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Tag: climate change

In Central America, Migration Is Not The Crisis

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

Earlier this month, a Honduran court found David Castillo, a U.S.-trained former Army intelligence officer and the head of an internationally financed hydroelectric company, guilty of the 2016 murder of celebrated Indigenous activist Berta Cáceres. His company was building a dam that threatened the traditional lands and water sources of the Indigenous Lenca people. For years, Cáceres and her organization, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, had led the struggle to halt that project. It turned out, however, that Cáceres's international recognition — she won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 — couldn't protect her from becoming one of the dozens of Latin American Indigenous and environmental activists killed annually.

Yet when President Joe Biden came into office with an ambitious "Plan for Security and Prosperity in Central America," he wasn't talking about changing policies that promoted big development projects against the will of local inhabitants. Rather, he was focused on a very different goal: stopping migration. His plan, he claimed, would address its "root causes." Vice President Kamala Harris was even blunter when she visited Guatemala, instructing potential migrants: "Do not come."

As it happens, more military and private development aid of the sort Biden's plan calls for (and Harris boasted about) won't either stop migration or help Central America. It's destined, however, to spark yet more crimes like Cáceres's murder. There are other things the United States could do that would aid Central America. The first might simply be to stop talking about trying to end migration.

How Can The United States Help Central America?

Biden and Harris are only recycling policy prescriptions that have been around for decades: promote foreign investment in Central America's export economy, while building up militarized "security" in the region. In truth, it's the very economic model the United States has imposed there since the nineteenth century, which has brought neither security nor prosperity to the region (though it's brought both to U.S. investors there). It's also the model that has displaced millions of Central Americans from their homes and so is the fundamental cause of what, in this country, is so often referred to as the "crisis" of immigration.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the U.S. began imposing that very model to overcome what officials regularly described as Central American "savagery" and "banditry." The pattern continued as Washington found a new enemy, communism, to battle there in the second half of the last century. Now, Biden promises that the very same policies — foreign investment and eternal support for the export economy — will end migration by attacking its "root causes": poverty, violence, and corruption. (Or call them "savagery" and "banditry," if you will.) It's true that Central America is indeed plagued by poverty, violence, and corruption, but if Biden were willing to look at the root causes of his root causes, he might notice that his aren't the solutions to such problems, but their source.

Stopping migration from Central America is no more a legitimate policy goal than was stopping savagery, banditry, or communism in the twentieth century. In fact, what Washington policymakers called savagery (Indigenous people living autonomously on their lands), banditry (the poor trying to recover what the rich had stolen from them), and communism (land reform and support for the rights of oppressed workers and peasants) were actually potential solutions to the very poverty, violence, and corruption imposed by the US-backed ruling elites in the region. And maybe migration is likewise part of Central Americans' struggle to solve these problems. After all, migrants working in this country send back more money in remittances to their families in Central America than the United States has ever given in foreign aid.

What, then, would a constructive U.S. policy towards Central America look like?

Perhaps the most fundamental baseline of foreign policy should be that classic summary of the Hippocratic Oath: do no harm. As for doing some good, before the subject can even be discussed, there needs to be an acknowledgement that so much of what we've done to Central America over the past 200 years has been nothing but harm.

The United States could begin by assuming historical responsibility for the disasters it's created there. After the counterinsurgency wars of the 1980s, the United Nations sponsored truth commissions in El Salvador and Guatemala to uncover the crimes committed against civilian populations there. Unfortunately, those commissions didn't investigate Washington's role in funding and promoting war crimes in the region.

Maybe what's now needed is a new truth commission to investigate historic U.S. crimes in Central America. In reality, the United States owes those small, poor, violent, and corrupt countries reparations for the damages it's caused over all these years. Such an investigation might begin with Washington's long history of sponsoring coups, military "aid," armed interventions, massacres, assassinations, and genocide.

