Former EPA Official Highlights Critical Need for Strengthened EPA to Advance Environmental Justice and Address the Climate Crisis at House Hearing

Mika Hyer, mhyer@lcv.org, 940-783-2230

In case you missed it, today, LCV Board Chair and former EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, providing insight on ways to restore and recommit the EPA to its mission after four years of Trump’s destructive management. Browner, the longest serving EPA administrator in history and climate advisor to President Obama, highlighted the crucial role the EPA has to protect lands, waters, and communities, particularly communities of color and low-income communities who are hit the hardest by current EPA regulations that were gutted by the Trump administration. The Biden administration’s commitment to advance environmental justice, address the climate crisis, and follow and strengthen science is a step in the right direction for the EPA that will do its job to create a cleaner, more just environment for all communities in the U.S.

WATCH: See highlights from the hearing here, the full hearing here, and testimony transcript here.

The Hill covered testimony from the hearing, highlighting Carol Browner’s priorities for an effective EPA and the politicization of energy and environmental policy. 

“[Browner] outlined what she believed should be the four priorities for an effective EPA: following available science, adhering to the law, enforcement and environmental justice. “If those are the cornerstones of how EPA thinks about its work on a daily basis, they will be able to serve all Americans,” she added. She went on to advise the Biden administration that “there is a lot of authority that is sitting there that can be used by the agency to meet the challenges of today.”

Browner also addressed politicization of energy and environmental policy, particularly pertaining to job creation, saying, “We do not have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy.”

Read highlights from Carol Browner’s testimony below:

Browner on strengthening public health with a strong EPA:

“EPA and the environmental protection system it supports in state, tribal, and local governments have been “hollowed out” from unwise regulatory rollbacks, inadequate funding, and battered staff morale. The Agency has been running under siege from threatened and actual budget cuts, attempts to restructure it to make it unable to carry out its mission, and a flood of anti-science misinformation…Reversing rollbacks and roadblocks put in place by the Trump administration will not suffice. EPA should prioritize its actions with the accumulating facts and science on the substantial public health toll from the toxic legacy of environmental racism, the changing climate, and the cumulative effects of air, water, and land pollution and contamination.”

Browner on advancing environmental justice:

“EPA needs significant investments in scientific research and analysis; decision-making tools; monitoring systems; improved environmental justice screening tools; and enhanced enforcement. To do all of this RIGHT, this effort must be informed by major input from and rolled out in partnership with environmental justice communities and leaders. EPA’s policies across the agency must advance a comprehensive approach to reducing legacy and ongoing pollution exposures, maximizing the benefits of action, and averting potential new harmful environmental impacts on environmental justice communities.”

Browner on addressing the climate crisis:

“The next decade is critically important both in terms of addressing the climate crisis and harvesting the health and economic growth benefits of transitioning to cleaner sources of energy and cutting pollution. We do not have to choose between a health economy and a healthy environment, we can – and should – have both. EPA, along with the other federal agencies, must act boldly to tackle climate change in a manner that protects public health; addresses environmental injustice; creates good-paying, family-sustaining jobs; promotes clean energy innovation; and diversifies and invests in communities that have been reliant on the fossil fuel industry.”

Browner on following and strengthening science:

“The new administration should take immediate steps to reject the Trump Administration’s ill-advised policies and agency actions that limited or ignored science, strengthen science in decision-making, re-commit to scientific integrity and community engagement, revamp scientific advisory committees to avoid conflicts of interest and restore their credibility, and address long-needed initiatives on pollution that poses threats in multiple media (i.e. air, water, land) equity analysis, and cumulative impacts.”

Browner summarizes:

“EPA must mend the damage done by the Trump administration, but it cannot stop there; these two ongoing crises of climate change and environmental injustice require much more action and attention than a return to the status quo. EPA will need to be stronger and better resourced than ever before to deal with these crises and the fall-out of Trump administration actions and do it in a transparent and broadly inclusive approach.”

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