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Testimony Before the Council of the District of Columbia FY 2009 Proposed Budget

Thursday, April 3, 2008
George S. Hawkins, Esq., Director, DDOE

Director George S. Hawkins - Testimony Before the Council of the District of Columbia
FY 2009 Proposed Budget
(April 3, 2008)

Good morning Council Member Graham and members of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment.  My name is George Hawkins and I am the Director of the District Department of the Environment.  I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to testify about the Mayor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2009.


The Department of the Environment is working to transform the District into a leader in environmental practices, so as to better the lives of all those who live, work and visit the city.  We are at once the state-level regulatory agency and the local implementing agency for environmental matters.  As such, the agency is primarily engaged in two major activities.  First, DDOE enforces the District’s environmental laws and regulations via inspections, monitoring and plan review. In addition, the agency conducts a broad range of outreach activities in order to promote sustainable choices and raise awareness of environmental issues.  DDOE encompasses a diverse range of programs that protect, preserve, and restore the natural environment, conserve resources and improve human health.  I believe the proposed budget will enable DDOE to more effectively carry out its mission and substantially advance environmental protection in the District.

In my testimony today, I’d like to discuss the proposed budget in two parts.  First, I will offer an overview of DDOE’s fiscal year 2009 budget picture, including an explanation of some of the major mechanical changes.  Second, I will discuss the new initiatives that the agency plans to undertake.

Factual Budget Overview:

The proposed FY 2009 overall budget is $76.8 million and includes 301 FTEs.  This is a 9 percent increase over the FY 2008 budget, due primarily to increased funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a program which provides energy assistance payments to low-income District residents.  The increased funding reflects the Mayor’s continuing commitment to LIHEAP and the citizens that it serves.

Specifically, by fund type, our proposed budget breaks down as follows:

  • Local funds:  These funds total $25 million and 118.5 FTEs, an increase of 6.8 million over FY 2008 due mostly to the additional LIHEAP funding;
  • Federal Grant funds:  These funds total $19.2 million and 112 FTEs, an 11 percent increase over FY 2008 due to moderate increases in our existing grants;
  • Special Purpose Revenue funds:   These funds total $31.8 million and 66.6 FTEs, an 8 percent increase over FY 2008 due primarily to the increased budget for Storm Water Management;
  • Private Grant funds:  This is a new type of funding in FY 2009.  We have budgeted $300,000 to reflect a private grant from the Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help clean up a portion of the Anacostia River; and
  • Intra-District funds:  These funds total $382,000, a significant decrease from FY 2008 due to the fact that funding for the LIHEAP program has been transferred from the Intra-District budget to the Local budget.  The remaining funds in our intra-District budget reflect the work we do on behalf of the Department of Motor Vehicles for compliance with emission standards.

It is worth pointing out that our FY 2009 proposed budget reflects an effort to align our programs and activities with our organizational structure.  For example, we moved the Air Quality activity from the Natural Resources Program to the Environmental Program.   In addition, we have created an Energy Program to highlight and make more transparent the significant resources we dedicate to energy assistance and conservation.   We also established a new Lead Management activity to reflect the importance of this activity and the proposed transfer of lead responsibilities from the Department of Health. We feel that our organizational structure now accurately reflects the true structure of the enterprise; the re-alignments within the budget will prepare us to work within this structure for years to come.

New Initiatives:

In addition to our budget realignments, the FY 2009 budget contains three significant new initiatives:

  1. an expansion of the stormwater program, which includes an emphasis on promoting Low-Impact Design (LID);
  2. consolidation of the District’s two major lead programs; and
  3. support for the implementation of the Green Building Act.  Generally, these three initiatives will greatly strengthen the agency’s ongoing efforts to protect human health and the District’s natural resources, while also making us a more efficient and innovative enterprise.

Stormwater has long been a chief environmental concern due to its impact on the health and cleanliness of local watersheds.  Under your leadership, the Stormwater Task Force has made terrific progress in assessing potential new stormwater fee structures.  Reducing stormwater is also critical to restoring the Anacostia River, a high priority of both the Mayor and this Council.  Therefore, in the FY09 proposed budget, the new Stormwater Division has received an increase of $4 million dollars in special purpose budget authority, generated by the stormwater fee structure.  The new funding will be used to comply with the District’s obligations under the new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit, which requires the installation of best management practices in order to reduce runoff.  In addition to adding 6.5 FTEs to manage this program, the funding will support projects such as: enhanced Best Management Practices (BMPs) to prevent trash from entering our rivers and streams, improved street sweeping, increased enforcement of illicit discharges, green roofs, and stormwater management techniques such as rain gardens and bioretention.  The net effect of these efforts will be to reduce the pollutant loadings that reach our rivers and streams, which ultimately benefits all District residents by providing a cleaner and healthier natural environment.  We expect that funding for this program will increase beyond FY 2009, as the stormwater fee ramps up and generates greater revenues, so that we may fully meet all MS4 requirements.

