Opening Statement of Senator James Inhofe
Senate Environment and Public Works
Oversight Hearing on Cleanup Efforts at Federal Facilities
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Good morning. Thank you, Chairman Boxer. Today’s hearing is an oversight hearing on clean-up efforts at federal facilities. I believe we need to work together to have effective oversight. What we are doing today is putting the cart in front of the horse and the result will be an incomplete and inconclusive attempt at oversight. This does not serve the American people in an effective and productive manner.
The process that this administration has put in place from its early days and has continuously followed is if there is an interagency dispute, then the two agencies need to work out their differences. This oversight hearing is attempting to circumvent the process by becoming the jury, judge, and executioner, rather than letting the agencies go through the correct process to negotiate a compromise. I believe when that is done we should hold an oversight hearing. A hearing before resolution doesn’t help the situation; it hurts it.
I believe that EPA has done and will continue to do a fine job of cleaning up sites on the National Priorities List. Of the 1,587 final or deleted sites on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), 95 percent have undergone construction activity, have been completed, or have been deleted from the NPL.
I want to commend the Department of Defense for their clean-up efforts to date. DOD has 140 installations on the NPL. 129 have signed Federal Facilities Agreements (FFA’s). 11 of the installations on the NPL have not reached an agreement with EPA and do not have an FFA. Through fiscal year 2007, DOD has spent over $650 million on clean-up efforts at these eleven installations which have an aggregate estimated cost in excess of $1.3 billion. As we conduct this hearing today, DOD’s clean-up efforts at these sites are ongoing.
I believe that an FFA is an important part of the clean-up process. However, I do not believe that it is an accurate tool to measure the pace or progress of clean-up at NPL sites. I say this for two reasons. First, not all of an NPL site’s clean-up needs are captured by an FFA. Clean-up efforts at DOD sites without an FFA are ongoing and there are areas that require clean-up measures that are outside of an FFA. Secondly, as we have seen in DOE’s situation, an FFA lacks the flexibility to address changing circumstances. So FFA’s need to be redrafted instead of amended.
The Department of Energy has done an outstanding job of cleaning up 83 of their 108 sites. All of the DOE NPL sites have FFA’s. However, most of these have been renegotiated recently due to the fact that DOE either did not request enough money originally when they signed the FFA’s, or they had unforeseen technical problems at the site. DOE sites are focused on the clean-up of radioactive waste and contamination generated by nuclear energy research and nuclear weapons production. DOE has been and is performing first-of-its-kind clean-up tasks in highly hazardous work environments. It is important to note that comparing DOE sites to DOD sites is like comparing apples to oranges. That’s not to say that DOE should not be commended for their clean-up efforts and progress to date.
I believe that there are some positive stories to tell in regards to DOD and DOE. I believe that there is always room for improvement, but DOD and DOE have taken on larger and more costly sites and have been making positive strides. I do believe that we should have waited until after these agencies have negotiated their differences to have an oversight hearing on this topic. I also believe that using FFA’s to measure clean-up progress and pace is inaccurate.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.