STATEMENT OF TIMOTHY FIELDS , JR.
STATEMENT OF TIMOTHY FIELDS , JR.
NOMINATED TO BE ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR
OFFICE OF SOLID WASTE AND EMERGENCY RESPONSE
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
May 5, 1999
Mr. Chairman, Senator Baucus, and Distinguished Members of the Committee, as a career public servant for almost 28 years, I am honored to be here today to testify before this Committee. My family and I are grateful and honored that President Clinton has nominated me for the position of Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I look forward with great enthusiasm to the opportunity for new challenges as an EPA Assistant Administrator in the direction of our waste management and environmental cleanup programs.
I am especially proud to have my family with me here today -- my wife, my son and my parents. I thank my colleagues and many friends for their presence and support!
A search for common ground
Mr. Chairman, Senator Baucus, and Members of the Committee. I began my career with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1971. A lot has changed at the EPA since that time. What has not changed is my dedication to public service and my strong commitment to EPA's mission to protect public health and the environment. I know that public service is a special calling for me.
In some ways, I believe that finding solutions to today's environmental problems is more difficult than in years past. When I began my career, EPA's job was to write dozens of regulations to implement the new environmental laws passed by Congress. Now, with its important regulatory programs in place, EPA is more focused on approaches that not only protect the public and our environment, but also do it more efficiently, with less red tape, less process and in "plain English." We must weigh the needs and concerns of all stakeholders and search for consensus.
One thing that I have learned in my years at EPA is that we in the Federal government do not have all of the answers. I am committed to looking beyond Washington, D. C., for solutions that are good for public health and the environment, good for business and good for our State, local and tribal partners. I am convinced that if we work together, we can find solutions that will work for everyone.
Superfund - getting results
As Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for 3 years, and as Acting Assistant Administrator during the past two years, I have had the opportunity to put some of these new solutions to work. A major priority for me is continued Superfund reform. Cleaning up Superfund sites continues to be of utmost importance to the Agency. I am pleased to tell you that, because of your high priority focus on Superfund and the Clinton Administration's Superfund administrative reforms, we are implementing Superfund far differently today than six years ago. Significant program improvements have occurred. We have completed cleanup construction at 599 sites. We have settled with more than 18,000 small parties, offered $145 million in orphan share funding, accelerated cleanup by 20 percent and significantly reduced the cost of clean up, saving over $1 billion in future costs through remedy updates at more than 200 sites over the past 3 years. We are now achieving 85 construction completions per year. At this pace, we will have completed cleanup construction at 85% (1,180 sites) of existing National Priorities List (NPL) sites by 2005.
I will continue to work on administrative reforms to strengthen the Superfund program, and with Congress on legislative reforms that will address the specific statutory changes that would improve the program. We must continue to aggressively implement our reforms so that cleanups continue to be faster, fairer and more efficient than ever before. We must refine and update our reforms so they continue to work well. We need to also recognize that many of these Superfund sites, with a little work, creativity and commitment can become valuable assets to the community. We have already seen many old Superfund sites transformed into parks, retail businesses, and golf courses. I would like to work with our State and local partners and give them the tools they need, in conjunction with the private sector and affected communities, to turn even more Superfund sites into productive properties.
Our goal should be to build on our Superfund successes and cleanup the remaining Superfund sites and any newly discovered sites as quickly as we can. Targeted legislative changes to clarify the liability of prospective purchasers, innocent landowners, contiguous property owners and small generators and transporters of municipal waste would be helpful. That coupled with reinstatement of the Superfund taxes will give us what we need to finish our job.
Brownfields - a shining success
One of the most successful examples of what we can do when we work together is brownfields. In the brownfields program, we did not promulgate any new regulations. We did not tell State or local governments, businesses, or communities what to do. They told us what they needed. And we tried to help. The approach is working. In the short four year history of our brownfields program, we have developed partnerships with 250 communities across America through grants to State and local governments. Through this effort, over $1 billion worth of investments has found its way into local economies, creating more than 2,500 jobs and improving the quality of life in hundreds of neighborhoods across the nation. I will continue to build on this success. In fact, this year EPA will provide support to more than 70 additional communities, up to $200,000 each, to assess their brownfield sites, and 63 additional communities, up to $500,000 each, to help establish their own revolving loan funds for cleaning up their brownfield sites. What began as a modest EPA initiative has been expanded by the support of other Federal, State and local government, and private partners to become a strong mechanism for assessing, cleaning up, and redeveloping brownfield properties.
