at the white house with the family of the young man who was killed yesterday. the vice president spoke to this when he had an opportunity to do so at his public appearance with
prime minister netanyahu and it does seem hard to imagine that this issue wouldn't come up -- >> vice president meets with president abbas? >> sure. the information that he would publicly condemn this attack? >> our expectation will be that you would -- that public officials, particularly those in a position of leadership, would condemn any act of terrorism and would condemn any effort to carry out an act of violence against innocent civilians. >> that is the condemnation, not just on the part of israel. countries around the world including by the leader of the palestinian people. >> finally, following up on april's question. is there a concern from the white house that you've now seen attorney general lynch decide that she doesn't want her name in the nomination process? today just jordan that you are
losing potentially good candidates, good candidates before it begins because of the contentious nature? >> no, i'm not worried about that at all. i think what i would refer you to the public statements made by each of those individuals. they had their own individual reasons for choosing not to be part of the process. i remain confident that the president will choose the very best person in america for this job. okay? >> margaret. >> the white house, the family of the u.s. army vet killed in israel the other day? >> i don't know if there's been any contact with his family at this point but we'll try to keep you posted on that. >> i want to come back when you were talking about levenson, you made the point that the last
country he was seen in was in iran. are you talking about the proof of life video? because around that time hillary clinton said he was in southwest asia. are you differing from that? is there a change in view. >> no, i think our view was the last time we knew definitively was in iran. >> there have been -- you know, other evidences has been put forward. it doesn't make it precisely clear where he is. that's what we're working with the iranians, try to determine exactly what his vocation is and determine his whereabouts. the iranians have committed to do that and we've held them to that. >> it wasn't that the then secretary of state would be. that's outside of iran now. >> i think what i'm doing now is i'm explaining why we believe
that iran has an obligation to assist the united states in determining its whereabouts. i greement that was reached earlier this year. we're holding them to that commitment. >> you said you hadn't seen a statement that used the word hostage. that was not in the state department print statement, not in the white house statement. are you saying though beyond the pr statement that the white house does not view him as a hostage. >> what i'm saying is it's difficult to reach a conclusive statement like that when we
don't know where he is. that's why we're working so hard to determine his whereabouts. again, we are -- the iranians have made a commitment to help us determine his location. we're holding them to that commitment. we continue to engage in conversations with them. obviously, this is a very difficult time for the family. the statement i issued earlier today indicates, our thoughts are with them as they go through what is an unthinkable situation. obviously, that's a very difficult thing for any family to go through. they are concerned about their loved one. they are missing their loved one. it's why the united states is going to great lengths to try to determine the whereabouts of this american citizen so we can bring him home. >> it is reported that there's a difference between law enforcement and the white house and the administration as to his status.
do you dispute that? >> i don't know what the latest law enforcement assessment is. you can talk to them about that. >> a hostage. that's what the fbi says. >> what i'm saying is that our policy from here is to hold the iranians accountable for helping us determine his location. the reason we hold the iranians accountable is that last time we knew definitively where he was, he was in iran. that places an obligation on the iranian government to assist us in that effort. they have committed to cooperating with us. we're going to, as i mentioned, as was included in the statement, we're going to spare no effort to try to secure his return. >> you just don't know definitely if he's a hostage? >> we don't flow wheknow where . that what makes it hard to determine what his status is. we're very concerned about list safety w safety. the family has gone through a great deal of turmoil and pain.
that's why we have placed such a priority on finding him and bringing hmm home. . >> different topic. there was an op ed in the communist paper with cuba demanding and making clear that they're not going to change their policies for the u.s. and saying that president obama could do more. are you disappointed at this? does it make the tone for the president's -- >> i'm not concerned about it. we have obviously got a pretty long agenda for the president's trip to cuba. and that long agenda includes visiting with political opponents of the cuban government and standing up for in a very tangible way the universal human rights of the cuban people. that after our priority here is that by more deeply engaging the cuban government, cuban economy
and the key ban peopcuban peopl advance the interests of the people. that's positive economic benefits for the united states. but this also is an opportunity for us to use the moral influence of the united states to advocate for greater freedoms for cuban people. that's something that the united states does around the world. it makes sense we would do that in a country 90 myl 0 miles off shore. >> back on attorney general lynch, would you agree it's possible the president informed her before she made that statement yesterday that she simply was not going to be the nominee and allowed her the dignity of issuing a statement on her own? >> i'm not aware of the president having done that. my understanding is that she contacted the white house to make clear that she has a lot of important work do at the
department of justice. for that reason, asked not to be considered to an appointmentment to a new job. >> when i asked you about the same topic, you used solicitor general kagan as an example of someone who had lieutenants who could do the job and that would not interfere with her ability to go through the process while still conducting the business of the people of the united states. i'm just curious what's different here. >> i think what's different here is that the scope of responsibilities for the attorney general of the united states are much broader than the scope of responsibilities for the solicitor general. >> when i asked you -- >> i think it's a relevant example. ms. kagan, where the solicitor general is, she is somebody who turned out to be -- has turned out to the be an excellent supreme court justice. in that situation, we were able to design a solution that allowed her deputy to assume some responsibilities while she went through this process. when you consider the scope of
responsibilities, particularly some of the more challenging things that are being dealt with over at the department of justice right now and things like fighting isil, there are a number of prosecutions, including the fifa prosecution that are ongoing and to remove ms. lynch from the equation would be unnecessarily disrupti disruptive. that's why she made a request to not be considered for the appointment to the supreme court. the president granted that request. >> follow up also on her comments about the ongoing investigation into the clinton e-mail scandal. she made a recent comment suggesting that under no circumstances did they confer with the white house. there was no back and forth. can you sort of again reiterate from the administration's perspective, has there been any conversations during this investigation at all, has there been any updating done by the doj? have you seen any sort of back and forth? >> well, obviously, i have not
been a part of any of those conversations. the attorney general who leads that department says they did not occur. so i wouldn't have any to disagree with her or think she's not correct when she says that the department of justice has not been communicating specifically with the white house about this. >> you haven't had any conversations with anyone? no one has given you any guidance? >> of course not. >> lastly, i want to ask you about -- this is a broad sweep. eric, kelly, broad brush, what makes them interesting possible nominees? >> well, at least a couple of the names that you mentioned there are individuals who were appointed by president obama to the federal bench. and in most cases, these were individuals who were confirmed with a bipartisan support by the united states senate to serve on
the federal bench. i would be the first to acknowledge as i have on previous occasions that an appointment to the supreme court is certainly a unique case. that's why we would expect for the senate to undergo a process of interviewing these individuals or interviewing the nominee and giving them a hearing and subjecting them to tough questioning and scrutiny of their background for this position. but i think what i -- the observation that i would have is that these are individuals who have already served the country in the judicial branch with distinction. having that kind of background i think certainly does give us an indication that they could be good supreme court nominees. but at this point, i'm not in a position to confirm that anybody is actually under consideration by the white house. so i don't want to lead you astray there.
but certainly the three individuals you named are people that the president was proud to have appointed to the federal bench. >> if i could follow. have any of the conversations that you can't talk about, that we are not privy to, is there any possible way that we can get more than, i can't confirm, i can't deny, i can't say they have, they haven't? because people -- the american people want to know, where are we in this process? i'm glad mark asked about today, because each day we're on pins and needles trying to figure out where we are in the process. >> it's exciting. isn't it? >> yeah. we want to know can you give us more than i can't say, i would love to help you out? where are we in the process? >> unfortunately, at this point i don't have additional information i can share. what i can tell you is that once the president has made a decision, i do think that we will be able to provide you at least a little bit more insight into what went into his making that decision, what are the kinds of things he has been thinking about over the last several weeks here. i think that will be -- that will also be something more easy
to illustrate once the president has made a decision. we can certainly have a conversation about that and we will have more than one. >> you can watch the entire white house briefing at our website. just go to c-span.org. tonight on c-span3, second tom vilsack on the budget request. then a hearing on epa regulations impact states. later, a look at the influence of state political parties. c-span's washington journal, live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. on thursday's washington journal, our first guests are senior fellow at the center for american progress and senior fellow at american enterprise institute.
joining us to discuss how race, age and other changes to our population could impact this year's election and beyond. then alison cojack for npr joins us to talk about the health the care plans of the front-runners. washington journal thursday live at 7:00 a.m. eastern. join the discussion. this year's student cam documentary competition was our largest yet. nearly 6,000 middle and high school students took part alone or in teams of up to three. in all, we received nearly 2,900 entries from 439 schools across the country. even from schools as far away as taiwan and the united arab emirates. now it's time to award $100,000 in prize money to our winners. for this year's contest, students were asked to produce documentaries using our road to the white house theme. specifically, to document what
issue they most wanted the candidates to discuss during the presidential campaign. through their entries, students told us that the economy, equality, education and immigration were all top issues. our judges have finalized their decisions for one grand prize winner and four first place winners. 150 prizes in all. there is one fan favorite selected by you. now we are happy to announce our top prize winners. our grand prize winner is olivia herd, from oklahoma. her winning documentary titled, up to our necks, addresses the federal debt. >> the united states is $18.153 trillion in dead. so how exactly did america get up to its neck in debt? every year a budget is form ed. the first is decisiiscretionary
funding. the second session is mandatory spending, which received $2.45 trillion in the year 2015. lastly, there's the interest on the federal debt which received $229 billion. >> as our grand prize winner, she wins $5,000 for her documentary. and the c-span bus will travel to her school so wie can presen her with the check. our first prize winners for middle school are sisters. mia and ava in virginia. their winning documentary is, what should be done about money and politics. >> you see flyers in your mailbox. advertisement on the radio and tv and the internet. this is the way politicians try to get elected. they spend millions of dollars on their campaigns. as soon as one election ends, the fund-raising for the next begins. every day that congress is in session, there are fund-raisers all over the country.
in 2012, the presidential election cost about $2.6 billion. you can't help but wonder where does all this money come from? >> the first prize winners of our high school central category are 12th graders. they all attend troy high school in troy, michigan. their documentary is titled, the one percent. >> today americans are drowning in issues such as immigration, medicare, terrorism, leaked e-mails. although these are important, the issue that will affect the most persons is the issue of the 1%. >> 1%. 1%. >> 1%. >> not that 1%. this 1%. the shining blue jewel of the united states. the great lakes. >> truly one of the unique resources in the world. largest fresh water resource in the world. there's nothing like it. >> our student cam first prize
winners from our high school west category are a 12th grader and a 10th grader who attend metropolitan art institute in phoenix. >> the prison systems around the united states have changed radically in the last 20 to 30 years. let me address arizona. 20 years ago, our prison population was about 20,000 people. now our state prison system is over 40,000. the composition of the prison population has also dramatically changed. >> finally, our fan favorite was selected through your online voting. we're happy to announce the winners will receive $500. our first prize winners for high school east category.
10th graders from montgomery, blair high school in silver spring, maryland. their documentary is driving forward and it tackles highway and bridge funding. >> americans love moving around. we love fast cars, big trucks, road trips, horsepower and 70 mile per hour speed limits. we drive farther and have more cars than any other country in the world. for all our love of what we drive, we tend to take what we drive on for granted. america's 2 million miles of roads and 600,000 bridges are aging, congested and often dangerous. >> thanks to all of the students and teachers who competed this year. congratulations to all of our winners. the top 21 winning entries will air or c-span in april. all the winning entries are available for viewing online at stude studentcam.org. agriculture secretary tom
administration's fiscal year 2017 budget request. in addition to secretary vilsack, we welcome dr. j johanssen. thank you for joining us in a discussion about agricultural economics. mr. young, thank you for your presence today. agriculture supports 16 million jobs nationwide. it's the backbone of my state, my community and states and communities across the country. we also know unfortunately as indicated last week, farmers are phasing a dramatic reduction in commodity prices and falling revenues. and we know the facts that indicate 2013 to 2015 net farm income fell 54%. in these times, it's critical that our nation's safety net for farmers and ranchers perform well. and allow them to continue to grow and raise the most abundant food supply in the world.
as i indicated in our conversation, in the absence of doing that, they will not be around in good types. therefore, i would express my disappointment that the president's budget proposes significant cuts to crop insurance. even though we had a grass-roots effort that successfully reversed a reduction, that reduction pales in comparison to what this year's proposal in the budget requests. as this subcommittee works to craft this year's appropriation bill, my priority will be to focus on agriculture producers in the rural communities in which they live. keeping a strong safety net is at the forefront of the effort. i look forward to discussing these issues and others at today's hearing. when the senator arrives, we will give him the opportunity to make any statement he would like to make. i will turn to secretary sill sack.
secretary vilsack, we will begin with your testimony. >> thank you very much. to senator merkley and other members of the committee, thank you for the country to be here today. i thought i would take this opportunity to point out that budgets are often a lot about numbers. but behind each of these numbers there are individuals and people we care deeply about. i thought i would take a little bit of my time today to discuss the people who will be benefitted from the agricultural budget. budget we submitted to the senate and to the house will support 43,000 farm loans. we have already over the last seven years provided 239,000 farmers with the credit that they need to be able to operate and own their farm operation. 80% of those resources going to those beginning in the farming business and socially disadvantaged producers. this budget will continue to support our export as ssistance. we are excited about the possibility of during the last
seven years reaching nearly a trillion dollars of ag exports, which is a report. a 45% increase over the previous seven-year period. this does provide coverage for the $92 billion crop that will be grown and raised this year through crop insurance and provides what we estimate to be an 18% return on investment for the companies crop insurance. 44 million acres to a record number of rural acres in our conservation program. we're pleased with the reaction and response to the rccp program which is leveraging nearly $2 for every dollar we are investing in conservation. in addition to providing opportunities for credit, we also will as the chairman indicated continue to administer the farm bill safety net programs. last year we provided 900,000 produce producers. arc or plc payments totals $5.2 billion. our expectation is that that amount will increase this year to provide the necessary bridge to better times.
at the same time, we're going to make sure that we create more innovation and opportunity in rural america. the budget we propose will support 55,000 new jobs added to the 450,000 jobs that we have saved. or created as a result of investments in over 100,000 businesses in the last seven years through rural development. this budget will finance 167,000 home loans, which will allow us to exceed a million home loans in the last seven years. finance nearly 1,000 community facilities. provide safer and better water for 1.7 real americans which will reach nearly 20 million rural americans who have benefitted from over 5,000 water and waste water projects that have been financed by usda since i've been secretary. our budget proposed a threefold increase in broadband grants. there are reasons for business, for farmers as well as potential expansion of distance learning and tele-medicine which will become important in rural america if we're to make sure
that our youngsters are well prepared for a very competitive future. if we're able to deal with the opioid issue which i know is an issue that many of you are very, very concerned about as i am. this budget will also fully fund our research initiative meeting the goal that was set when the national institute of food and agriculture was first established of $700 million of assistance for research. there's never been a more important time in agriculture for additional research, whether pollinators, pest and diseases that we're dealing with as a result of a changing climate. we have ted 429 pat enteents through our research initiative. i will support and provide additional resources for the important role of the agricultural research service within usda. on nutrition side, this will support 8.1 millionillion wic p.
i'm interested and hopeful we are able to see an expansion of our summer feeding program. it will add a million youngsters to the opportunity to access food during the summer months. this also will provide an opportunity for us to focus on senior citizens and their access to snap. only 41% of eligible senior citizens are receiving the benefits. we would like to see that percentage increase. this is a budget, mr. chairman, that also will allow for an expansion of local and regional food systems. i would say that even though this is not the purview of this committee, i would hope this is the year we fix the fire budget. that's an impact on every other aspect of the usda budget. i'm at the point where folks have raised concerns about trails and a variety of other facets of the forest service that we're not going to what we
have done in the past which is to transfer money for fire suppression. hopefully this is the year that congress gets serious about fire suppression. this is also a budget, i might add, that is i$1.8 billion less than budget submitted in the first full year of this administration. we have been dealing with constrained budgets. but we have done this through the administrative services process which saved $1.4 billion and through a program has saved over 300,000 hours of time and saved $65 million to constituents and customers we serve. all in an effort to try to continue to do better and more with less. i look forward to questions from the committee. i appreciate the opportunity to be here. >> mr. secretary, we appreciate your presence here. i appreciate the numbers i times you have reached tout me and providing me with information and meeting in the office and phone calls. i'm grateful for the working relationship we have. let me ask a couple of questions. then we will move to my colleagues quickly. i will have an opportunity to ask more again later.
