Chair McCollum Statement at Defense Environment Restoration Hearing

2021-05-26 13:02

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chair of the Defense Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on Defense Environmental Restoration. 

This afternoon the Committee will receive testimony on the Defense Environmental Restoration Program and accounts.

Our four witnesses are:

  • Mr. Richard Kidd, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment and Energy Resilience;
  • Ms. Amy Borman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment;
  • Mr. Karnig Ohannessian, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Environment; and
  • Mr. Mark Correll, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety, and Infrastructure.

We welcome you and thank you for your service. 

This is the first time the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee has ever held a hearing specifically on environmental restoration and remediation issues within the Department of Defense.

But I believe it is critically important that this subcommittee be engaged here because environmental cleanup is directly relevant to every single state in our nation and in many of the Congressional Districts that we represent.

The impacts of environmental contamination in our communities - whether it be from hazardous chemicals or military munitions - are not partisan issues.

This is about the lives, the health and the safety of our servicemembers, their families, and our constituents who live in and around military installations.

And it is the duty of the Department of Defense and the Services to ensure that they are responsible stewards of the land on which they operate.

Where contamination has occurred, the Department and the Services must ensure that those sites are cleaned up in a timely fashion and to standards that meet the needs of local communities.

It is our job in Congress to be a partner to DoD, by ensuring adequate funding and conducting proper oversight of these cleanup projects.

One of my hopes for this hearing is for us to learn how we can better assist you in funding remediation projects so you can get these sites cleaned up as swiftly as possible.

Some of the topics for today’s hearing that I hope we can hear more about include:

  • How funding is prioritized in the Environment Restoration accounts—
    and how the Department and the Services are using a risk-based analysis to respond to contamination in our communities caused by DoD actions.
  • In places where the Department is the known source of contamination- how is the Department communicating the risks to servicemembers, their families, and the neighboring communities; and ensuring those affected are aware and consulted.
  • The cost to complete cleanup DoD-caused contamination and military munitions at current and former military facilities and what constraints exist to speeding along cleanup.
  • The scope of DoD PFAS cleanup - where is the Department at in identifying possible contamination at DoD installations from these toxic fluorinated forever chemicals.  And how far along in the CERCLA process are the Services in remediating PFAS contamination.
  • A discussion of the research and development work the Department is exploring to do PFAS remediation and what promising technologies exist to develop a PFAS-free firefighting foam. 

I acknowledge that we are holding this hearing before the release of the full budget request and we understand this may limit your ability to answer certain questions.

Given the tight timeframe we will have to write the bill, I ask that you be prepared to respond to members on any specific budget questions that are asked today immediately after the full request is submitted.

With that, I thank you again for appearing before the Committee today to discuss these important issues.

117th Congress