Reinventing Hazardous Waste Programs
I hope to use the success of the brownfields program as a model for other programs within the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. One of my top priorities is to reinvent the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) corrective action program administratively, much as we did in Superfund, and I welcome the opportunity to work with you and others in achieving this goal. The RCRA corrective action program is the remediation program for facilities that treat, store, or dispose of RCRA corrective action hazardous wastes and have potential environmental contamination.
In RCRA corrective action, we have a huge task ahead of us. We have about 1700 high priority RCRA corrective action sites that need to be addressed. Our Government Results and Performance Act goal directs us to control human exposure at 95 percent of these sites by 2005. This means that EPA and the States, collectively, will have to address an average of 185 sites per year for the next seven years.
This is a tall order, but I am ready to provide the leadership to meet this challenge. States are largely responsible for providing oversight in cleaning up these sites, and one of my first initiatives will be to redouble our efforts to work even more closely with States. I will personally look for every opportunity to talk to State officials, to listen to their concerns and wherever possible, to support their ideas for improving the program. I will continue to look for administrative ways to cut red tape and unnecessary requirements. We must focus our regulations and guidance on results and not process. The recently promulgated Hazardous Waste Identification Rule (Media) and the Post Closure Rule are both good examples of how we can achieve this goal. I am also committed to helping States take full advantage of the flexibility already available in RCRA. For that to happen, State and regional officials must first know where they have discretion. And we have taken some initial but important steps to get the word out. We have developed a comprehensive training program for regional and State officials that defines the flexibility in our rules and guidance, and have established national, regional, and State goals for cleanup.
Finally, we are also in active negotiations to attempt to settle litigation on one of the Agency's critical regulatory reforms, the Corrective Action Management Rule. I am hopeful that these negotiations will result in a rule that remains a flexible and valuable tool for protective, efficient cleanups. Through all of these efforts, I believe we can reinvent our RCRA cleanup program, and I look forward to working with you on these actions.
Underground Tanks - working toward compliance
Another top priority is compliance with underground storage tank regulatory requirements. As you know, after a ten year phase in period, on December 22, 1998, the statutory deadline passed for upgrading underground tanks to prevent drinking water, groundwater and soil contamination. While 1.2 million tanks have been taken out of operation and another 635,000 tanks have been upgraded or replaced over the past ten years, many tank owners are not yet in compliance. However, our latest estimates are that 77% of the nation's tanks are in compliance. We want to work with the States to ensure that the remaining tanks are brought into compliance.
Risk Management Plans
I will continue to work with this Committee and others on effective implementation of the Risk Management plan (RMP) regulations. Consistent with a recent judicial stay of the RMP regulations by the U. S. Court of Appeals as applicable to propane facilities, EPA intends to issue an interim administrative stay of the June 21, 1999, RMP rule effective date as it applies to flammable hydrocarbon fuels, including propane, butane, ethane, propylene, and ethane (natural gas), stored in quantities greater than 18,000 gallons. EPA believes that facilities that store fuels in excess of this threshold present a risk to American communities, and should be required to submit an RMP.
Regarding Off-site Consequence Analysis (OCA) data, EPA has announced that it will not post OCA information on the Internet in light of the FBI concerns that such information could represent a national security risk. EPA does not intend to release OCA data until a responsible approach to address the national security concerns has been developed and is in place. EPA is working with DOJ, FBI, and other Federal agencies to develop a responsible approach to making OCA information available to the public that addresses the security concerns. The interagency group is considering both legislative and non-legislative options and expects to complete its work very soon.
Of course, OSWER is responsible for many other important activities. Our Federal facilities cleanup oversight, and emergency preparedness, prevention, and response functions are critical. And our work on counter-terrorism, innovative technologies, recycling, waste minimization and pollution prevention will continue to be important to me and the Agency.
Finally, I would like to thank the employees of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response and EPA's Regional Offices and Laboratories who work hard to implement the Superfund, Brownfields, RCRA, Underground Storage Tank, Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention, Federal Facilities, Technology and Oil Pollution Programs on a daily basis. These are the talented and dedicated Federal employees who are critical to the success of these programs. I pledge my support to them as we work together to provide safe and healthy environments for ourselves, our children and grandchildren, and future generations.
In closing, let me thank you again for your time and the opportunity to appear before you. I look forward to working with this Committee and I will be happy to answer your questions.