let me start with the snap issue. february 17, the food and nutrition service publish proposed rules in regard to snap. as you will recall, this was a significant contentious issue in the farm bill. my question to you is -- my understanding is that those rules, those proposed rules have a significant consequence on potentially the convenience store setting, perhaps small grocery store setting and i have a particular interest in that because in my m rural communities, there is no grocery store or convenience store is one of the sole providers of food in many communities across rural america. i would be interested in hearing your thoughts. but my specific question is, would you entertain positively the idea of a longer comment period than the 60 days that you are currently proposing? >> mr. chairman, obviously, we
will respect your request and certainly take a look at what extension it would make sense. we obviously want to look at the comments and find out what people think and feel about this. we obviously want to give people appropriate time to comment on this. this is an important issue. it's an important issue from the standpoint of the convenience store. it's also an important issue in terms of access to good, wholesome food. as we deal with the obesity crisis and the health care costs that result from obesity. part of the challenge is that folks who do live in rural, remote areas do not have access to the wide array and diversity of foods that others are fortunate to have. we believe it's not asking too much for convenience store owns and operators to provide a broader array of resources and choices for people who are snap beneficiaries. so that's the purpose of the rule. i think there's also the belief that we -- we can partner with these convenience stores in an effort to increase and enhance
the nutritional value of what's being sold at the convenience stores. >> i appreciate what i took as a positive comment. you will talk a look at potentially extending the comment period. i appreciate that, mr. secretary. let me ask about another rule. on monday, you indicated in conversations in front of an organization here i think in washington, d.c. that you anticipated that there would be revised rules. you expected them to be finalized before you leave office. given the overwhelming congressional opposition to the previously proposed rules, what changes do you plan to make? what discussions and outreach have you had with stakeholders in this regard? >> mr. chairman, that process is still ongoing. no commitments specifically have been made in terms of what those rules will look like. we realize that congress lifted the restriction on our ability to work on these issues.
i have asked the team to take a look at what modifications or changes would be appropriate given the concerns that have been expressed in the past. and also to determine whether or not what we were considering a couple of years ago, whether or not that still makes sense in today's market. they are putting together that work plan. will be more than happy when that process is completed to obviously provide you additional information on precisely what we're thinking. the key here is to make sure that the playing field is level between those who are owners and those who are producers to make sure there's not an unfair advantage in the relationship and to make sure in difficult times that those who have invested a lot of hard earned resource and time are treated fairly if a contract is terminated order for some reason a contract is modified. we have had examples where folks have been dealt a very serious and difficult blow in tight circumstances. the avian influenza situation
was important. particularly those who lost birds. we found not all the payments were going to the producers who were economically suffering as well. we want to make sure it's a fair and equitable relationship. that's the purpose of the review of the rules. >> what do you. he picture the tiexpect the time to be? what schedule are you on? >> i suspect some of the rules may be finalize and some may be proposed. g g given the nature of the concerns expressed in the past. i would hope we would get work plans completed and something over relatively soon. i would hope we would get that done sometime in the early spring. then there's the review by omb which can take sometimes up to 90 days or longer. then hopefully, that process is expedited so that sometime in late summer, early fall we're in a position to provide information specifically to the public for their comment and review. at that point, any adjustments that need to be made can be
made. hopefully by the time the year ends, we know what the rules will be or what they are proposed to be. >> mr. secretary, you mentioned avian flu. is there something -- this is a topic of conversation that you and i had one on one. certainly in the hearing that we had a year ago on your budget, this was a significant issue and concern. is there something that usda has learned that we would be in a better position should this kind of occurrence reappear? and then if you would bring me -- bring us up to date on what's transpired in other countries in regard to our exports in regard to avian flu. >> well, we have learned a great deal, mr. chairman. first of all, we learned that necessity of making earlier determinations and quicker determinations. so we beefed up our laboratory capacity. we would like to make determinations within a 24 to 48-hour time period when something arises on a farm. we would then like to be able to work with the producer to depopulate within 24 hours. we learned there are a multitude of ways in which that can be
done under each particular circumstance. we learned the need to preposition assets or to have an wearness and understanding of how disposal will be handled in advance as opposed to after the fact which can delay disposal which can create greater risk. we learned our indemnification systems need to be altered to reflect a more appropriate balance. we were cleaning up situations in some of the facilities that hadn't been cleaned up for a decade as opposed to cleaning up the specific cause or the problem with avian influenza. there was a better balanced approach there. the difference between providing the owner of the birds allindem equitable distribution. we learned the necessity of constantly researching this. it's constantly mutating and evolving. and we have learned the necessity of at least having
prepositioned vaccine. not that we would use it. but there may be a circumstance or situation where it is appropriate. we have sort of war gamed what that would look like and what we would have to do in order to utilize vaccine. in terms of the trade issue, we are seeing many of those who initially banned all poultry seal sales are beginning to understand the need to look at this regionally. we have seen some that have become even state specific and some bans that have been very specific to the county or counties. so we have seen an expansion of opportunity, about 77% of the poultry exports are currently in the right place. we're still working with some of our friends in china, for example. for the most part, people have taken the right approach to regionalization or state-wide bans as opposed to country-wide bans. >> it seems as if you learned a lot. which i assume means better
usda, the federal government, better prepared for another occurrence should it arise. is there any legislative changes that are required to help you accomplish a greater or better response? >> well, i would only say, mr. chairman, i think the research aspect of usda needs to continue to be beefed up. we're constantly dealing with things like this. i don't know that we necessarily need a legislative change. if there are, i will be happy to get information to you. i don't know of anything off the top of my head. >> thank you very much. senator merkley? >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. thank you, mr. secretary. we're well along in the journey now. an eight-year journey serving president obama. i believe you are the only member of the cabinet who has been there from the starting line and is still with us. i assume planning to go across the finish line. i want to thank you for these eight years of service. >> thank you. >> and as you indicated by the chairman, i know you wrote a lot
on so many issues. certainly in your introduction, you mentioned food, water and shelter. that is everything from snap to water purification programs to housing programs. it really reflects on the essential functions that your department has for millions and millions of americans. i just wanted to note, your march 7th speech where you talked about -- called upon congress to pass mandatory gmo labeling. i know you and i have a very different definition of what that would look like. but i stand with you shoulder to shoulder in that cause of mandatory labeling. i wanted to turn to the housing component. one of the issues we had last year is that under rent al
assistan assistance, we where ran out of money to pay the share of the rent that we were responsible for as the federal government. that appears to be fully addressed in the budget for fy-17. but i just wanted to raise it and ask if people across the country who were involved in providing project-based housing can rest assured that we've got did covered this time. >> senator, i think we do. it's what i have been told. i certainly appreciate the work of yourself and members of the this committee to resolve that aspect of our rental assistance program. we have, as you know, the other issue of maturing mortgages and loan payoffs which will result potentially -- unless we deal with this -- in a lot of the units coming out of the program. which case, you are going to have a lot of families looking for housing and not be able to afford it. >> you turned to my second topic. we have recently been able to
get some data from the department on maturing mortgages in oregon. it's important that across the nation we know when mortgages are maturing so that non-profits can attempt to buy them and places where they would go to a higher market race. inow your team has been working on this issue. i just wanted to emphasize how hard it is to recould have they are hourecover this if we lose out of the affordable portfolio. i worked on a program years ago. it was a very similar situation, only in urban settings. now we have this in rural settings. anything that you can do -- i'm sure many members would say the same -- to assist the department in trying to make sure we identify the expiring use projects and do everything possible to preserve them, certainly, would like to see happen. >> senator, 75% of these loans potentially will become due and
paid off in the next ten years. so that's 75% of the units. one thing that you may want to think about is the ability of vouchering those folks who are in a position where their unit ultimately gets out of the program. another way that we're looking at is being able to extend the mortgages and refinancing so that the improvements can be made to the property with the savings that results from extension and refinancing. so there are some creative solutions. we need to get focused on this. >> i look forward to exploring with the subcommittee the possibilities. this will be very important to the housing stock in america. i want to turn to the rural energy savings program. the energy saving program, consist was we could create jobs in rural america if people could take loans on their electric bill and be able to replace
their windows or add ensinsulat. it put a lot of people to work. often the energy savings would pay for the improvements themselves. plus, virtually all the products are made in america. so we get more bang for the buck, because we get the local construction contractor employed but it also creates jobs in american manufacturing. we had the initial program funded last year. i was wondering if you have any information on whether it -- get it stood up on its feet and have it running. >> senator, as you know, we worked with a program that was similar to what you proposed with an interest rate that was high, higher. and we were in the process of implementing that and learning from that. recognizing that there were some serious learning curve for what we were dealing with. we recently announced a state-wide initiative in vermont where we learned quite a bit.
the proposal that you were the leader on, we expect and anticipate to stand up this spring. we would anticipate and expect there will be an interest an interest free or zero interest program. now that we know how to set it up, i think we will see more of the projects. because i think it is popular. i think there's a great deal of potential there. >> i can tell you in oregon, the employment rate has not rebounded at all in rural airs the way it has in urban areas. i know this the case across the country. it's a win/win program on several levels. >> help us fix the fire situation and that situation in rural oregon will change. >> thank you, chairman. secretary vilsack, i want to join merkel and moran in appreciating your service, appreciating really how much you bring to this job i think every
year more than the year before. it's amoazing how much there is to learn. i'm impress by how you dedicated yourself to learning how important this is. the future challenges and opportunities for agriculture is great if not greater than they have ever been. hopefully, we can figure out how to make the most of that. just two or three pretty quick questions here. one is, i continue to hear from our friends in agriculture the desire for more streamlining in the reporting process. my good friend, who is the chairman of the missouri farm bureau was telling me he has to go into the fsa office and file his report on crop insurance. then he has to go to his crop insurance agent and then the agent has to refile the same information with risk management. are we making any progress in trying to steam line that time cost both to federal employees
and to the people that they work for? >> we are, senator. last year we launched and this year we implemented fsa-plus, which is allowing folks to access records at home. this year we will do -- we started with a pilot project in iowa and illinois to test market how we would be able to have better coordination between rma and fsa and the reporting. we then extended that to a number of other states. now we are prepared this year to go nationwide. the concerns that he has expressed i think by the end of this year he will be much happier than he has been. he will also be able to access all of his records, awful his maps, all of his information from his home computer with fsa-plus. >> i know this is a project that has been out there all the time you've been running the department. frustrating and challenging for all of us. i look forward to seeing it come to a conclusion. you will remember my mom and dad were dairy farmers. i come to this next topic with my own personal point of view,
which is pretty strongly held. i believe that there are significant parts of the country now where packaged bottled water is being offered as a substitute for milk in school cafeterias. histor historical historically, usda recommended schoolchildren consume 2 1/2 to 3 servings of milk every day because the potassium and vitamin d and calcium. i believe the facts that's an accurate statement about water as an alternative. is packaged bottled water reimbursable in the national school lunch program? >> i believe it is. i don't for a fact know that. we can check. i do know that we are encouraging more dairy products. it doesn't necessarily have to be milk. greek yogurt is now a protein substitu substitute.
there's a lot of interest. we're trying to be responsive to what school districts are asking us to provide them with. and for. i will check on the reimbursement issue. >> i'm not a big advocate for us buying water as one of the alternatives at lunch. there are other ways to get water, i would think. usda being -- funds being used, you think that's through the national school lunch program then? or might be and you are going to check and get back to us on that. >> i will check on that. >> senator mccakackaskel wrote letter. our concerns are the remaining funds available under phase two of the connects america fund critically important that rural constituents all over -- our letter was focused on missouri -- have the same access to fiber-optics and other advanced broadband networks as their urban counterparts at a
comparable price. >> we have conveyed those same sentiments to the chairman. that's our hope is that as they look at connect america and some of the other programs that we are -- will continue to see an expansion of broadband. also we believe it's going to be important for us to continue to stay in the game from a grant and loan perspective. that's why our budget has an increase in the broadband access. >> all those things matter. maybe social access may lead to my last question, which is one -- you and i talked after the president asked you to play a leadership role in this effort to curb heroin and opioid use on the floor of the senate this morning as we're trying to move through this bill, i made the point that actually more people die of drug overdoses now in rural america than urban america.
more people die outside a metropolitan statistical area, even if they live quite a -- than they do if they are in a metropolitan statistical area, even though that area may be far from the hub of that. do you want to talk a little bit about the challenge to rural america of this epidemic of opioid and heroin use and overdose? >> it's a complicated problem. it's one that requires a series of steps. we have to have more prescribers trained in the appropriate prescription of pain medication. i think we have to have frankly reasonable expectations on the part of patients as well in terms of precisely what doctors can and can't do in terms of pain relief. i think it's going to be important for us particularly in rural areas to have -- first responders to have access to the overdose reversal drugs that are available that are nasal spray, more readily available. in fact, we might want to consider a general prescription that would allow family members to have access to that reversal drug just in case knowing if a
loved one is in trouble being able to respond quickly. it's going to be necessary for us to look at ways in which we can encourage states, specifically the state of missouri, to have a more -- a better monitoring program so that we can prevent doctor shopping and we have int interoperability. it's important to look at ways in which we can increase support for medication assisted treatment and having perhaps not just limited to physicians but perhaps physician assistants or some other medical professional, particularly in rural areas, involved in the prescribing in materials of meeting the needs. you mentioned broadband, tele-medicine and access to services may be a way of providing services without necessarily a brick and investment. we need to understand services are covered by insurance. there's i think a lack of understanding about that.
we frankly need to engage the entire community, the faith-based community, in making recovery support efforts more readily available. i know in my own personal circumstances, my mother struggled. she would never have been able to recover but for aa and some of the support that she got from people similarly situated. there aren't places today in many rural communities where those meetings can take place. faith-based organizations have a particularly interesting re and opportunity there. it takes a broad approach. i think the administration looks forward to working with you and others to make sure we put the resources behind all of these solutions. because it is a hproblem and people are dieing and thousands -- hundreds of thousands of families are being impacted and affected by this. >> thank you for your leadership there and other areas, mr. secretary. chairman, thank you for time. >> thank you, senator blunt. senator chester. >> thank you, mr. chairman. for allowing me to speak and
giving these glasses so i can read. it's good to have you here, secretary vilsack. i'm going to start out right now with a station in sydney. i don't know all the information about it. it was just pointed tout eed o today by a producer from eastern montana that it's being repurposed or potentially maybe taken a step towards closure. i want to get some input from you on what's going on. if you don't know, you can certainly get back to me. these guys do incredible research and a incredible facility. on soft lie, other pests and the issues with barley scab showing up. these research facilities are important. can you give me an idea what the plans are for that? go ahead. >> the budget that we propose requested an increase. part of that would be targeted towards the facility that you mentioned. currently supports 41
scientists. i don't know of any plan to reduce that number or reduce the support for the 41 folks. obviously, research projects come in. some get concluded and new ones begin. i'm not sure that that's necessarily repurposing. perhaps there's a different focus given a particular disease or pest. i don't know of any desire to close or to reduce the importance of that. >> that's what i wanted to hear. you answered that very, very well. the research for smith leaver dollars is flat at about -- flat at 30244 respectively. these are very, very important. could you shed some light. is the use of those also flattened out? is demand for exceed? >> it's -- >> tell me what's going on. >> it's a combination of having
an overall number for our budget and the challenge in our budget where fire suppression, wic, rental assistance and food safety eat up 50% of the budget. often when those items have to be increased, it impacts the other 50%. it's a fact that we are trying to look at our competitive grant programs in a way of encouraging more collaboration between universities and many universities are receiving resources from that that ultimately help to support the university and support the capacity university. it's a balance. >> i got you. i think that you've done some positive things for research in here. you know, you know how important research is. for farmers to do trial and error is a good way to go broke. moving forward, you are in office for another ten months. >> i'm in office for one -- for another day for sure. i serve at the pleasure of one guy. >> one never knows what might happen to you. i stand corrected. moving forward, are you confident that this budget that
you are putting forward, those priorities on research particularly will be heading in the right direction moving into the next administration, whoever that might be? >> i am confident. i think we have addressed both short-term and long-term, traditional and non-traditional challenges that agriculture will face. this is an incredibly complex and changing world that our farmers are living in. and i think we have figured out a way in which we can provide them the assistance and help if our research budget is adequately funned. >> i want to talk about rural development and infrastructure. critically important in rural america, as you well know. $244 million for loans and grants to rural businesses. tripling of funding to broadb d broadband. which is really important. there's a reduction though in grants and loans for water and waste disposal programs.
if you look around this country -- i know i'm preaching to the choir here. these systems are for the most part wore out. so why the reduction? >> because in the past several years we have reduced the business industry loan programs. we have reduced and not adequately funded some -- it's about balance. number two, we are looking for leveraged opportunities. we're trying to get the private sector more engaged in investing in the water projects. we're finding there is interest in this. pension plans, some of the private investment that we have been cultivating at usda to leverage our skwarcarce resourc are seeing 3% or 4% payment on a 30-year loan attractive. we are actually working to try to look at our own portfolio to see whether or not we could maximize the value of that portfolio and create an incentive for the private sector to invest hupds of millions if not billions of dollars.
it doesn't necessarily mean that less work is going to get done. we have to be creative about where the financing will come from. we are being very creative at usda. >> we appreciate that creativity. i just want to talk about something. we had a round table that the chairman and ranking member put on. it was a couple weeks ago. one of the things that's going on in rural america that i also know you know about is depopulation in a big, big way. we're seeing rural communities dry up. i think faster rate than i have seen in my lifetime. in the last 40 years since i graduated from high school, the little town i am -- if you go by enrollment in the high school is two-thirds smaller than when i went too high school there. more than two-thirds. i know there's big equipment out. i know that it's more efficient and we do have more technology which makes things move.