Related to the special revenue fund increase for the Stormwater Division, the Mayor has proposed a local funds increase of $750,000 dedicated towards Low Impact Design incentives for residents and businesses.  This enhancement does not include any FTEs and will be managed within the existing Watershed Protection Division.  LID projects complement the stormwater reduction efforts of the MS4 permit by encouraging private entities and non-governmental institutions to manage the runoff generated on their properties.  This enhancement in particular will allow DDOE to expand its existing incentives so that a greater number of residents and business may take advantage of them.  For example, depending on the scale and cost of a proposed project, this funding increase could allow DDOE to support up to 625 small-scale LID projects.  Incentives will be offered for potential projects ranging from green roof subsidies to an expansion of the RiverSmart program to demonstration projects in public spaces, with particular opportunities for increased LID investments east of the river.  The Watershed Protection Division will develop clear guidelines for applying for funding, so that all eligible District entities may have an opportunity to vie for LID incentives.  This program represents an important step in institutionalizing LID throughout the city.

The second major initiative included in the FY 2009 budget is a consolidation of the Department of Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and the Department of Environment Lead-Based Paint Management Program into a single entity, housed at DDOE.  The additional funding for this new program comes from two sources: an increase of $550,000 in local funds and the transfer of a $764,000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant, for a total increase of $1.3 million dollars.  In addition, DDOE will add 12 positions total; 6 of these will be transferred from DOH as part of the CDC grant and 6 will be created as a result of the increased local funding.  Most of these positions are already staffed, so we do not expect this initiative to adversely impact our vacancy rate.  In addition, by giving us the flexibility to eliminate duplicate positions between the two programs, such as having two Program Managers, consolidation will allow us to improve our response using fewer resources.  As you have been a long-time champion of lead poisoning prevention efforts, I am pleased to report to you that we believe that consolidation will bring significant positive benefits to District residents, both in treating poisoned children and, more importantly, preventing lead poisoning from the outset.

On the first score, consolidation will reduce the number of agencies involved in the Elevated Blood Lead level response process from four to two.  The Office of the Attorney General will remain involved in order to take enforcement action in non-compliant cases. However, otherwise, case management for both affected children and properties will remain within DDOE from the moment a blood test result is reported to the moment that a property is certified as abated.  DDOE will continue to coordinate with the Department of Health for data-sharing purposes, such that immunization records and other such databases are not adversely affected.  Families of EBL children will now have a single point of contact in order to get information about their case status, which will eliminate confusion and baton-passing between agencies.  Cases will also move through the response process significantly faster, so that exposure to hazards is lessened.

In terms of prevention efforts, program consolidation follows a model employed by many of the country’s leading lead programs, including Baltimore, Massachusetts, New York City and Philadelphia.  Centralizing the District’s lead responders will allow for a more efficient use of staff and resources which, in turn, will allow the program to expand its outreach into larger target areas.

The final major initiative included in the FY 2009 budget is the inclusion of a $725,000 local one-time enhancement in support of implementation of the Green Building Act (GBA).  This enhancement does not include any FTEs, but will support the efforts of existing DDOE staff, staff at our sister agencies with whom we are working on GBA implementation (particularly DCRA, DDOT, and OP), and the work of the Green Building Advisory Council.  We expect that the increased funding will be used primarily to provide technical and engineering support, via contract, so we can achieve the following key objectives: leveraging resources and knowledge across the government to ensure full GBA implementation for public and publicly-financed buildings; finalizing and implementing the revised “green” building code; training and educating agency and private sector partners to implement LEED and other green requirements; and developing detailed green building design specifications that promote application of innovative methods and practices  DDOE also seeks to become a primary green building resource for the development community, residents and non-profits, so as to encourage the widespread adoption of green building principles and standards.  Related, but separate from this enhancement, is also the Mayor’s proposed funding for a climate change program.  This proposal, which complements the benefits generated by the Green Building Act’s requirements, designates one FTE to work specifically on the District’s response to the issue of global warming.  The District has previously expressed its commitment to curbing carbon emissions through efforts such as signing the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement, passage of the Clean Cars Act and joining ICLEI, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.  Developing a comprehensive climate change strategy is a natural extension of these commitments and one that will be funded in the FY 2009 budget.

Finally, in addition to these major initiatives, I would just like to highlight some of the additional efficiencies that DDOE achieved within the FY 2009 budget.  First, by prioritizing our previous funding sources, we were able to ensure that no local funds that generated a federal match were cut, such that we could continue to leverage outside resources to the maximum extent possible.  Second, we plan to shift two functions of our Energy Office to other enterprises in order to better provide services to residents seeking energy assistance.  Our energy call center will be co-located with 311, while our income intake efforts are planning to co-locate to sites within Ward 8.  This should make it easier for residents to get the information that they need.  We also managed to significantly reduce our NPS spending by reducing supply and equipment expenditures while still giving our programs the resources they need to deliver high-quality results.

Overall, the FY 2009 proposed budget will allow the District Department of the Environment to effectively continue its work in tackling the environmental issues of greatest concern to our citizenry.  We will continue to seek to employ all of our resources in a manner that yields the greatest possible benefit for the city, while also moving forward with innovative solutions to address the environmental challenges of our time.  I thank you again for the opportunity to testify and look forward to answering any questions that you may have.