STATEMENT BY J. CHARLES FOX
STATEMENT BY J. CHARLES FOX ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR-DESIGNATE OFFICE OF WATER UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENTAL AND PUBLIC WORKS UNITED STATES SENATE
July 30, 1998
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I am honored to be here today as the President's nominee for Assistant Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency. I am pleased that Administrator Carol Browner asked me to take on the challenge and responsibility of administering the nation's clean water and safe drinking water programs. I look forward to the opportunity to work closely with this Committee and Congress to improve the stewardship of our nation's water resources.
My career in the environmental policy arena in Washington and in the State of Maryland spans 15 years. As a federal official, state official, and representative of nonprofit environmental organizations, I have dedicated my professional career to working on water issues on behalf of the American public. I look forward to continuing this work on a bipartisan basis with this Committee.
My experience with both federal and state governments has focused on finding cleaner, cheaper, and smarter ways to achieve our nation's environmental goals, and I will continue this work with the Office of Water. As the Assistant Secretary for the Maryland Department of the Environment, I directed a comprehensive permit reform initiative that provided Maryland businesses with more timely and predictable results, while at the same time allowing state resources to be deployed more efficiently. I also coordinated a multi-agency environmental goal-setting effort to foster collaboration among state agencies and to enhance accountability to the public and the state legislature. This effort was very similar to the activities carried out by the EPA pursuant to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA).
As the Associate Administrator for Reinvention at the EPA, I worked to improve environmental information, reduce paperwork burdens, and implement the Agency's regulatory reform agenda. In the information area, for example, EPA is implementing a detailed program that will improve data accuracy, enhance public access, and reduce burdens on state government and the private sector. These types of common sense, cost-effective reforms characterize much of the work I accomplished in the Office of Reinvention.
I would like to talk briefly about the challenges confronting our nation's water programs. Twenty-five years after the passage of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, we stand on a critical threshold. We have made remarkable progress in assuring safe drinking water and cleaning up the nation's rivers, lakes, streams, and coasts. However, 40 percent of the waters assessed by states and tribes do not yet meet water quality goals. And, too many people are exposed to potentially harmful drinking water.
Under the bipartisan leadership of this Committee, President Clinton and Congress have articulated a clear agenda for drinking water by strengthening the Safe Drinking Water Act. And, in February of this year, the President proposed a Clean Water Action Plan that describes 10 general principles for strengthening clean water programs with over 100 specific new actions. As Assistant Administrator for Water, my top priority will be to support the effective implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments and the Clean Water Action Plan. I see five key themes that will most need attention.
1) Maintain Core Programs -- The additional responsibilities associated with in the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments and the Clean Water Action Plan are based on the premise that the core clean water and drinking water programs remain strong. We need to assure the financial integrity of clean water and drinking water state revolving loan funds. We must continue to work with our state partners to improve implementation of the discharge permitting and public water supply system programs. We must implement effective programs to prevent pollution, including the source water protection program and the nonpoint pollution control program.2) Define Environmental Goals -- The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments and the Clean Water Action Plan both stress the need to improve efforts to define goals and standards for clean and safe water. We need to make the new drinking water contaminant selection process a shining success and we need to assure that we use sound science in developing new drinking water standards under the guidelines established by Congress.To achieve the nation's clean water goals, we must support state and tribal efforts to expand and improve water quality standards by providing them with the best scientific information about pollutants. Special attention must be paid to the development of water quality standards for nutrients and biological water quality criteria.3) Restore Water Quality Using the Watershed Approach -- Under the Clean Water Action Plan, states and tribes are now completing their unified watershed assessments and new resources will be directed to those watersheds not meeting clean water goals. We are encouraging states and tribes to approach these restoration efforts on a watershed basis. We also need to expand policy tools and incentives to encourage federal, state, tribal, and local governments to form partnerships dedicated to resolving water quality problems on a watershed basis.
4) Build Inter-Governmental Partnerships -- EPA, acting alone, cannot protect and restore clean water and drinking water quality. Under the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA delegates major program responsibility to state agencies. The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments created new state revolving loan funds for financing drinking water systems and the Clean Water Action Plan proposed significant new funding for state and tribal efforts. I am determined to provide the resources states and tribes need to succeed, so that we can achieve our environmental and public health goals by working together.
Implementation of the Clean Water Action Plan requires an unprecedented level of coordination at all levels of government, particularly among federal agencies. EPA is working with USDA to coordinate efforts related to animal feeding operations and to foster stewardship of natural resources (including developing buffer strips). We are working with NOAA to expand joint coastal protection. We continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to protect wetlands. I hope to continue and expand these efforts.
5) Improve Public Access to Information -- Both the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments and the Clean Water Action Plan include new initiatives to improve the public's right to know about the condition of surface water and drinking water. Informing the public about the health of rivers, lakes, and coastal waters where they live and the quality of the water they drink is extremely important and I will work with states, tribes, and other stakeholders to make these efforts a success.
In addition to this current focus on coordinating federal water resource protection and restoration efforts, the Office of Water has established a strong track record of reaching out to its state, tribal, and local government partners, as well as to industry and environmental interest groups. I am committed to continuing this tradition and to achieving the broadest possible participation to develop effective, workable solutions with those most affected by our actions.
Let me close by expressing my appreciation to the Committee, particularly the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, for the opportunity to appear before you today. I am eager to apply my energy and experience toward this new mission and to work with Congress. If confirmed, I will consider it a great honor and a privilege to work with the members of this committee toward achieving the nation's goals for clean and safe water. I would be pleased to respond to any questions from the Committee at this time.