i mean, when i was -- where i live -- it's different in every area. 1,000 acres was average farm. i've got folks around me that farm 20,000 and north of that even. so is this just something that's going to continue? or are there things that we can do to encourage smaller farms maybe or encourage more people moving into rural? you got schools closing down. you got cities that have to build schools. it's all sorts of social problems that all cost money. >> senator, american agriculture increased productivity 170%, with 22 million fewer farms on 26% less land. we did not krocompete a compani economy. we now have a companion economy. it involves local and regional food systems. we supported nearly 1,000
infrastructure supporting 162,000 producers. we're beginning to see that prosper. we're seeing conservation. howard buffett came to our forum and talked about the need for people to understand that conservation can be profitable. he is proving in in his operation. the biobased economy, the ability to transfer and produce a multitude of materials and chemicals and fabrics and fibers and fuels from a bio-based system. we're headed in the right direction. one, the unemployment rate is coming down, which is good. poverty rate in rural america in the last years has come down faster than any preceding 25 years. we're beginning slowly to turn around. we're not going to get out of the fix you mentioned overnight. we didn't get into it overnight. i think we are headed in the right direction. i'm hopeful this companion economy that you all have helped to support with farm bills and budgets continues. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator from montana. >> montana and montana.
all good. thanks for being here today. agriculture in montana is the number one industry. $5 billion a year economy for us. last year i was pleased to be able to work with the montana grain growers to reform the grains standards act to ensure farmers are protected from grain inspections like what happened at port of vancouver. i remember farmers jumping off the combine running to meet with me to talk about the crisis. i was glad to see we got it resolved. i'm looking forward to make sure the new law is implemented. i want to talk about bruce alosis. i live north of yellowstone national park. there's a significant bison within yellowstone park and the e ecosystem. my question,how is your department and afis in
particular, coordinating and cooperating with state agencies in montana like the fish, wild life and parks of montana and the department of life stock on disease management efforts particularly regarding this. >> well, a number of years ago we entered into an arrangement with the folks at yellowstone, the state officials and others to address this. i can get you more information, senator, on the success of that. but i think we were able to isolate and provide a much better environment relative to the bison and other animals. so i would be happy to get you more detail about that. i know we have been working collaboratively with folks on this. >> speaking of collaboration -- i'm going to throw something out there to consider. in prior years there was extensive collaborative effort. i think actually we had better communication. a lot of moving parts here between state, federal agencies
and private groups. it was called the greater yellowstone committee. it brought together stakeholders, including representatives from representa idaho and usda and the interiorry, working group improved communication further efforts to provide sound science surrounding wildlife and disease management throughout the great area. unfortunately this effort lapse in 2006 ten years ago and no similar working group fill that void. i've heard concerns talking to farmers, ranchers and steak holders the result is a deterioration of communication between agencieagencies, federa and private groups regarding diverse management. would the usda be supportive or reestablishing the inner agency committee or perhaps something similar.
>> senator, appreciate you bringing this up. my understanding was that we were in the process of a focus collaborative effort and we need a way to be more collaborative as a working group or whatever it is. we have been trying to stress collaboration with the local folks at every level. so if that's not happening, we need to make it happen. >> i appreciate that. that would be an outcome from the hearing, we could certainly have the communication and bring the concern. the word from back home is it really was valuable. i want to shift gears and talk about what's going on in the area of gmo and biotech. last weekend you were quoted at a conference in front of gmos stating i'm here to say they are safe to consumers. with that in mind and not with standing marking efforts are the hurdles of getting leg station
is a top pick of discussion. are there any safety concerns or any sound sicientific research would warrant the labeling of gmos? >> no, but that's not obviously the issue. the issue is that the folks in states have made decisions based on referendums and state legislators to create labeling systems that are applicable within state borders. and that creates a circumstance and situation as you know where we're going to have a hodgepodge circumstance where individual states and/or individual companies are going to make their own decision about what they are going to put on the package. it's going to create confusion. it's going to created a digs l expense. it doesn't have to be. and there is a way in my view where you can respect a consumer's know and the process by which their food has been produced but doing it in a way
that doesn't convey the wrong issue of the food. >> to be clear, a decision to implement labeling but on other factors? >> it would be based on balancing the desire on the part of a growing amount of consumers to want to know and at the end of the day, companies in the business of selling to consumers, obviously the customer is always right kind of thing with doing it in a way that doesn't send the wrong message about the safety. in the past we labeled, we put something on the package to talk about contant or known risk. that's not what this is about which is why i suggested the establishment of a part label process that would give consumers interested in information. >> i think we agree it's critical, we addressed this issue in a timely manner given
what is going on in vermont and i have no issue with voluntary programs that being said, i believe the usda's priority is making determinations based on sound science regarding the safety of biotech products within its jurisdiction not on marketing fo efforts that have bearing on floood safety. >> i'm trying to avoid a chaotic circumstance and i hope there are at least 60 of you that feel the same way i do. >> all right. thank you. >> we're pleased to have the committee char man. >> mr. chairman, thank you. thank you to the panel for being here and helping us sort through the request we have for funding of various activities administered by the department of agriculture and one of the bright spots in what appeared to
be some questions that all seem to be having trouble being administered or costing too much or contributing to the deficit, all kind of bad things, but what we found out is that the department of agriculture has won a big victory in the labeling of domestically produced fish, farm fish, grown and sold in the united states that we're having to compete with fish from overseas that were mislabeled or suggested that they were superior in someways to domestically produced fish. so thank you for the good, strong support and effort in defining the new limits and the new requirements that helped give customers and consumers an
opportunity to choose. they are finding out they are choosing to buy america and that's encouraging in this day of real tough international competition and so many areas of agriculture and food production and marketing. end of my speech. [ laughter ] >> mr. chairman, thank you for joining us. now recognize the senator from new mexico. >> thank you very much chairman and thank you senator bill sack for your service. >> i'm a secretary, i'm not a senator. >> secretary. i understand. i understand. you were a governor before that and you like to get things done. >> would you like those words stricken. >> stricken from the record. >> respectfully. >> you like to get things done but secretary, thank you very much for your service and thank you for being here. just a couple things i wanted to ask your support on, the new mexico delegation recently sent you a letter in support of the
navajo promise zone application submitted by the navajo technical university and submitted by the navajo nation for what's called a triable promise zone. it's an extremely high priority for me and let me tell you why here. the navajo nation faces significant challenges, high poverty, lack of basic in infrastructu infrastructure, lack of housing among other things. the unemployment rate is near 50% and an equally large percentage of the population is below the poverty level and they have made steady progress on economic dwpment in recent years but they really need a boost and i think this promise zone would really make a difference. as part of the president's efforts, this promise zone will help the navajo nation, help tackle the issues outlined in the application which i've
talked about a little bit here and i simply urge you to give consideration to their request. i know there are many communities in need but few face the extremely difficult conditions we see on the navajo nation. >> well, it's one of the reasons why we have already included that area in our strike force initiative but you're right, the promise zone would extend that approach to all the federal agencies. appreciate the comments, senator, and i'll take that back to the team. >> secretary, could you tell me a little bit about the strike force effort there? >> sure. strike force was designed to focus on the areas of persistent poverty in the country. the reality is 85% of persistently poor areas in this country are in fact in rural areas and what we found early in the administration was that we weren't doing enough work in those areas to get folks to understand how to basically apply for a program that they could get help. so we instructed our team, our fsa team, our nutrition team and
rural development team to go to communities across the country where thuf,vñ is persistent poverty and basically work with a community building organization to identify projects and needs we could address through usda programs. it is now operating in 920 counties. 21 states and several triable areas and we invested $23.6 billion and 190,000 investments. i would imagine a significant percentage would never have been made but for the attention and work relationship. working with over 1500 community building organizations and partners and it's been, i think, a successful endeavor and i think that has led us to take a look at the promise zone and some place base initiatives. >> thank you very much for that initiative because i have many communities in my state that i think need that kind of
initiative and kind of push that you're making there. this next issue is an issue i raised last year and yet to be resolved. two communities in new mexico are designated neighborhoods or communities within 150 miles of the u.s., mexico border that are economically distressed. and they both have been designated colognous and ineligible for funds because of usda's formula for determining , even though they are in new mexico and don't benefit from a scity or county like el paso an
not in the same state, these communities have high poverty rates, limited public sector funding, separated by over 40 miles from the nearest city. these community need development funds for critical housing projects, economic development funding, infrastructure improvement improvementment, the area seeing increased traffic which is post tive. waivers have been used for similar situations in the past but we're experiencing with difficulty. would you work with me and within your authority to ensure that these two communities do not fall through the cracks and are made eligible for rural development assistance? >> senator, as you were outlining your request, i turned to my staff to ask whether or not waivers were available and we will certainly work with you and your team to figure out if
they are how to use them and if they are not, what else we could potentially do to provide because it's part of our strike force initiative, so we obviously are aware of the challenges and we'll try to find a solution to the problem. >> thank you very much. i couldn't think of a better person to be secretariry of agriculture because you served as governor of a rural state. you know rural communities and i sure appreciate this effort in terms of the strike force and look forward to working with you. thank you very much. yield back, mr. chairman. >> you had no time to yield back but thank you for the effort. [ laughter ] >> senator from north dakota. >> thank you, mr. chairman. good to see you mr. secretary. thank you for your work on behalf of the farmers and ranchers. we want to make the farm bill farmer friendly as possible and
that's important with low commodity prices. we're seeing the stress on thing a world in part of the formers and ranchers with the low commodity prices. in terms of making sure the bill is farmer friendly is with the national statistic service data and i think you're already working on this with your fsa director, but in some cases, that data because there aren't enough survey forms sent in for some counties, we're getting a bad result. so for example, in north dakota and it's not unique to north dakota, it's occurring in other states, as well, iowa and i don't know about kansas but aáñ number of states we have counties and not enough of the survey forms that come back in
so that the nav's information is not used and we're using risk management information and getting a bad result. what i mean by that is if you take counties for example in nk, logan and la moore and compare them to similar counties in terms of the average for corn, for example, for the year, if you use the nas data, excuse me, if we don't have enough nas data, we're using the rma data and getting a result that doesn't correlate with like counties. other counties that typically have the same yield, those farmers get in our payment because the rma data is so high, it's disqualifying farmers in logan counties for example from getting an ark payment on corn. there are other examples around the country. we asked to be allowed to work with the fsa director in the
respective state and use comparable counties that have adequate nas data so we don't get a skewed result. very important to farmers particularly with low commodity prices. so what can you tell me in terms of your willingness to provide this flexibility? i know you're doing an inner agency analysis or study, i think is the right term for it but what can you do to get this fixed? >> as you know, the congress made the decision to do a county program as opposed to an individual program and probably did that because of the cost of the individual program and the need to generate savings in the overall program. so we obviously have to deal with the county program and have some kind of process by which we can try to treat as many of the several thousand counties we're dealing with as fairly as we can. we've come up with the proposal
from the outline you addressed. if there are inadequate numbers of surveys, we ought to be focussing on making sure we get farmers to respond so we have adequate information. if we don't, we go to rma information. if we are not satisfied that that's an appropriate enough or correct, then we have empowered our state committees to basically take a look and provide some direction. so we think we have some degree of predictability and consistency without creating a circumstance where we can't address the anomaly or inaccuracy of information. i'm more than happy to go back to the team and basically make sure we're in a position to be able to explain why we're making the decisions we're making and if we can't, we obviously need to do something different. >> my understanding is it's currently in the the inner agency review. if, in fact, the state committee is empowered to make a decision,
i think that's where we need to go. again, it's making sure you're giving discretion in the field to your directors to make a good decision. >> well, that's the key. a good decision we don't necessarily want to create a circumstance where everybody is not happy with whatever it is they ultimately get because then you create a very confusing circumstance and end up getting an individual program when you really by statute are directed to have a county program. there is a balance here. i'm more than happy to be flexible but i think we do have to have some system. >> no, i hear ya. of course, we want the nas survey forms to come in so you have adequate data and good data but where that hasn't occurred, just so that that state committee or fsa director, however you decide you want to do it is empowered to say okay, this is a nonsensical result, we'll make an adjustment and my question is i don't think we've gotten that response back from fsa.
they are still doing the review. this has been going on since november and i'm asking for your help to get an answer. >> well, you deserve an answer senator and we'll try to get you one quickly. >> thank you very much, secretary. the other thing i'll mention if you have reaction, that's great. very concerned about any reductions to the support for crop insurance, that's the number one risk management tool for our farmers and you're probably not surprised to hear me say that because i've had this discussion before, but i am very concerned about that and make sure i do everything i can to support crop insurance and in fact, we included language in the farm bill to make sure that didn't happen. and on the positive side, though, i appreciate the support that you have provided for ag research service and for nifa. that research area incredibly important, incredibly impactful for our farmers and ranchers.
so if you have some thoughts there, i would welcome them. >> just briefly on the crop insurance. there are two areas, one is on the preventive planning. our inspector general and i think the general accounting office have been critical of the way in which that program operates. so i think it's appropriate for us to be responsive to the criticisms and what we have proposed in the budget is being responsive. on the price harvest loss option where we were proposing a slightly different arrangement between the producer, the fwovt a -- government and insurance company financing 62% of the premium, we think it's probably fair to taxpayers that it be more of a 50/50 partnership. those are two propels. >> i would point out since 2008 we've $8 billion -- excuse me, $12 billion, since 208 $12 billion is taken out of crop
insurance support and you want a robust number providing crop insurance to have a competitive market and we have to be careful or you're not going to have enough competition to have a robust market. >> that's true. projections for return on investment is 18%. >> for which they have to cover all of their costs. >> not all of their costs because that's in addition to the -- there is also an additional resource for ano. >> again, at the end of the day, if they can't make enough money to continue to stand out business and cover their cost, you will have fewer and fewer agencies and not have a robust market or insurance group out there providing crop coverage. >> i'm not sure that either one of these two propels necessarily impacts the issue that you've raised but i'm certainly sensitive to the fact and that's why we continually look at the return on investment and had a couple years where it was difficult but we're beginning to see more profitability in that part of the operation and i think at 15 or 13% last year,
18% projected for this year. >> well, again, i just -- i appreciate that. i understand your point of view, though i don't agree with it, but i do want to again emphasize that crop insurance support has been reduced by 12 million since 2008. there are a lot of programs across the federal government that have not contributed as much in terms of help of finding savings of crop insurance. >> you don't have to tell me about reductions, senator. my overall operating budget is less than 2010. >> secretary, thanks for your willingness to take a look at the nas data. appreciate it. >> senator merckly. >> thank you. i thought i would turn to a piece of the picture i hear about a lot that hasn't been mentioned yet and that's rural broadband. everywhere i go in oregon, folks note the importance of it to the success of their rural communities. so i wanted to explore this a
little bit because as i understand it, usda recently rewrote the broad band loan program regulations to reflect the changes in the 2014 farm bill and it really has kind of just gotten going but i believe you're now proposing eliminating this, meanwhile, the grant program which has increased is a distinctively different program. the grant program serves a small number of poor unconnected communities, the number of communities that focused on last -- well, in '15 was five communities and so i think there's concern that there's going to be a sacrifice of a program that serves large expanses for assisting a small number of communities and whether or not that really reflects the demand for rural broad band and probably a lot more thinking behind it and i thought i would give you a chance to explain it. >> well, senator, appreciate the
question. what we have found is that it is not impossible for companies to secure loans but to the extend they can get grant funds that either reduced and the amount they have to borrow or reduce the loan, the interest rate on the loan, that makes it much more likely that they are in a position to do significant improvements and expansions. so listening to what we believe the industry is telling us is necessary to get more broad band in more places, combining that with hopefully what the fcc is attempting to do and hoping that it works properly to create more incentive and more resource for expansion of broad band, the combination of those two. that's why we're proposing an increase in the grant program because we think that will generate more activity than simply a loan program.
