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Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget

Date Published: 02/27/2020 [Source]

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler appeared before lawmakers Thursday to defend a budget that would bring the agency to its lowest funding level in years.

As with previous Trump administration budgets, lawmakers are expected to ignore the proposed 26 percent cut to the agency, one of the steepest in the budget.

"We are focused on the core mission of our agency so we can continue to protect the land, the air, the water, and we believe we can do that with the budget we requested," Wheeler told lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

But Democrats made clear they planned to reject those cuts, while hitting the agency for what they described as a history of shortchanging important public health programs and sidelining scientists who contradict their policy goals.

"Some of the most significant proposed rollbacks on environmental protections are at odds with the scientific record," said Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), highlighting critiques of EPA proposals from its independent Science Advisory Board.

"It is critical that our public health protections are grounded in robust science, and sadly I believe the administration continues to dismiss science and expertise whenever they conflict with their regulatory agenda."

The White House budget would cut more than 50 EPA programs aimed at helping fight pollution, radon and lead as well as those that give clean water grants to small and disadvantaged communities.

"Why are you proposing a cut of more than $112 million when you seem to imply you could use more money?" asked Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the chairman of the committee.