>> well, thank you for that explanation and i look forward to tracking that, because it is of so much importance. my colleague from wisconsin has arrived, and i want to turn this over to her but just closing out my comments, thank you again for your service over seven plus years and counting and there's many more questions i have that i'll be submitting to you for the record but i don't need to address them at this point. >> thank you. >> the senator from wisconsin. >> my intention is to have the senator from wisconsin ask her questions. i have a few followup questions and we would anticipate concluding the hearing. >> i think the chair, mr. secretary in wisconsin water issues are on everyone's mind as
rural communities are facing challenges to protect equality. counties in wisconsin northeastern region have nitrate and bacteria contamination in the ground water. testing is showing more and more vie pretty wells are contaminated. groups are working with the state department to talk about long-term solutions but as deliberations continue, rural families remain without immediate solutions to these very pressing concerns and the obvious need for drinking water. i believe your department can help but it's going to take some really, really hard work. i would ask how you see the usda playing a role in these communities in wisconsin and
will you commit to working with me and the local communities to offer immediate and long-term solutions that help watersheds in this vital region of our state and our country? >> senator, what are the -- do you know off hand what the population is of those two communities? >>. >> i would have to -- >> is it greater than 10,000 or less than 10,000. >> both counties i believe would be greater but they might be clo close. counties or? >> they are sparsely populated. >> well, the first line of response to your question is to the extent that the infrastructure treats water can be modernized, obviously, the usda has our water and waste water treatment programs that are available.
we also have a partner ship with farm credit agencies providing infrastructure loans that can't do or won't do or enough resource to do is leveraging our resources. we've had a series of partnerships with the system where we'll fund half a project and the co-bank will fund the other half so they made a $10 billion commitment to infrastructure across the united states. the third alternative is on this side to work with us to identify private sector enveinvestors. those are three basic avenues of financing infrastructure and more than happy to work with you and have our rural development county work with you. you asked for a long-term solution to work with conservation programs to try to
tremendous ve prevent the problem from getting worse and wisconsin has it in a number of communities trying to create echo system markets where essentially regulated industries would pay farmers for conservation that would allow them to satisfy a particular ecosystem or looking from a responsibility perspective, we just did an event with chevrolet on carbon credits for example in north dakota, a working ranch in north dakota and that requires us to measure and verify and quantify the results. if you can do that, and i would encourage those folks to consider a conservation invasion grant which we have used in the past to help create a measurement.
let me also -- one other piece of this. the regular programs and in fact, and the crp program, there are -- there's a continuous program that potentially could be used to develop bio reactors in those -- in those conservation programs that would allow for a better filtering of contaminan contaminants, nitrates and so forth. there is a body of steps that can be taken short term and long term to try to address this. >> i appreciate that and there has been, as i was mentioning, a good local collaboration not only with the state dnr but i know a real interest in these collaborations on long-term solutions at the federal level. i will just restate that many of the residents impacted have private wells and they therefore have an immediate need for clean
drinking water and so i hope that we can follow up this exchange with ways in which the usda can help meet the very important immediate needs. >> what we were able to do on a slightly different situation in california where it was drought and people didn't -- they had private wells but didn't have water in the well, we were able to take a look at whether they were joining or area of municipal wells that could -- or systems that could potentially be extended to those private homes or service by a private well so i don't know if that's possible at all what you're talking about but something -- >> i appreciate your commitment to work with me and the local communities and we will certainly follow up. i had one other question that i wanted to address to you, mr. secretary. in addition to being america's dairy land, wisconsin also produces a lot of specialty crops, and we have a very vibrant and rapidly growing organic sector second to
california in the number of organic farms within our state. the specialty crop organic farmers have a great need for new varieties and breeds adapted regionally and respond to market demands that can help them grow their markets so-called seeds and breeds. in response to this subcommittee's work last year and direction in the fiscal year '16 spending bill, i know the usda is producing a report on classical breeding investments, but this committee also directed the agency to create a specific competition for classical breeding so that propels for this specific type of research compete against each other and
so we have to see progress and it's about having the varieties they need right on the farm and to help them make it and so i i hope they push forward with the classical breeding research. >> i'll take a look that the and tell you there is an intent and interest in this piece, in this area and we are investing a bit more time and energy in it. and we're also making sure that our own seed banks are available in the event there is a situation where we don't have seed in the past. so it's a combination of preparing. our research is already created over the time i've been
secretary, 714 different plant varieties. we are involved and engaged in this and i think there is a good balance between where we've got information and using the classical breeding. it's a combination and balance. >> i think the chairman and ranking member for their leniency in watching the clock. >> thank you senator baldwin for joining us today and thank you for your questions of the secretary. mr. secretary, let me editorialize for a moment in regard to agriculture research, rfy 2016 agriculture a appropriation bill, a $25 million increase, the highest funding level of the program received since the inception. we worked hard to additional support for agricultural research. my editorial comment is that we
can't compete with administration's budget when they use mandatory spending as the solution to funding this and many other programs, not just the budget but across the federal government, federal government wide and again, it would -- this is not your skrco but administrationpropriator appropriators, they do not have the ability to provide spending and i think they know that. it sets a bar perhaps to suggest that maybe administration, your department is more interested in agricultural funding than we are. whether we come to the amount of money within our jurisdiction to provide support for agricultural support, i -- you have been kind
enough to include me in a visit to cuba. i appreciate that invitation and i have been a long advocate for lifting the embargo to cuba and had success. your budget includes our relationship with cuba. what's the circumstance you ask for agricultural representation in cuba and secondly knowing that the appropriations process in which you're asking for this money to be included, that may be a controversial request, i'm not certain. but even if it's not, this process takes a long time. what is usda doing in cuba today to help assist in the export, in the sale of agricultural
commodities? [ laughter ] >> senator, the embargo statute basically prohibits the department of agriculture from using any of its market assistance programming money. so we can't directly help promote as we do in other countries and that's one of the reasons why we need to get rid of the embargo. but even if we got rid of the embargo tomorrow, we wouldn't necessarily be prepared to do everything we're able to potentially do in retaining market and regaining market share we've lost over the years because we don't have the relationships and people on the ground to basically know the people that we need to know on the cuban side to be able to have more trade. that's the reason we asked for personnel to be down in cuba and be permanently located there so when the embargo is lifted and we can use promotion resources,
we're in a position to move. >> so the -- i don't know off the top of my head that amount of dollars you've requested. >> i think 1 million and a half dollars for five or six. the point you're making is that's not to assist directly in support s support subdags to any program, it's directly related to the ability to have usda personnel in cuba developing relationships with potential customers. >> and also to do an evaluation of the pest and diseases we may potentially confront when our relationship becomes more b bilateral. there are groups interested in doing business because we have a competitive advantage we haven't taken full advantage of and they are asking us to explore in ways which they themselves apart from
what we can't do can they be more aggressive in their promotion efforts and looking for ways to find a way for them to be more aggressive so that we without necessarily direct support from usda commodity groups, state ag commissioners, secretaries, individual farm groups will be able to promote the product. >> mr. secretary, in that regard, my understanding the current state of the law in regard to cuba is that we can sell agricultural commoditiecom food and medicine to cuba for cash -- >> it's harder but we can, that's correct. >> we can. so commodity groups could promote those sales today, is that true? >> yes. the question is whether or not any of the resources that check off dollars for example could potentially be used and we're in the process of trying to figure out the answer to the question. we don't want to necessarily create a circumstance where we're violating the law.
we want to make sure we understand the law. this is a tremendous opportunity for us. it's just nuts that we don't have more of a market share than we do down there. >> dr. johansson in his commentary to us and conversation with us last week indicated significant opportunities that and compared it to the dominican republic as i recall. >> 80% of cuban food is imported. 80% and we do, what, 10, 15% of their need today? we should be doing 50%. >> we've seen significant improvements in the opportunity. it's in 2010, maybe 2011 the law was changed to allow the sales and regulations were altered about at what point in time the money had to be received up front whether from the ship left in the united states or havana and then the third party financing issues but those are regulatory issues that perhaps are and will be addressed but this issue of cuba will be one of broad interest in congress. it has its opponents which i've
discovered in my time in working on this issue. let me return to a top pick that we visited about last year in this same setting. i encouraged you and you indicated that you do and would continue your conversations with the federal communications commission. i've expressed an on going concern about the ability for particularly rural telephone companies to be able to repay loans they owe the rural utility services based upon decisions that the fcc has and is continuing to make and i would again highlight this issue for you in the sense that it's important, i assume to you that we allow those companies to expand broad band opportunities in rural america but also you may have a default rate of significant magnitude if the fcc makes decisions particularly as rerelates to the universal
service fund that would have consequences to a telephone company, broad band provider's ability to repay rus. >> well, we are aware of that and we indicate to fcc a concern in that space. so we are keeping an eye on it, and we have advised them of your concern and of our concern. >> on the same top pick of broad band, i'm an advocateover usely for expansion of those opportunities in places that are unserved. i have worried from time to time that various programs perhaps more related to the stimulus package than programs under your department have provided loans and subsidization for companies to compete in already existing territory in which broad band services exist. could you tell me the current
state of at least your programs, those that you're responsible for and their ability to obtain, obtain support from your department to compete with existing broad band providers? >> yeah, we don't have, you know, we don't have unlimited resources so we have to make sure they do the job and we're mostly we are mostly focused on unserved and under served areas. we're not creating a circumstance. i don't believe we are creating circumstances where we're encouraging competition here. we're trying to meet an unmet need. >> would you -- >> sure. >> you used a few words that caused me to ask would you confirm that to me. >> i'm not trying to be evasive here. i am reasonably certain our focus is unserved and under served area, not a place where there is already service. now, i would say that we may be in a situation where we're trying to upgrade the service being provide sod that download
speeds and upload speeds are increased. and that, i don't know if that falls within -- i don't think that falls within the scope of your question because it's not about competition but working with an existing operation to improve their service. >> well, i know of circumstances in which loans or grants were made to provide service to areas that had no service but in order to make that financially possible, the territory in which the loan could be used included areas that already had service. so areas that already had service got competition, they were larger communities and i assume the revenue was generated in a larger area makes it more -- makes it economically more viable for service to be provided in places that are much smaller that has no service but in the process of using -- my view is the government program
is the subty and support areas that don't have service. >> you deserve an answer, more detailed answer and we'll make sure you get that. >> i'm almost done, secretary. food aide and particularly the program in kansas, you are proposing reductions in the spending in that area. what does that -- if we agree with your position, you're bud get request, how would usda absorb that? do you have countries you would specifically exclude from the program so if there is less money, how would you implement, how would you spend the money that you would have remaining? >> well, it may very well be there are countries that are, as
you well know, the dole mcgovern program is designed to show the wisdom of basically linking education and food with the hope that the host country would eventually take over that responsibility. so there may very well be countries where we have been active and involved in providing assistance for an extended period of time which we think it's time for them to basically pick up the mantle, if you will. that may be a consequence so it may be that there's not a circumstance where we're necessarily going to cut off or cut out people that are currently receiving service without some or assistance without some substitute, either from the host country. the other possibility is that by i think we're proposing to use a
small portion of mcgovern dole for local purchases that may leverage the dollars more. i'd be more than happy to give you a more detailed response to the question but it does point out the challenge, you know, whenever we have conversations about budgets, we focus on individual programs but the reality is your circumstance and our circumstance and putting the budget together is all about choices and if we didn't have a number we had to deal with and fix the -- >> is there another opportunity you'd like to say that, mr. secretary? >> yes, i mean, to be very, very candid, this is one area that has frustrated me more than any, since i've been secretary because everybody, everybody knows this is a problem. and the reason why i feel so strongly about this is last year during our award ceremony, i had
to give out seventh american flags to family members that lost loved ones in forest fires and the reason why some were lost is because we haven't been able to do a job we need to do to restore and make our forest more resilient because we borrow money from those accounts to put fires out and to me a fire is no different than a flood or a tornado or hurricane. where we fund not out of an operating budget but an emergency budget and if we could just create a circumstance where those large uncontrolled very expensive fires could be dealt with, it would create more flexibility within the budget and many concerns you addressed here, which we share, could be more potentially more adequately addressed. >> thank you for your passion and compassion. mr. secretary, i appreciate you being in manhattan, kansas when we cut a ribbon on the facility, soon to be a department of agriculture operation.
i would highlight as transition occurs to in bath my impression is that there may be usda employees who do not relocate. we want to work with you to make certain that the training and recruitme recruitment, retention opportunities existed a usda to make certain that when the day comes, that you are fully staffed with a highly capable and significant expertise in this important issue of protecting our homeland. >> that's certainly an appropriate request. >> thank you. finally, our budget proposes a $5 million increase in the office of secretary. this sounds like a difficult question but for something i find very appealing for beginning, women and veteran farmers. i'm not certain how you intend to utilize the dollars but i would highlight for you the subcsu subcommittee intends to have hearing on this topic how to bring veterans into agriculture. >> we have finally after a good
deal of effort secured commitments from the department of defense to begin the process of going on base as servicemen and women are being, leaving the service. they receive a series of briefings on opportunities and in the past agriculture has not been part of that process. now we are getting permission to be part of that process and e with want to be able to provide those veterans with the opportunity to know how they might be able to access the chance to be a farmer. if you go on our website, the most popular aspect is the beginning farmer website we revamped. you can actually go in now and plug in your wish list of what you'd like to be, what kind of farmer you'd like to be, what you'd like to grow, how big you want to be and it will give you essentially a personalized plan for the programs within usda
that can moe ploe viprovide a mr whatever it may be. we think the combination of more education of those returning veterans about opportunities that do in fact exist within agriculture, the greater the interest will be. the more we can spread our arms, will be better. 70% of the world's farmers are women and there is a greater interest among women in this country to participate and requires out reach and requires a little time, a little access to information in providing an easy way for people to get information. so that's the purpose of this. the deputy no longer with the agency a great proponent of this and i think her work has been very successful. if you look at recent census,
you're going to see an increase in women farmers and increase in farmers of color and working with other veterans groups to bring veterans into the farming business. >> mr. secretary, i applaud those efforts. we have seen a number of just individuals. gary lagrange who is retired military in my town created opportunities for veterans returning with traumatic injuries to enter farming, in this case, bee keeping in a very successful way. incidentally, legislation that i've introduced has past the small business community to create an opportunity for veterans to use the g.i. bill and i welcome my colleagues to join us in the effort, to use their g.i. bill to get education training, vocationally to become farmers or other businessmen and women to become entrepreneurs which farming is. so we look forward to working
with the department to accomplish that. i would be less than polite if i didn't give my colleagues a chance, i hope they say no but does anybody have anything to follow up before i conclude the hearing? senator merckly. >> since you offered, i want to address fire borrowing because we have been working and been chief advocates of fire borrowing and worked hard to persuade administration to back the plan. administration backed it. thank you. it's not in the jurisdiction but absolutely important and i hope every meeting you go into, you'll be talking about it. we did make a significant change last year and that is that fire fighting was funded at 100% of the previous ten-year average plus a $600 million buffer. given the impact of the pacific
blob and the force of the northwest, there is a chance there will be no foreign borrow this year. we'll wait and see. you're absolutely right. i just put up a huge exclamation point. the mega fires, large fire should be treated as the natural disasters they are. we have constantly robbed fire, health and hazardous -- not waste but -- >> fuel buildup. >> yes, thank you. >> hazardous fuel build up on the floor of the force. we constantly robbed that to pay for fighting fires. people say why do you always go to the back when it's at the point of disaster rather than treating the forest right on the front end. this is -- thank you for youred a participation in it. >> i am not going to authorize
transfers. >> oh, yes, well -- >> i'm not going -- >> not from this committee to another but that's not your point. i understand. you're going to say you're going to block -- >> i'm not going to authorize it >> i'm not going to authorizeba everybody off the hook. >> i think that should focus a lot of minds on capitol hill. >> i hope so. >> thank you. >> senator baldwin. >> thank you, at the risk of not saying no to your offer, i want to also add my words of agreement with tackling the fire borrowing issue. certainly wisconsin is not a state where we have many forest fires but we have significant part of our north woods with very active timber industry and small businesses depending upon sustainable management of our forest and i feel like we absolutely must tackle this. i just want to say not only to the secretary but chair and the
ranking member how pleased i am to be on this subcommittee and how much i look forward to working on a number of issues with you over this appropriation season. i wanted to just call attention, too, that i didn't have a chance to refer to during my question period, which is promoting agricultural invasion through the value added producer grant program and everything we can do to help new producers get their start with the beginning farmer programs in addition to the secretary, i'm a big fan and look forward to working with all of you on that. >> senator baldwin, appreciate your partition passion on this and we look forward to working with you and senator merckly, thank you for your kindness and working relationship.
mr. secretary, you've been complimented on both sides and i would add my compliment to you, this is only the second year i chaired this committee and while on it, this is the time i had the most opportunity to get acquainted with you. mostly in this setting and what i would say is that i'm impressed, pleased, about the level of your knowledge. the amount of detail, that you know. there is something perhaps to what senator blunt said about experience. seven years, i guess i shouldn't assume this is your last opportunity to appear in a budget hearing before this subcommittee, perhaps it is. but i would like to thank you for being a secretary who apparently seemingly knows what is going on to large extent that the department of that you had. and that's pleasing to me and we're going to try to do everything that i can do to
become comparable so i can have a full and complete understanding as best as possible on the details of what goes on and in our case, the food and drug administration i want to be knowledgeable as well and look forward to developing greater expertise as you have developed over the last seven years and i thank you for your public service. >> mr. chairman, thank you very much. it's been an honor to appear before the committee and i really feel bliessed i get to work with incredibly dedicated people and we all work for just an amazing group of people who live, work and raise their families in rural areas and do so much for the countries and often times what they do is under apripreciated or not appreciated at all. i appreciate this privilege and consider it a deep honor, thank you. >> mr. secretary, thank you very much. i won't diminish that by sounding formal but for members
of this subcommittee, any question for the hearing record should be turned into the subcommittee staff within one week, which is wednesday, march 16th. we would apprecia' appreciate i had responses back within four weeks of that time. i thank the gentlemen that accompanied you today and i believe that concludes our hearing. thank you.
when the white house with an official state coverage. you can see that live on cspan.org. >> i think what's so unusual is that if i can be sappy for a second, to be able to have professional and personal partnership over more than 15 years, is a really unusual thing. >> susan's temperament and great vision in terms of editing is something i don't have and don't -- i don't spend as many time on it. i stuck very closely to the grunt side of the equation. >> sunday night on q&a, susan glasser and new york times chief white house correspondent peter baker who are married join us to talk about their careers and their upcoming plans to move to
isra israel. >> it's going to be a great adventure. susan and i were bureau chiefs for t"the washington post" for moscow. we' dope the overseas before. we never spent time in jerusalem or israel, i think we're looking forward to learning a lot. it's going to be a real adventure. it's part of the world that has so much history to it and part of today's issues. we spend a lot of time writing about it in washington but never spent time there on the ground. >> i will also basically be changing roles and continuing at politico in a role around helping to lead our editorial growth and innovation. we're continuing to expand both here in the united states and also internationally. this past year, we launched politico europe. we're looking at creating and launching new things. i came to politico to start politico magazine about 2 1/2 years ago. we started that, i think it's been a real exciting new platform to sort of take us into
to introduce those from their state. >> yes, thank you. i would like to welcome randy ruffman, our cabinet secretary and has been for many years in west virginia at the department of environmental protection. randy has served for three years, he was three years as the deputy but he has worked in all variety of areas including abandoned mine lands program, he's a graduate of west virginia tech. we've seen him or i see him around time all the time, welcome, randy, thank you for your testimony and for your service to our state and to our nation. >> and senator? >> thank you mr. chairman, yes, i would. first i'd also like to thank all of our witnesses for coming here today to testify in front of this committee on state perspectives. i particularly would like to
welcome to our committee today the secretary of the south dakota department of environment and natural resources or as with he used to call them dirt and water. secretary perna served as the dean of secretary for three south dakota governors but he has also been in various positions at dean ever since 1979. secretary perna has more than three decades of experience with epa regulations and is truly an expert in the field. secretary perna has an impressive breadth of experience in every type of environmental regulation. he has extensive experience in epa rules, regulating water, air and toxic substances. secretary perna leads an agency with approximately 180 full time employees and the small group of employees is responsible for administering nearly all of the federal environmental laws on the epa such as clean water act, clean air act and safe drinking water act. also responsible for administering various state and environmental laws in the state with over 77,000 square miles of land. secretary perna knows all too well a man on a small state agency with limited budgets that they face while attempting to administer the increasing multitude of epa regulations forced upon the states. every day he is confronted with the challenge of managing his agency's resources in a way that will allow them to fulfill all
of their state and federal duties as the environmental regulatory agency in south dakota. it should be noted that over 30% of dean's operating budget is relying on federal fund. every day he ensures south dakotans enjoy the cleanest water and air possible and south dakota's environmental record is a source of pride for all of us. i can tell you during the time that i worked as governor in south dakota eight years steve was the secretary of this department. he comes with a wealth of knowledge and an interest in seeing that things get done and get done correctly. i'm very happy that he has been age to make the trek out here for this very very special meeting thank you. >> it's very nice to have you here. senator did you want to introduce -- >> i do. i want to say to randy welcome. it's been a lot of years growing
up as a kid back visiting my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all over the state so great to have you here. i think you have somebody with you today from beckley, nice to see you, withal come, good to see you. you have a name that's going to be most pronounced of any of our witnesses today. just to make it easy for my folks, it would be easy to call him ali, his last name is mirzakhalili, nice sound to it. >> good. >> he's been a servant for the people of delaware for close to 30 years, a key leader in the department of natural resources, environmental control. he used to work for the guy sitting behind me who is our secretary of the department of natural resources and environmental control so this is
like getting the band back together and we welcome the opportunity. ali is the director of the division of better quality with the department of natural resources and environmental control. he's responsible for implementing all aspects of the clean air act requirements. his 30 years of experience in all quality, all aspects of air quality management including a program in regulatory development, planning, compliance, and enforcement and permitting. he's professional engineer and holds a b.s. in engineering from the university of delaware, and m.s. in environmental planning and management from johns hopkins university. it's been a great servant and friend, welcome, ali, we're
happy that you're here, thank you. >> thank you, senator carper. becky we'll hold you until senator boseman comes here. i had a prayer breakfast with him this morning and i told him i'd do that. we'll postpone yours. deborah, nice to have you here and welcome along with the rest of the witnesses. we'll give opening statements and then i'll hear from you, since there are five of you i'd like to have you try to comply with the same time that we do up here. today's hearing is critical to our understanding of the success and the lack of success of the environmental groups across the country. indeed in appreciation of our unique system of federalism, congress in particular this committee must check in with states to ensure this system is fully functioning, when it comes to actions initiated by the united states environmental protection agency, the epa. for this reason i want to thank our state regulators to share your feedback where the framework between the states and epa is working and upholding the principles of cooperative federalism. cooperative federalism is a core principal of environmental status statutes, including the clean air air act, and several others. unfortunately under the obama administration, we observed a flood of new regulations, breaking down this system in
what seems to be uncooperative federalism, the obama epa has embarked on an unprecedented regulatory agenda that simply runs over states by imposing an increasing number of federal regulatory actions on states while requesting even less funds to help states carry out these actions. as some state regulators have explained, epa is requiring them to do more with less. many of these actions are driven from the epa headquarters to fulfill a political agenda, in years of litigation and inefficiencies that cost citizens more taxpayer dollars and reap little to no environmental benefits. today we have a diverse panel of witnesses from states across the country working with different epa regions, and experiencing unique environmental issues, who will expand on this breakdown, while state feedback varies, there are several troubling themes that have consistently emerged. epa has neglected their responsibility to consult with states at the beginning stages of regulatory actions, the epa gives states little time to digest complex regulations and
provide meaningful analysis during short comment periods. epa has allowed environmental activists to set regulatory deadlines imposed on states through sue and settle agreements without state input. the epa has increasingly used regulatory guidance to circumvent the regulatory process. epa has a severe backlog of approving state implementation plans yet has issued an unprecedented number of federal implementation plans over state air programs. epa budget requests have called for decreased levels of state funding while requesting an increase funds for epa bureaucrats, and epa is deviating from its core functions and duty to uphold cooperative federalism as we defined it. these concerns are not limited to our witnesses today. last month i sent letters to all committee members state environmental agencies asking for feedback on epa actions, in the level of cooperative federalism. i appreciate the many responses
i got to this committee, and without objection we'll make them a part of the record. look forward to receiving additional state responses and to hear more from our witnesses today as we take a hard look at what works and what does not work and to hear the other side, senator boxer. >> how did you know -- thanks. friends on the panel, thank you all for being here. and do count me in on people who want to hear from the states. so many of our states are leaders on the environment. my own being a prime example. we have proven that we can clean up our environment and also create very good paying jobs, and it's been proven over and
over again. i think that all wisdom certainly does not reside here. i think every one of us would say that, and that's why i've always liked the idea of minimum standards being set by the federal government to protect all of our people, but allowing the states to do more to protect their people from pollution, and that's really at the heart of what this debate is all about. to me, it's not about states rights. it's about protecting people at a minimum level and then allowing the states to do more, if they want to. now, states have a very important role to play in carrying out our landmark environmental laws, which we can talk about them all day. i will make a prediction. we will never repeal the clean air act. we will never repeal the clean water act. we will never repeal the safe drinking water act.
we will never repeal the superfund act. we will never repeal the brown fields act. why? because 90% of the american people support that. so what happens here in this committee, since my friends took the chair, it was tough to swallow, but nothing personal, what has happened is, we're trying to see an undermining of those laws. there's a back door, making it impossible, lawsuits and the rest. so i just want to say this, and i'll ask unanimous concert to place my full statement on the record. >> without objection. >> you know, you have to learn all of us by what happens, we have to learn history.
we have to look at current events, and i'm speaking for myself, and only for myself when i say this. when i look at what happened in michigan, when i look at the way that state handled the situation in flint, i think for us to be holding a hearing saying the federal government shouldn't do anything. the fact is, epa in writing warned them, did the epa do enough? not in my book. but they warned them in writing. they told them to put anti-corrosive treatment into those pipes. they ignored it. and i'm not pointing the finger at any one person, but somebody there is going to be blamed for this at the end of the day, when the suits are finally, come to the courts. but to me it's a moral crime. it's a moral crime. so to just say the state should do it all, there shouldn't be minimum standards, you know, we shouldn't really triple check these water systems. i just don't buy it, and i think that what our laws do i think are very happy compromise
between the right of the people who vote for president, who vote for senators, who vote for house members, to know they'll have a basic standard, so that they can be protected and their children can be protected, and then say to the states, look, you're the laboratory. if you can do more, fine. but protect them to at least a minimum level, and that's been the way i have viewed this job. that's why when we preempt states on this, i think it's a terrible thing to do. and i have shown that through, you know, my whole career. but again, i want to say thank you, whether you agree with me or not. i know two do and three don't, something like that but i'm very happy to see all of you here. >> thank you senator boxer. senator boseman would you like to introduce your guest from arkansas? i already told her i was about half hog and explained the
genesis of that statement. >> in the interest of time i just want to thank her for being here and thanks for the tremendous job he is doing in arkansas and we're grateful to have her on board and like i said we're pleased that you're here and all that you represent. thank you. >> thank you, senator boseman. we're going to start with you, ali. i'm going to follow the direction of senator carper and take your short name, all right? you are recognized. >> chairman and house ranking member boxer and members of the committee my name is ali mirzakhalili, delaware's director of air quality. i thank you for the opportunity to testify today. i would like to share with you delaware's view of the respective roles and responsibilities of the epa, state and the u.s. congress with respect to complying with various environmental statutes and associated regulatory actions to protect public health and environment. the clean air act has been a huge success, preventing literally hundreds of thousands of premature deaths as well as averting millions of incidents and mobility. the health benefits associated with the clean air act far outweigh the cost of reducing pollution for more than 30:1.
moreover we have accrued health benefits over the same periods as the gross domestic product has grown. it's fair to say the clean air act has been one of our nation's most effective and environmental statutes it's like to go down in history as the most effective domestic laws ever passed. the public generally does not differentiate between levels of government. it simply expects the entire system to work. therefore it is imperative that each power of government, epa, congress and the states, fulfill its respective roles and perform as effectively as possible. as i state in my written statement, i believe epa can best fulfill its role by focusing on six important tenets, one using sound science to set national standards. two, providing states flexibility to meet those national standards. three, issues guidelines and rules in a timely manner. four, ensuring that states are held accountable for their
actions. five, providing a level playing field. six, setting standards for sources of pollution that are of national significance and where states may be preempted from doing so. congress also has a major responsibility in environmental protection, including most importantly ensuring that it provides adequate funding to epa and the states to assist in meeting our nation's clean air goals. unfortunately, in recent years, congress has fallen short in this respect. the clean air act authorizes the federal government to provide grants for up to 60% of the cost of state and local air pollution programs and calls for states and localities to provide a 40% match. unfortunately, this has not been the case. state and local responsibilities have expanded significantly since 1990. while the grants have not, resulting in delaware and most other states self-funding over
75% of their air program's operating budget. the states are trying to do their best to comply with all epa rules and regulations under the clear air act. in delaware i'm proud to say we are meeting all of our clean air act obligations. it is likely to go down in history as one of the most effective domestic laws ever passed. the public generally doesn't differentiate between levels of government. it expect it is system to work. therefore it is imper ty each part of government, epa, congress and the states wille fill its roles and perform as effectively as possible. as i state in my written statement i believe epa can focus on six tenets. one, using sound science to set national stads, two, providing states flexibility to meet those standards. three, issuing guidelines and rules in a timely manner. four, en suring states are held accountable for their actions. five, providing a level playing field. six, setting standards for
sources of pollution that are of national significance and where states may be preempt ed from doing so. most importantly, ensuring that it provides adequate funding to epa and the states to assist in meeting our nation's clean air goals. unfortunately in recent years congress has fallen short in disrespect. the clean air pact authorizes the government to provide grants for up to 60% of pollution programs and calls for states and localities to provide a 40% match. unfortunately this has not been the case. state and local responsibilities have expanded significantly since 1990. while the grants haven't resulting in most states self-funding over 70% of the operating budget. despite these challenges states are trying to do their best to comply with epa rules and regulations under the clean air act. in delaware i'm proud we are meeting our clean air act obligations. we succeed by being proactive, collaborative and focusing on limited resources so as to ensure control. this year states face a number of important deadlines under the clean air act. they do not differentiate between large states with ample resources and small states like ours with fewer resources. i believe delaware's practice of ensuring all emitting sources are appropriately controlled is key to our ability to manage this in light of insufficient funding.
if we can do it, so can others. because of delaware's efforts to maintain compliance with earlier standards, those efforts aren't wasted and delaware is complying with the 2012 standards and is subject only to the first of the three sulfur dioxide requirements. these do not represent an manageable workload for 2016. we are continuing to work this year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. this year delaware will continue work under the greenhouse gas initiative and prepare the state's strategy under the clean power plant. i believe the cpp is an excellent example of how epa is thoughtfully and successfully working with states to craft achievable, flexible rules. delaware continues to experience poor air quality and impacts from ozone and public health and the economy. delaware's emissions control efforts to reduce ozone precursor emissions resulted in a situation where over 90% of the ozone concentration adversely affecting delaware is attributable to emissions transported into the states. under the clean air fact more than five years ago. if they have not done so. in some cases the problem is that sources haven't controlled their emissions. in others appropriate controls have been installed but incredibly aren't being operated. to increase epa resources to enable the agency to ensure equity would greatly help delaware and others in similar situations. thank you for the opportunity to testify. i look forward to answering questions. >> thank you. ms. markowicz. >> good morning, all. i'm the secretary of vermont's agency of natural resources. i know senator sanders wasn't in florida he would be introducing me today. thank you for inviting me to testify in cooperative federalism and environmental regulation. vermont is a regulated state so we take responsibility for the oversight and implementation of federal environmental programs.
we implement the resource conservation and recovery act, clean water act and the national pollution discharge elimination system permit program. the clean air act and safe drinking water act. vermont chose to take on these federally delegated programs. epa didn't force us to do so. the federal government did require it. vermont chose to take responsibility to implement these important regulatory programs in our state because we know how important they are to vermonters health, safety and prosperity. not only do we rely on clean air, clean water, and clean land to protect the health el of our people. vermont has a land-based economy. our top industries include tourism, agriculture and forestry. each relies on a clean, healthy and natural environment . people come from all over the world the fish in our rivers, swim in our lakes, hike and ski. this isn't all. in the manufacturing and high tech sectors, indeed every
sector of business and industry in vermont it is the natural beauty of state and the pristine environment that enables us to attract good jobs and high quality employees to stay or relow indicate in vermont. vermont can ensure the state's protected through regulation, assistance and enforcement. this control is even more important in light of the highly charged political dialogue that our environmental laws and regulations here in washington. while new rules promulgated by epa take time and effort to implement in the states there are good reasons to support a strong approach. first we look to epa for the expertise to study and develop the science and technology. we could not meet our mission to protect human health and safe guard the natural environment without this important federal contribution. second we see value in having national standards for environmental protection. as the children in rutland, vermont who suffer from asthma and anglers who can't eat the fish they catch because of mercury pollution know well it
doesn't know state lines. vermonters as well as all americans have come to depend upon them. finally national environmental regulations provide an even playing field among states helping to prevent a regulatory race to the bottom in a misguided attempt to attract economic development. it is important to acknowledge the system of coregulation between epa and the states is not always simple or without a natural attention. there are times to address a problem differently than it was approached in the past and when the federal approach they have unintended consequences for us in vlt because of the small size
and character. in situations like these, we found epa willing to listen to our concerns and work with us to find a solution. on numerous occasions and across sectors the epa supports the efforts to protect the environment. epa has allowed flexibilitile in vermont's program implementation, cooperated with us to achieve our shared environmental goals, included vermont's voice in efforts to develop new rules and standards and shared resources and expertise to help us more efficiently and effectively implement our programs. in my written testimony i have included a number of specific examples that would be helpful. in closing i want to reiterate the value of the relationship with epa and that for vermont this partner is essential to protect our environment and the health of our citizens and exemplify federalism. i'm happy to take questions. thank you. >> thank you.
>> good morning. thank you for the opportunity to address this concern of federalism and environmental regulation. as the chief environmental regulator i view the cooperative partnership as critical. according to the environmental council of the states over 95% of the environmental regulatory duties in the country are carried out by the states. congress placed the most important core responsibilities with the states because they are far more responsive to local concerns and aware of the environment than distant bureaucracies. in addition states must be cost effective, have balanced budgets and perform in the face of flat or declining revenues. it is within these constraints that they have demonstrated not only we are up to the challenge but that we continue to deliver the results congress envisioned when it created our environmental framework within the model. unfortunately federalism has been less than cooperative with epa and intier yors office of surface money.
there is new regulation, guidance and initiatives from federal agencies and much of it encroaches on the authority congress gave to the states. nearly all of it adds new regulatory burdens to state resours already stretched thin. at best epa and osm are indifferent to the mounting consequences of their actions. at worst we see federal agencies continue to basically rewrite the nation's environmental acts with no accountability. time will only permit me to cover a few. my first example was one with which we were all familiar. regardless of the physician, individual states take on climate change. section 111-d of the clean air act put it is states, not epa in charge of developing standards of performance. with little regard to the role congress gave it epa seized the state's authority. its carbon rule establishes the minute details of one of the most complex initiatives in the
history of the clean air act. epa is establishing what amounts to rules through guidance. states are expected to perform to the results of the process as if epa had promulgated a valid rule. there are two problems with this. epa guidance further eliminates discretion and allows them to avoid accountability and transparency. the final examples relate to similar actions by interiors office of surface money. the protection rule which i he have testified about in october is another example of a federal agency attempting to rewrite part of an act of congress with no mandate to do so. they further failed so involvele the states which have promised to carry out the duties. the result is a proposal with
multiple unlawful conflicts with federal and state clean water laws. in fact, since 2009 west virginia has submitted nine amendments to the office of surface mining for consideration. only those that propose to increase fees or taxes on the mining industry have been approved. only then on an interim basis. my last example is osm's misuse of ten-day notices to correct defects. ten-day notices are an onlile investigation under the surface mining act to notify the states when a mining violation is suspected and has not been properly addressed. it is clearly an enforcement measure to be applied to active operations. in 2009 osm was directed to use this regulatory tool to correct deficiencies in state issued permits which is clearly contrary to the surface mining act.
most states including west virginia embraced the idea of collective federal ichl in protecting the environment. the practice is sound, has great validity and has been successful in the past. since 2009 i have watched epa and osm go about executing an agendaing that doesn't concern itself with the rule of law for making changes to our nation's environmental statutes. i don't want to create the impression that they are negative. across many programs we have built very good working relationships with our counterparts at the regional level. most appeared to emanate from epa and osm headquarters which have little or no understanding of what it takes to run a state regulatory environmental program. >> thank you. >> members of the committee, good morning. i appreciate the opportunity to respond to your call this morning. in arkansas we are seek ing to drive regulatory policy that balance effective environmental results to ep sure affordable energy and economic growth goals.
we want a state that can seek to attract professionals seeking out healthy living lifestyles and arkansas's world class recreational opportunities. arkansas has invested in assuring we are stewards of the clean air, healthy breathing air, amazing vistas with which we have been blessed. we do not take our status as the natural state likely. we strive to fairly and consistently serve the corresponding and complementarile roles of environmental stewardship and
economic development. likewise for decades we have successfully worked with epa under a governing model that's the topic of today's hearing. this notion is born of something uniquely american -- our system of federalism whereby the nations and states function together as cosovereigns. both the epa and states had a balanced seat at the table. as we are known to do in the south, we would sit around the table and have a good old fashioned meal. there would be lively debate, ample servings and we would prepare a meal together. however this once treasured family style dines with our federal partners has become a thing of the past.
now we have an increasingly diminished role el in the menu selection and meal preparation. we are often forced to eat what's served. the cooperative federalism model that defined arkansas's relationship with epa beginning in the 1970s has morphed into something better described today as federalism. we have seen a decrease in time and tolerance for state implementation plans and a dramatic increase in epa take overs or federal implementation plans. historically these were used as weapons of last resort for our epa travel. its nuclear option for states that were unle faithful to the partnership or denied marriage outright. now often used as an everyday tool of dubious origin in the epa's master arsenal. in the past seven years states have been forced to digest more of the federal take overs than were ever served in the prior three federal administrations come bined, ten times over.
states will not waste the time to draft their own proposals if they expect the federal government to do what it wants to in the end. the opportunity for local innovation is destroyed. cooperation should be fostered, not discouraged. we call on you, our congress, to help remedy this broken marriage through amendments or ancillary amendments. heaven perched a seat at the table but finding out meals are served from the epa table. we are served a fixed menu without a fixed president of the united states. states' willingness to split the check and buy dessert was mitigated by a he will think respect and deference we have received. now we ask your assistance in resetting the needle to its point of origin. for air pollution, we seek air pollution prevention and control is the primary responsibility of
the states and local governments. in our estimation, congress should ring the dinner bell, calling for the meal to be served. states should host the occasion and epa should be a frequent and faithful guest at each state's table. however, where we are now, we can best describe as a progressive dinner party gone bad. states recognized an unprecedented level of federal action to borrow a saying in the south, we have more on our state than we can say grace over. the sheer number of mandates and deadlines further complicated by the complexity of the rules leaves us in a position for being served appetizer, soup, main course, salad and dessert all at the same time. if we do not clean we are banished from the table. to establish meaningful before moving oh to next one.
we are left unable to taste one course before the next arrives. the epa has the luxury of being the ultimate picky eater while they select what they prefer on the menu while the states are struggling to digest the meals and leftovers. the reality is that states are often now more pawn than partner is no more evidence ed in the epa's transportation from a two sentence legislation passage to the clean power plan which had final consequences and extraordinary costs. arkansas is seeking ways to work with how we can work with epa on consolidating efforts and superceding fips and sips without facing legal conflicts. in addition to the clean water act, state developed robust natural condition water criteria
in arkansas have now become unrealistic and often unachievable minimum water protection standards. in this case epa executed an ultimate bait and switch. serving up is 'tis tasteful. to ignore the chairs in our table that are stabilized by three legs and not just one makes for a difficultle meal. we want to see it at this table. we should not be but regulation of the day. in fact, a result from reinterpretation of the good neighbor provisions. in conclusion, not only has the uniquely american federalism model fallen but the state rule is now less partner and more pawn. we see soup and salad on the menu. we are left to wonder if special interest groups occupy our spots at the table that was reserved for us. with states disenfranchised so
is the truth of federal democracy and the people we represent. thank you. >> thank you. >> chairman, ranking member boxer, members of the committee. my name is steve permer, secretary of the south dakota natural resources. i appreciate the opportunity to share with you our per speculatives on why we don't believe the current framework between epa and the states upholdle the principle of cooperative federalism. let me provide examples to help fund the administration of federal regulatory programs. epa awards us a performance partnership grant. in 2012 the grant peaked in funding but declined during the last three years. this decrease is inverse through the huge increase in federal requirements for delegated programs in our view is an erosion of cooperative federal ichl. an increase of federal preejs. for example, epa and the corps
of engineers had a rule intend ing to clarify which water bodies are subject to jurisdiction under the clean water act. the rule faced substantial opposition in south dakota. we joined a lawsuit to block the rule. upon joining the challenge, south dakota attorneys general marty jackley was kboeted as saying the epa was over stepping congressional authority, seizing rights specifically reserved to the states. also under the clean water act epa proposed or finalized new national water quality standards for ammonia, nutrients, slen yum and dental offices. the bottom line is the new more stringent standards are going to cause additional wastewater treatment which is going to drive waste water treatment costs up perhaps to the point of being cost prohibitive. under the recovery act, epa finalized regulations to regular golden statele cole ash from the
spill in tennessee. our single coal fired power plant disposes of only dry ash. it is subject to the rules which preempt dnrs existing solid waste permit. in a settlement agreement under the clean air act the big stone power plant was a large source in needing to demonstrate compliance with the one-hour sulfur dioxide standard. epa never took into account the new air pollution installed at a cost of $384 million to meet the regional hazel rule. these new controls will reduce. another clean air dispute vols ozone. south dakota is one of only ten states in the nation that is with the national standards but against recommendations epa adopted a new lower standard for ozone. we are at risk of having a nonattainment status not because the air is dirtier but epa lowered the standards potentially below our background levels. in spops to another petition from the sierra club epa determined certain shut down and malfunction exemptions in 36
states to include south dakota are inadequate under the clean air act and need to be eliminated. our exemptions allows for emissions because certain pieces of equipment aren't fully functional when these events take place. dnrs first rule was established in 1975. it was approved by epa. and is not caused or interfered with south dakota staying in compliance with the national standards. south dakota has joined florida's lawsuit against the rule along with 15 other states. the final rule that highlights the lack of cooperative federalism is the carbon dioxide standard for existing power plants. in 2012 which is the base that
epa used, 74% of the power generated in south dakota came from renewable sources. in spite of this remarkable record epa threatens the economic viability of the fossil fuel fired power plants we have in the united states and could strand the regional haze controls mentioned. here again our attorney general joined lawsuits against the rule most notably with west virginia. the bottom line is these requirements will have a huge impact on our citizens and on our economy. but will produce little or no noticeable benefits in south dakota. for this reason, we believe each state should have the right and the free dom to address these issues individually, using the principles of cooperative federalism on federal ichl. as stated in the executive order the framers recognize that the states possess unique authorities, qualities and abilities to meet the needs of the people and should function as laboratories of democracy. that's not the case. i hope the information is helpful to the committee. thank you again. >> thank you. all right.
could you hold that up? according to this december 2015 timeline by the association of air pollution control agencies there are nine clean air act deadlines for states this year alone. your testimony describes a number of these epa actions as -- i'm quoting now from your statement, "we have at best overlapping and at worst conflicting directives." can you explain how competing dms impact your department? >> thank you, chairman. it is frustrating as we seek implementation of a number of regulations in a short time frame. what we see as our program staff evaluates rules and seeks implementation, we are modeling different and often conflicting
results for the same source or facility. it often ignores the progress that the states are already making or continuing to make on different time frames. >> thank you very much. on february 23, 2016 i led some 200 house and senate members in filing an amicus brief with the d.c. circuit in opposition to epa's clean power plant. i observed mr. markowicz talking favorably about the plan. this is a win of four states exempt from it. the others would agree. the brief argues among other things that the clean power plant violate it is clean air act. i'm quoting now. epa takes a coercive approach that commandeers the states to
implement and enforce the agency's power choices. i asked mr. huffman, do you agree the clean power plan coerces states to implement policies, choices, not the choices of states. >> yes, senator. i think epa -- >> i'm sorry. thank you, senator. yes. i believe the change had to go over it. typically epa will regulate pollutants at the end of the stock, if you will or the end of the pipe. with regard to the clean power plant the only way to do it would be to put a regulatory number limit on carbon dioxide and the only way is a way to shut down all fossile fuel production in the country. the way they managed every minute detail of how the clean power plant.
we think ran in conflict with section 111 d which give it is states authority to establish performance standards and epa section 111-d, which gives the states authority to establish performance standards, and epa has done that, instead of setting the threshold and allowing states to figure out how to do it. >> well, thank you. there's a little bit of confusion, lack of clarity following the supreme court's stay of the clean power plan. has your state continued to work on the rule? and if the stay is lifted, do you expect compliance deadlines to be extended? in other words, are you continuing to work as if the stay were not reality? how are you preparing for it? i might ask others the same
thing. go ahead. >> mr. chairman, our plan before this stay was issued was to proceed along a path such that we could do enough to get the two-year extension. empts -- epa said that was not going to be a high bar to reach. so we read through what they were going to require and we started to work on those items. one of the items is a public participation process. in response to that we established a website where people could view information and give us comments. we scheduled some public input meetings. the day after the stay was issued, we canceled those public meetings. the word we are getting back from the legal team leading the lawsuit is they expect the deadlines will be adjusted by the courts once the decision is made. >> expecting that and knowing that are two different things. >> yes, sir.
>> anyone else want to comment on that? senator boxer? >> thank you. >> mr. mirza kalily, ask you describe in your testimony, delaware is a downwind state, such as rhode island, and i'm sure we'll hear more about that. much of the pollution in the state comes from up wind states. you see it is epa's role to ensure equity between where pollution is produced and where it is received. seems to me that's spot on. so if epa didn't set minimum standards and this went to your neighboring states sending smog and everything else over your way, and we left it all to each state, what would it be like for the people of delaware, in terms of asthma, in terms of copd, and the other problems that come from filthy air? >> thank you for the question, senator boxer.
>> we can't have a feast without getting smoke in our eyes. we suffer from the consequence of the emissions if they're unabated. as i mentioned in my testimony, some of those results are simple to remedy. equipment have been installed. just not operating because the current scheme -- >> thank you. you answered that well. mr. keogh, i'd love to be invited to your house for dinner, because you obviously are focused on that, and it would be fun. [ laughter ] so you just heard our witness from delaware talk about the fact that if we didn't have these basic minimum standards, they are wonderful people there, but they are located in a place where they get those winds and
that pollution. so if your state, i know you get some pollution from the surrounding states but not to the extent some of the other states get it. wouldn't you think it would be fair to limit that pollution? wouldn't you be concerned, the science tells us there's a direct link between dirty air and asthma and copd and worse. can you understand their point, is what i'm asking. >> sure. >> thank you. >> ranking member. i apologize. >> doesn't matter. i'm deeply unhappy if you call me -- >> i understand that. with due respect here. arkansas does have very clean and healthy air. it is difficult for a state like arkansas to, you know, reflect on the model assumptions that are made to implicate states which measure and monitor such clean air against other states -- >> that wasn't my question. my question was, if you were one of those states that got a huge
amount of pollution from a next-door state, which did nothing to prevent it, would you put yourself in the shoes of delaware or rhode island or these other states? it's just a simple yes or no. >> our states work together. when we have a situation like that. we have worked with neighboring states. >> okay. so your position is your state can tell another state what to do and you are criticizing the epa and now you're going to say one state is going to tell the other state what to do. it's not realistic at all. and that's the reason we pass federal legislation under nixon, i might say. miss markowitz, can you explain why it's essential to have national minimum standards while allowing states toor more stringent in protecting its citizens. [ inaudible ] could you put on your mike? >> so in talking about, we're also an upwind state. so we're also suffering.
vermont is a clean green state. we have some of the worst air pollution in the country in rutland. that's because of the way the winds come from coal burning states into vermont. and that's a problem for us. and we have tried to work cooperatively with the states to put in place those pollution controls that in many cases they have already. for vermont we want to do more. we recognize we have this culture of environmentalism, but at a baseline, when other states want to do less -- >> only to say, you're making my point. minimum federal standards let the states do more. i think that's what the beauty is of the clean air act which is under such fierce attack. now mr. huffman, the january 2014 spill from the freedom industries chemical storage facility, contaminated the drinking water supply of more
than 300,000 residents of charleston, you know that. we are now facing another drinking water crisis in flint, michigan, where children were poisoned by the city's toxic drinking water. given these events do you think epa and the states should be doing more, not less, to protect the public's drinking water? >> yes. i think your point about minimum federal standards and then let the states figure it out, that's absolutely the model that we should be following. >> good, good. >> that's absolutely what we should be doing. my point today and i think the frustration with west virginia is not -- for some it's about what the standards are. but the real problem for me is the way they go about implementing these standards. they are bypassing the guidelines under the federal environmental statutes for how to implement one of these changes -- >> since my time is out and the chairman is coughing he wants me to stop. [ laughter ] or it's the hot air.
let me just say that i really respect what you just said. i don't think any agency -- federal government or a state agency should over step its bounds. we'll talk more about that. i think what you said is very fair. minimum standards, yes. but implemented in the right way. thank you. >> thank you, senator boxer. senator round? >> thank you, mr. chairman. we pride ourselves in south dakota with clean air. if there's a forest fire in california or other areas, we suffer from the smoke from that. what we understand when you want clean air, we want it, too. we think we do a good job in the state. secretary, you have spent decades administering environmental regulations on the state and federal level. can you discuss in your experiences, the differences you've seen in terms of the quality and benefits of
regulations that have resulted from a process and incorporates more state input compared to the regulations that have been recently promulgated by the epa? >> senator rounds? based on my experience if you go back and epa rolled out an issue and if everybody came to the table and agreed this is a problem, and agreed this is some options that are viable, things get done. it works. if you don't have that process in place and the federal government epa in this case, is identifying the problem, along with the option, or a couple options, none of which work for you, then we're left with the lawsuits, the rash of lawsuits that i just mentioned in my testimony. >> talk about ozone a little bit. in south dakota we are in compliance. we are one of the few states in compliance.
you've seen the new numbers. can you talk about what it does in terms of a state like south dakota where we are one of ten that actual complies with the guidelines right now. you mentioned they want to make a change in this. down to perhaps below our basic numbers. can you talk a little bit about how frustrating that is. >> yes, senator. >> you know, ozone, to form ozen, you have to have certain emissions, and it has to react with sunlight. and then you get ozone. ozone might be in a downwind state. in south dakota we don't have -- we're a population of about 800,000 people. we don't have the sources of the chemicals that react with the sunlight to form the ozone. the ozone that we do have in south dakota is either from upwind states or is basically
our background levels. i think based upon what we've seen, the new limit that epa has come out with is very, very close, if not above our background lows. >> what's a state like south dakota supposed to do when we're not in compliance? >> we haven't been there yet. thank goodness. i would assume we would go into a non-attainment status. we have to try to work with epa on figuring out what to do, but since we don't have the sources, i don't know what we would do. >> in your experience how would you recommend epa change the -- its practice of making regulations to better incorporate state's perspective in the regulatory process? in other words, what are the implications of the epa enacting broad over-reaching national mandates, rather than regulations that take into
account the different characteristics of individual states? >> your hearing today is on cooperative federalism. if you read the executive order that i quoted in my testimony it says in there one of the principles of federalism is that those decisions that affect people that are made by the unit of government closest to the people are usually the best decisions. and we would say that's still true. >> i would suggest that during the year from 1979 on, you've gone through multiple administrations. can you share with us a little bit about what you're seeing right now, with regards to the -- either the consultations that are either not there or the directives that are being laid out right now, versus the way that it used to work, the way that -- whether it was in a democrat administration, or a republican administration, what's different about what's going on right now?
>> senator, i think -- you know, senator boxer said we're not going to repeal the clean air act. we are not going to repeal the safe drinking water act. we are not going to repeal environmental federal acts. i don't think anybody wants to repeal those federal acts. when those acts were put in place, there were real problems in this country. the environment was really, really suffering. that was the reason those acts were put in place. but in the intervening time period now, tremendous progress has been made. our water is cleaner. our drinking water is safer. our air is cleaner. and so i guess what bothers me some about this, is now we're trying to ratchet down to the next environmental problem and we are getting to such low
levels, that we're going to spend a lot of time and money and resources and in the end, what's going to be the benefit? >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator rounds. i mentioned in my opening statement all the acts, the clean water, clean air, we in the republican side were very supportive of that. i was one of the initial cosponsors. i wouldn't want people to think these things aren't working. they are. we understand that. senator carper? >> thanks so much and thanks to you. just to follow up on what alex said. during the time ali was serving the department of natural resources, cristop was chairman and i was governor for eight years and chairman of the national governors association for a while. i get the idea that the states are laboratories of democracies. i like the idea that they would set standards and you figure out how to do it. figure out the most cost effective way.
i think the six points you outlined in your testimony and numerous trips over -- and ask everybody on the panel if you agree with those. before i do that, just to think about telegraphing the pitch. thinking what he said and how you feel about that. the chairman and i go to a bible study that meets most thursdays. i have been to a prayer breakfast this morning. we do try to figure it out and abide by it. [ indiscernible ] -- literally shut it down. that's just not fair. that is not right. that's why we need others to be
a good neighbor and to look out for their neighbor. some places in the midwest where they created cheap energy, burned coal. 500 foot tall -- what do they call them -- smokestacks. put the stuff up in the air. it blows over to the east coast. we end up with dirty air. we have to spend more money to clean our air because other people are getting cheap electricity. it's not right. we have to keep it in mind. the golden rule. treat other people the way you want to be treated. the other thing to keep in mind, something you said, we made great progress. i was at ohio state university. there's a river in cleveland that caught on fire. cuyahoga river. the river goes right by the train station. we can't eat the fish there.
in fact, we can't eat the fish in most of the rivers in my state. a lot of rivers in a lot of other states where they can't eat the fish either. the river doesn't catch on fire anymore but we still can't eat the fish. we have to be guided by sound science. part of sound science says part of the real problems for air pollution is the size of the particulates that get into our lungs are the most dangerous are the smallest. the really dangerous stuff is the tiny micro dots. i'm asking you to keep that in mind. i want to go back to ali. he made six points. i want everybody to say whether or not they think he's on target. he said i believe epa can best fulfill the role by fulfilling sound science, epa must set national standards as congress mandating which rely on
sound science. that's number one. flexibility. once epa establishes standards, appropriate flexibility to meet obligations rnd the clean air act and protect public health and the environment. number three, timely rules and guidance. important that epa issue timely implementation rules and guidance for use by the states. number four, accountability. epa should be consistent in the outcomes it expects from states. and hold each state accountable for meeting their commitments. number five, equity. epa must provide for a level playing field among the states. the golden rule i was laying out. finally nationalized sources. epa must address sources at states preempted from regulating or lack of regulatory expertise that are most effectively regulated on a national level. do you agree with those? has he laid it out pretty well or not? >> yes, i agree with that. it makes tremendous sense.
i think that's how we've been operating. we in vermont have experienced tremendous flexibility. >> those are great principles. and we agree with them, we long for the days when the execution follows that ideal. >> thank you. miss keogh? think of this as a menu. >> no biscuits and gravy. i agree. these are good principles. it comes down to the implementation and how we can work cooperatively and find solutions rather than create new challenges. >> thank you. mr. pirner 124? >> i would agree with those six points as well. as the other witnesses have said it's basically how you carry it out. >> i would say the ayes have it. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank all of you and i
neglected to mention when i talked about secretary huffman, that he's also a colonel and serves as the vice wing commander for the 135th. so thank you for your service there, certainly huffman. i thought it was interesting. i'm glad the senator went to the principles you laid out. i was going to use it in terms of my questioning. secretary huffman, you have highlighted section 303 of the clean water act of the testimony. basically it says the epa established the state's water quality standard meets the requirements of the clean water act. if the epa determined that a water quality standard isn't consistent by law the epa has to notify within 90 days. my understanding is the west virginia legislature approved a change in the state's water quality just last year. but the epa failed to approve or deny the change within 90 days. i think the substance we are talking about today isn't so much the standards you mentioned but the implementation, the
lawfulness with which the federal agency is moving forward. in my view with them not notifying in the timely fashion or giving you good direction it violates timely rules and guidance that the secretary from delaware or the director of delaware was talking about. and the accountability. how vital is the feedback for epa that it come in a timely fashion so you can fully implement? >> thank you, senator. good to see you again. it's critical, because this is -- there are a lot of moving parts in this environmental regulatory business. there is a lot going on. we need to make requests and get answers and move on. what's frustrating is i can smit a change for water quality standard and not get it and wrangle for months and sometimes years, and yet, when i get an
opportunity to comment on proposed rules, i might have three days, i might have four days. and that's very frustrating. it makes me wonder if i were a conspiracy theorist, i might wonder what their agenda is, what's going on here. it's frustrating. >> let me ask you the difference between rules and regulations. you brought it up in your testimony. you see it throughout the administration in terms of offering guidance instead of rule making because it evades the legal aspect of creating the regulation. are you getting more guidance than in the past? is it more difficult? are there enforcement mechanisms? >> well, guidance, when you govern by guidance instead of going through the protocols that the congress has set up in our environmental statute allows you to get by with more. it allows you to avoid transparency in how you get to
your point. we are seeing a lot of that. not only with epa, but as i mentioned with office of -- [ inaudible ] >> i think most of you mentioned that what you need is the federal minimum standard, nobody has a problem with that. it's the implementation aspect of it. most of you have mentioned the flexibility the states need to have. obviously in west virginia, we have a much different situation than you have in vermont. we are blessed with a lot of coal and we use it and have used it. we are cleaning it up every day. it's a bigger challenge for us. we need the flexibility in west virginia to meet the standards. as every member would say clean air and water is just as valuable to us, and i think we can eat a lot of the fish we catch in west virginia, so we're very happy about that. is the flexibility aspect probably the most difficult hurdle for you all to over come? i will start with you.
secretary huffman? >> i don't know if it's the flexibility or the frustration. i know we're running out of time here. the frustration seems to be the way -- that it's an inconvenience to involve the public, to involve the states. it takes time. if you want to make a rule it takes time. the convenient way would be by fiat to impose it upon the states. that's what we're seeing. there's little to no flexibility. because it's already written. by the time we get it, it's written and the minds are made up. it's difficult to overcome that. >> you agreed to participate with osm to develop a new stream buffer rule. many states were involved with this. because of the numerous frustrations and really the lack of listening that osm is doing most of the states pulled out of
that i, -- pulled out of that, i think, is that correct? >> that's correct. there was a draft of it before us signing on. >> it was already written? thank you. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. let me associate myself with the remarks of governor. and now senator carper as the attorney general of my state, rhode island, i saw exactly the circumstance that he very well described. not only did the upwind states not make any effort to treat us fairly, we often had to try to sue the upwind states, with epa, or sometimes even sue epa to enforce compliance with the clean air act. on a perfect rhode island summer morning, you could drive to work and hear on the radio that today
was a bad air day and that children and the elderly and people with breathing difficulties should stay indoors. stay indoors. like delaware we could have shut down every outlet of emissions in the state of rhode island and not gotten ourselves into compliance because it came from other states. other states that fought compliance. other states that often had not even put scrubbers on their smokestacks yet. other states that specifically built high smokestacks so it would project the emissions out of their state. they were very often states in compliance with the air regulations even though they were the source of emissions that were taking rhode island out of compliance. so i know there are going to be states that will be unhappy with epa regulation. they would move to have the
regulation be as close to the people as possible because those people wangled it to export pollution to my state and not have to pay for it and not have to clean it up. that's a real problem i think epa has to address. it's very important to our downwind states. it's just not fair for kids in rhode island not to play on a summer day because they're having a bad air day. as epa has cracked down more and more because states have sued, sometimes because they've acted on their own, actually our bad air days are diminishing, but it took epa to get after the states that were happy to go along with the gag. they made their pollution somebody else's problem. that somebody else was my rhode island children, elderly and people with breathing difficulty. for the record, our engagement with region one of epa is terrific in rhode island.
we don't have complaints. we talked back and forth. very open. no problem. i don't know if there is significance to the fact that the states that seem to be more in the export business are the ones that have more of a problem with epa and the ones that are hor -- more in the "we're getting clobbered" business, appreciate epa. but certainly from rhode island's perspective we appreciate very much what epa is doing. let me ask a quick question to see where folks stand. do carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning cause changes in our atmosphere and oceans that portend harm to people and eco-systems? >> senator, i'm not going to enter into that particular debate. what i would argue is that if we're going to control carbon
emissions, it has to be done in a way that can work and that's feasible. and the first proposal epa laid out in our state simply was not feasible at all. >> why are you unwilling to answer a question at a hearing that is as simple as do fossil fuel emissions port end harm to human beings? why aren't you willing to enter into a debate? >> i'm not an expert in that particular topic. >> do fossil fuel emissions from burning cause problems in the oceans that portend harm to humans and eco-systems? >> i think you can find scientists that say both, yes and no. >> what do you say? >> well, i am not an expert either as the other witness indicated. >> mr. huffman, do carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning cause changes in our atmosphere and ocean -- >> i believe -- i believe -- i
didn't mean to interrupt you, i'm sorry, senator. i do believe the science would indicate that our climate is changing. i think there is a lot of unfortunately, we're having the debate in the wrong place in this country over climate change. we're name-calling. it is reduced to name calling over whether you believe or don't believe in climate change. sure, the climate is changing. what we need to debate is what we should be doing about it. i don't know that we have come together as a nation on that. >> clear enough for me, let me just say for the record, that i think every national lab, noah and nasa, and every one of our lead home state universities would have found that an easy question to answer with a plain and simple "yes." thanks. >> senator boseman. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
in your testimony you cited dramatic increase in time -- i'm sorry, dramatic decrease in time and tolerance for state implementation plans and dramatic increase in federal implementation plans under the administration. as depicted in this chart, the obama epa has taken over state programs 54 times, more than the three previous administrations combined times ten. director keogh, are you concerned about this trend? isn't it true state trends are integral to the federalism structure and federal plans were intended only as a last resort? >> thank you, senator. we are concerned about this trend. we understand that federal plans may be necessary sometimes in circumstances where states do not act or choose not to act.
but the frequency and process of the fips have become so alarming mainly because they take a federal solution that may be developed in a very short period of time with limited information and replace a very thoughtful and extensive process at a state level. where we have dealt with what could be a reasonable solution. we vet it through transparent processes and also search out whether we have unintended consequences. that's our big concern. that we replace our well thought out judgment with somebody else's solution that may not have seen that same thoughtful process. >> very good. as you know, under the regional haze program, states develop implementation programs. epa has limited ability to reject the state plan and issue a federal plan instead. in arkansas, epa rejected our state plan and proposed an
expensive federal takeover. director, is it true the state plan was on track to achieve natural visibility conditions? >> yes, sir. >> and this proposed federal regional haze plan for arkansas, did epa go beyond its limited procedural role prescribed by the clean air act? >> in arkansas, we do believe so. and, in fact, when i asked epa when they offered up the federal proposal why they expanded the scope of the regional haze plan to include sources that were not legally authorized under the rule, epa answered "because we can." >> how will the requirements of the federal regional haze plan interact with possible actions under the clean power plan? are those time lines intertwined in a complicated way? >> they are for arkansas at least. our state air experts that
evaluated both rules and have been working diligently to assess impacts and solutions looked at models. it's important show that the model under the regional haze plan, where they take into account cost effectiveness, assumes a source could install multi million dollar control equipment and do it cost effectively. however when you look at the models and the time lines of the clean power plan, that same source no longer operates just a few years later after those controls are installed. that would be an extremely costly mistake for arkansas to pay for to install multi million dollar controls, to have the source shut down to comply with
the consequent rule compliance state. >> thank you. we talked about the unfunded mandates. i think we can all agree that's a problem. randy, can you address that a bit? >> it's always been an issue. the funding for the vast majority, i don't know the number of our environmental regulatory programs in the states is provided by the states, either through the general fund budgets, or in our case, there's a lot of special revenue type account through assessments and fees on the industry that we regulate. i don't know that i've seen an analysis by epa when a new rule is imposed or a new guidance. there's never an analysis done on what the -- that i've seen that would indicate what the costs are that are associated with it. >> thank you.
>> thank you. mr. marquee? >> ali, you're like a first name, like bono or madonna, or ali. thank you for being here. some of your fellow regulators have expressed concern about not being able to comment on epa rules, the clean power plan changed significantly from its draft to final form based on input from the states, industry, and other stakeholders. do you find the epa is listening to you in terms of the flexibility, the concerns which you've been expressing? >> i absolutely do. especially in terms of clean power plan. i think outreach, level of outreach, dialogue, stakeholder involvement was unprecedented in
that effort. we see marked difference between what was proposed and what was finalized and we see our comments reflected in those changes. >> earlier in the hearing, there was a discussion of the number of deadlines approaching for the clean air act. the massachusetts department of environmental protection has corresponded and noted that -- with chairman inhofe for this hearing and he noted that massachusetts will meet these deadlines. will delaware meet the deadlines as well? >> we absolutely will be. >> will vermont be able to meet the deadlines? >> we absolutely will be. i want to acknowledge under the clean power plan we don't have regulated entities so we don't have an obligation there. in answer to your earlier question, though, there was an unprecedented involvement, even of vermont, in the development of those rules, because we're deeply concerned that whoever
the implementation is, that it could include the regional greenhouse gas initiative that we're part of. >> so let me follow up with you secretary markowitz. -- if they meet national standards set by the epa. given the ongoing situation in flint, michigan, it's clear we still have a long way to go to ensure safe drinking water for every american. what are the ways that we can enhance federal/state cooperation to ensure safe drinking water for all in our country? >> this is an area where we have direct experience right now. we have an issue with a chemical pfoa, which was not a regulated chemical, which is nevertheless a carcinogen and an endo krin disruptor, that has been found in wells in bennington. it's used in the making of teflon and we really rely on epa and their scientific expertise to help us manage that.
in addition, they have come out with some new rules and standards for the limits in copper and some other -- some other things that we can find in our drinking water. this is an area of partnership that's really important. the standards that they set help us ensure that our vermonters are healthy when they're taking water from their taps. >> ali, let me come back to you. i think as we're all aware climate change is a global problem. but it requires local solutions in order to solve the problem. and you know pope francis who taught high school chemistry came to congress to preach his sermon on the hill to us to tell us that the planet was warming and the science proved that and that human beings were
contributing to it and the science proved that and that we had a moral responsibility to be the leaders for the planet. so my question is, since both delaware and vermont are part of the regional greenhouse gas initiative which has been partnering now for six or eight, ten years, to reduce greenhouse gases, can you talk about how the epa has been coordinating with you to ensure that this problem, this global warming problem, can be solved by cooperation amongst the states and working with the states? >> thank you for the question, senator. they have been. one of the key comments we made at the proposal was for epa's final rule to accommodate and use the framework that we already said on the regi. it's been accommodated. we think our regi solution is a
very good solution that can be expandable nationwide. and the rule accommodates that as well. >> thank you. and appreciate kind of the interstate aspect of this as well, much less the international aspect. no question about it. but there has to be cooperation. silvio conti, a congressman from western massachusetts and i, we introduced the first acid rain bill in 1981. it took until 1990. that was because people were putting smokestacks football field high in the air and blowing smoke towards us so we were the ones principally affected, vermont and all the new england states. and so it's clear that unless we work together we can't solve problems of that magnitude so we thank you for your work in trying to establish that. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator fisher? >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you senator boxer for holding this hearing today and thanks to the witnesses for coming. the nebraska department of environmental quality shares in the concerns that have been
expressed by many of the witnesses today. in the letter addressed to the committee, our state has written that "while nebraska has a good working relationship with epa region seven, recent epa headquarters regulatory actions have snowballed. epa's compulsive tinkering with standards and limits often before states have had a reasonable chance to comply make it difficult to reconcile those often-competing priorities." unquote. secretary pirner, in your response letter that was sent to the committee, you state that nearly all new federal requirements will have an impact on your state, its citizens and its economy but will, quote, produce little or no benefits in protecting public health and the environment. like my home state of nebraska, south dakota is a rural state that hosts many unique and critical natural resources that
benefit citizens and communities. can you elaborate on the challenges many rural communities will face as a result of expansive epa regulations, and what are the economic impacts, in terms of job growth and industry investment from the epa rules? >> senator, i think -- you know, part of my concern is that on the water quality and effluent standards that i talked about in my testimony, it's not that we're against having minimum standards, but now we're ratcheting those standards down to such a degree as to be almost infeasible in some cases. you know, i'll just talk about the ammonia standards, we were one of the first states to include ammonia as a water quality standards. ammonia can be toxic to fish.
we agreed with that, we agreed that all of our large cities have tertiary treatment that treat for ammonia and have for many years now. but if we ratchet that level down, now we're going to have to install even more treatments and can we -- basically the new standard is based not on fish anymore, it's based on mussels. and so i'm going how did the mussels do it when we didn't treat for any ammonia? i'm not a biologist and i don't understand all that, but all i do understand is that the levels are getting down to such a point as to be cost prohibitive. and that concerns me because if we do try to comply with those new standards, we're going to be standarding a lot of time and a lot of money that could be spent in other areas. >> nebraska, the department of
environmental quality, they discussed the need for streamlining those federal requirements. we're always worried about that unnecessary duplication. so, mr. pirner, do you agree with that statement? in your experience, do you see duplication reoccurring -- as a reoccurring theme among state regulators as they try to interpret and then try to implement all these federal mandat mandates? >> senator, i'm not exactly sure i understand the question. you mean duplication between the state and epa? >> in many cases yes but also between federal agencies? so it's not just epa that comes down with standards but you have other agencies as well. >> well, we certainly have other federal issues with the corps of engineers, with bureau of land management. with forest service. so i mean there's many other
federal agencies that we believe are infringing on state's rights besides epa, if that's the answer. >> how much time does that add when you're trying to meet regulations? when you have different agencies out there that are -- i would say they're piling on on a number of the regulations that we look at. >> senator, it's certainly of concern. i'll give you an example. in our department, we're a relatively small department. our clean air program i think has 14 fte in it for the whole state. when the clean power plan came out we took two of those people and they have been working -- they worked when it first came out and we were trying to do comments and figure out what was going on and when the final rule came out, we had to go through that process all over again. basically we processed somewhere
around 80 air quality permits per month that are renewals and no and so on. i had to take two out of the 14 fte out of that process to devote to just the clean air plan. >> in your testimony you talk about the epa's rule to regulate coal ash, and you note that the new rule will pre-empt the existing solid waste permit that's currently administered in your state. it's my understanding the epa is encouraging states to amend their state solid waste management plans. are you concerned about the timing for that? >> yes, senator, very much so. again, we believe our existing solid waste permit was adequately protecting the environment. now there's a host of new requirements that somehow we have to merge in with that existing permit and try to figure out how to do that in the least disruptive manner to both the agency and industry. >> are you limited in your flexibility?
>> all i can say at this point is our negotiations with a region 8 are on going. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator fischer. senator gillibrand? >> thank you, mr. chairman. ms. markowitz, new york and vermont share lake champlain and both are part of the lake champlain basin program. working with epa to improve the water quality of lake sham plain is very important to both our states. it's my understanding that the epa and state of vermont have been working together to establish a new total max many -- minimum load for lake champlain. could you elaborate with how the epa has worked with your agency for this agreement? >> thank you, this is a perfect example of an issue that could have been seen as an overreach but instead really has ended up with a path forward that offers us flexibility and an innovative approach to cleaning up our waters.
lake champlain suffers from terrible algae blooms from phosphorous pollution. unlike in the '70s and '80s, it's not because of what's coming out of the waste water treatment facilities as much as it's coming off the landscape. so rather than being point source, it's nonpoint source pollution. precipitation driven pollution. so as we were working on a new tmdl for lake champlain, is we've been working on it for four years, they could have just done it on their own but they engaged us, because they understood if we were going to clean up the lake, we really had to be involved, because we understood what it would take to engage municipalities and farmers and business owners and developers and our transportation department, in managing storm water driven pollution. it's been tremendously successful.
we're waiting for the final tmdl to come out. we already have a plan to implement that's been passed by our legislature including some funding and i'm happy to share it in more detail to any of you because i think it's the gold standard for this cooperative federalist approach. >> thank you. in your written testimony, you wrote "pollution does not honor state lines," which is why you see the value of having national standards. and mr. mirzakhalili, you described that our most important responsibility under the clean air act is to protect the health and welfare of citizens throughout the country from the harmful effects of air pollution. could you discuss examples of how pollution in one state affects the health of citizens in another and from your perspectives as state environmental regulators is the health in the citizens of vearmt, delaware, new york, or anywhere, better protected by
having national standards that limit the amount of pollution that can be emitted into the air that we breathe? do you agree the epa has not overstepped its authority using the clean air act, the clean water act and other federal environmental laws that are based on what science shows to be necessary to protect public health and the environment? >> certainly. thank you for the question, senator. delaware, vermont, northeast is the perfect example of states that are suffering from air pollution transport. epa has come up with a transport rule recently to allocate responsibility and establish how much each state contributes to the other. we happen to think they haven't gone far enough. we think they need to -- the epa needs to do more. some of the transport good neighbor steps were due to us about five years ago. so i think the deadlines you see here are the result of things
not getting done when they were supposed to get done, so absolutely i think epa should do more in this area and i think we stand to benefit from that. we can't meet air quality standards. right now in practice we are -- over 90% of our air quality resources have been allocated to upwind states. i can't come into compliance without help. >> do you want to add to that? >> well, that's our experience as well. we are barely in compliance in a number of parts of vermont and, of course, we have no contributing industries. so, again, it's all upwind states. we have tried to negotiate. we've tried to sue. epa's had rules on the books and we're very pleased that they've come out with compliance deadlines because that will make a difference to the health of the people of the state of vermont. >> thank you.
>> thank you. >> thank you, senator gillibrand. senator sullivan? >> thank you, mr. chairman, i want to thank the panelists for their testimony on a very important topic. i think it's very clear on this committee we're all very committed to clean water, clean air, there's been a lot of focus on the flint issue. certainly nobody wants to have our drinking water have poison in it, so the issue of clean water certainly has come up because of that. i am really interested in having to work with my committee members in my state. we have entire communities in alaska that don't have running water, that don't have flush toilets. thousands of alaskans, americans which i think is outrageous and i certainly want to work with
this committee on not only addressing flint but other places that don't have any of the benefits that most americans just assume they have. we don't have that in my state in a lot of communities and it's something we need to fix, not just in other places in the country. but mrs. keogh, i want to follow up on your -- i think your statement sums up frustrations that so many of us have where you just stated where the epa stated "because we can." can you elaborate on that more? i find that remarkably arrogant. i find that an agency certainly dismisses the rule of law. i think there are example after example after example, and it's not just members from this committee. i'm always surprised why this committee on a bipartisan basis
isn't more focused on making sure federal agencies follow the law. right now the epa in the last two supreme court terms lost the epa versus air regulators case. lost the epa versus michigan case. has a stay on the wot us case where over 30 states have sued. and in an unprecedented action, the u.s. supreme court put a stay on the clean power plan. so the epa is losing every single major rule that they are undertaking in the courts with obama administration officials, other officials who are federal judges saying the epa is overstepping its legal bounds and you may have seen what gina mccarthy said on tv on the eve of the "epa v. michigan" case when asked if she thought they
were going to win the case, she said yes. they didn't. but then she said "even if woe -- we don't win the case, it was three years ago, most of the states, companies, are already in compliance. investments have been made. we'll catch up. so it's like hey, even if we lose, we win, because everybody had to abide by the law. i think that's outrageous and it's the source of frustration that so many americans feel and can you just elaborate on this "because we can" quote. i just find it the height of arrogance. just for everybody's information, the epa is supposed to abide by the law, and the federal courts are showing in the last three years, they don't. "because we can" is not an appropriate answer. on people who work for you. >> senator, thank you. it is disheartening. we as state regulators found ourselves in that position
everyday as we affect regulation to make sure that we follow the law that's set forth. >> of course. >> we do not create the law. we -- that's what we're supposed to do. >> we don't create law, we uphold the law. it's frustrating as we sit. admittedly i had short notice this federal plan was coming at the time so i felt like it was a genuinely honest question to understand so i could communicate effectively why requirements were being added to the state plan and it was very disheartening at a minimum and very frustrating or perhaps violation of trust to answer it with "we can." >> so they didn't attempt to cite a law or a regular? they just said "because we can"? >> the discussion went from a statement where arkansas made that we are on a glide path with the regional haze rule to
advance and comply early and that we were doing everything under our state plan that was required under the law. they went in and then beyond that statement discussed a provision about rate of progress and how they could require additional requirements under this phrase of rate of progress and we questioned that when we have a rate of progress that already exceeds -- shortens the timeline and we achieved compliance early so it became of a bit of a circular conversation to be honest with you. it was around there's a phrase in the law that says we can go beyond bart sources to seek a better rate of progress, and that was where they left it. and we did not end with a positive outcome and obviously we continue to discuss that with epa today. >> mr. chairman, do i have time for one more question? i see there's no other members. >> you don't have time. but go ahead. >> i want to follow up on the issue of consolidation -- consultation. one of my frustrations, i had been the attorney general in the state of alaska and the commissioner of national
-- natural resources, but we often found that the consultation either didn't exist or was very cursory. and yet, in every statute that we're talking about, the clean air act, the clean water act, every epa focused statute, the consultation requirement is not optional. it's mandatory. so i would just like any of the witnesses here to -- if you have a sense on do you see the consultation more as a box check when you indeed get it or do they try to listen and implement your concerns? because one of the things we've seen, there's a one size fits all rule from washington rarely works, whether it's alaska or vermont or arkansas or south dakota. so i'm wondering about your experience with mandatory consultation, that's what it is
in all the laws. it's mandatory. do you feel that you're getting that enough? maybe i'll start with mr. pirner. >> senator, i think it's more of they check the box in my opinion. a lot of these proposals that come out there's a public comment period. we comment along with everybody else, but in this example of the clean power plan, they received 1.6 million comments or something. so if you're talking a state to federal agency consultation process, i wouldn't consider submitting one set of comments, which we submitted under the governor's signature, though, as being a state to federal agency consultation. >> anyone else on the consultation issue? >> if i may, i co-chair a committee at the national association of clean air agencies and i can tell you epa
is present on every call. they attend it, and that's not just with my committee, with other committees, where an organization has the presence of epa staff, they bring their thinking to us. they share early drafts, they explain. so that may be a good place to plug in a conversation with epa. could they do better? in some instances yes. we hear there's friction and tension between guidance and flexibility, you want the rules, i understand, you want to go to rule makings. rulings are rigid, so be careful what we ask for and make sure they can produce what it is that we want. so the rules set minimum standards, and the rest of it is our responsibility to collaborate and cooperate and get done. thank you.
>> i would add to that, i'm on the executive committee of the environmental council of states and epa is at every meeting and comes on to monthly calls if we ask them to. so as described by ali, they've made themselves remarkably available to us. in our region, as we're developing our performance partnership agreement, they also in region one at least, are offering tremendous flexibility in terms of how we're going to be managing our obligation under our delegated programs. of course they could do better. one of the places there's a difference between listening and agreeing. so i think they do a great job listening, they don't always agree, and that's really, i think, in part, some of the frustrations that you sometimes hear from my colleagues. they tend in this administration -- we tend to agree with them more so we're
not dissatisfied with the level of attention we're getting from them in this dialogue. >> mr. huffman, do you have any thoughts on that? >> senator sullivan, we'll have to chop it off here. you're five minutes over. >> okay, mr. chairman. there's no one else here, so i was just wondering -- i mean -- >> okay, senator boxer wants to have the extra time. >> usually if there's no one here it doesn't seem to be a big ask to continue to ask questions. but i'll submit questions for the record. >> all right, that's fine. senator boxer, take whatever time -- >> that's very sweet of you. >> thank you. >> now i just want to talk about the courts because my colleague senator sullivan raised the issue. we looked it up.
epa has won 70% of the cases before the supreme court and as a matter of fact in the 30% they lost, sometimes they lost because they were not doing enough and we can send you the memo on that because i think that's important. i also think it's important to reiterate a fact clearly that should be in evidence. this is one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. we know that. so to think that the federal government would not be an important partner to the states is wrong. now i know some of you say it's fine for them to be a partner, but i want to pick up on what mr. pirner said. because it's very clear, this be has been a great panel, by the way, all of you have been so articulate and it's been very interesting here. but mr. pirner you said in the '70s we had terrible air pollution and it's understandable, it made sense to cut the pollution and now you said things are so much better
epa is going too far. that's essentially what you said. and i have to give you some facts that i'm going to put in the record with the chairman's agreement. and this is important. 11 million americans have copd, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 11 million. 22.6 million americans have asthma including 6.1 million children and there are 1.68 million estimated new cases of cancer in 2016. so to sit there and say that there's not work to do, it seems to me strange and you're in such an important position to help those people. now, maybe they -- you know, some of them live in your state, some of them live in a neighboring state, and to say that you have a great relationship with a state and they'll be fine, it's just not a
fact in evidence. ms. keogh, you're here, you're giving testimony to this committee and it's got to be truthful and i know you were. so over the next week, please send me the name of the person who told you, the name of the person who said "we are ordering you to do this because we can." i want the name of that person because whoever said that was absolutely wrong and i don't want just people to just throw it out. who did it? if you can put that in writing confidentially, i would greatly appreciate it. because i want to find out why they would say such a thing. i just think overall, this panel has really proved a point. there's another one on coal ash, which you complained about, mr. pirner, right now, there are 331 hazardous coal ash ponds, that could, if not improved, lead to a loss of life.
so maybe you can sit there and say what you say, but when i swear to protect the people, i'm going to do it. and this is the environment committee. this isn't the pollution committee. and senator and i have a different view of the role of the federal government. i think it's all very fair. but at the end of the day, this is one nation, so setting minimum standards, making sure our people are protected, whether they're in my state, or a state adjacent where the pollution from my state may actually go to another state, i have an obligation, even if it's in my state. and by the way, we have 40 million people and a lot of pollution, a lot of industry. we try our best. we do have forest fires, we have natural disasters. so we have an obligation, and my state doesn't complain about it. they just clean up their act. and it's just a function of what is right.
what is morale right. and you can measure the progress as you look at the health of the people. this is not some conversation about the meaning of the 12th amendment, the 10th amendment, the first amendment. it's about the health of our people. we should do everything we can to protect their health, and as long as i'm vertical, that's what i'm going to be working on. thank you. >> well, thank you, senator boxer, anything else? >> no. >> okay, all right. let me just make a final comment here that it seems like every time we have a hearing it ends up to be a global warming hearing or at least that's injected into it. let me just share my personal thought that climate is always changing. i've said this on the senate floor. i can't remember, i wasn't alive in 1895 but in 1895 we went through a period where they first started using the -- another ice age. in 1918, they started using --
it was the first time they started using global warming. and then that changed again in 1445 when that was another ice age they were talking about. and then that changed in '75. so about every 30 years this happens it's always been changing. the interesting thing is in 1945 that was the year they had the highest co2 emissions in the history of this country. recorded history. and that precipitated not a warming period but a cooling period that sustained for another 30 years. so i think that has to be said. i know the public understands that now. i can remember back when i was the bad guy and we were talking about this back in 2000 and at that time it was considered to be the number one concern, now it's number 15 out of 15 according to a poll. so people have caught on and they'll continue to bring that up. last thing is we all want a
clean environment and when you mention the clean air act and all these other acts, we were all for them and i was back then. in fact, i was the initial sponsor of the clean air act. so with that we'll adjourn. i'd like to have one quick short word with mr. huffman and miss markowitz if i could. thank you. >> all right, barbara. >> that was good. >> i think so.