The U.S. would have to focus as well on the impacts of ongoing economic aid since the 1980s, aimed at helping U.S. corporations at the expense of the Central American poor. It could similarly examine the role of debt and the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement in fostering corporate and elite interests. And don't forget the way the outsized U.S. contribution to greenhouse gas emissions — this country is, of course, the largest such emitter in history — and climate change has contributed to the destruction of livelihoods in Central America. Finally, it could investigate how our border and immigration policies directly contribute to keeping Central America poor, violent, and corrupt, in the name of stopping migration.

Constructive Options For U.S. Policy In Central America

Providing Vaccines: Even as Washington rethinks the fundamentals of this country's policies there, it could take immediate steps on one front, the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been devastating the region. Central America is in desperate need of vaccines, syringes, testing materials, and personal protective equipment. A history of underfunding, debt, and privatization, often due directly or indirectly to U.S. policy, has left Central America's healthcare systems in shambles. While Latin America as a whole has been struggling to acquire the vaccines it needs, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua rank at the very bottom of doses administered. If the United States actually wanted to help Central America, the emergency provision of what those countries need to get vaccines into arms would be an obvious place to start.

Reversing economic exploitation: Addressing the structural and institutional bases of economic exploitation could also have a powerful impact. First, we could undo the harmful provisions of the 2005 Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Yes, Central American governments beholden to Washington did sign on to it, but that doesn't mean that the agreement benefited the majority of the inhabitants in the region. In reality, what CAFTA did was throw open Central American markets to U.S. agricultural exports, in the process undermining the livelihoods of small farmers there.

CAFTA also gave a boost to the maquiladora or export-processing businesses, lending an all-too-generous hand to textile, garment, pharmaceutical, electronics, and other industries that regularly scour the globe for the cheapest places to manufacture their goods. In the process, it created mainly the kind of low-quality jobs that corporations can easily move anytime in an ongoing global race to the bottom.

Central American social movements have also vehemently protested CAFTA provisions that undermine local regulations and social protections, while privilegingforeign corporations. At this point, local governments in that region can't even enforce the most basic laws they've passed to regulate such deeply exploitative foreign investors.

Another severe restriction that prevents Central American governments from pursuing economic policies in the interest of their populations is government debt. Private banks lavished loans on dictatorial governments in the 1970s, then pumped up interest rates in the 1980s, causing those debts to balloon. The International Monetary Fund stepped in to bail out the banks, imposing debt restructuring programs on already-impoverished countries — in other words, making the poor pay for the profligacy of the wealthy.

For real economic development, governments need the resources to fund health, education, and welfare. Unsustainable and unpayable debt (compounded by ever-growing interest) make it impossible for such governments to dedicate resources where they're truly needed. A debt jubilee would be a crucial step towards restructuring the global economy and shifting the stream of global resources that currently flows so strongly from the poorest to the richest countries.

Now, add another disastrous factor to this equation: the U.S. "drug wars" that have proven to be a key factor in the spread of violence, displacement, and corruption in Central America. The focus of the drug war on Mexico in the early 2000s spurred an orgy of gang violence there, while pushing the trade south into Central America. The results have been disastrous. As drug traffickers moved in, they brought violence, land grabs, and capital for new cattle and palm-oil industries, drawing in corrupt politicians and investors. Pouring arms and aid into the drug wars that have exploded in Central America has only made trafficking even more corrupt, violent, and profitable.

Reversing climate change: In recent years, ever more extreme weather in Central America's "dry corridor," running from Guatemala through El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, has destroyed homes, farms, and livelihoods, and this climate-change-induced trend is only worsening by the year. While the news largely tends to present ongoing drought, punctuated by ever more frequent and violent hurricanes and tropical storms, as well as increasingly disastrous flooding, as so many individual occurrences, their heightened frequency is certainly a result of climate change. And about a third of Central America's migrants directly cite extreme weather as the reason they were forced to leave their homes. Climate change is, in fact, just what the U.S. Department of Defense all-too-correctly termed a "threat multiplier" that contributes to food and water scarcity, land conflicts, unemployment, violence, and other causes of migration.

The United States has, of course, played and continues to play an outsized role in contributing to climate change. And, in fact, we continue to emit far more CO2 per person than any other large country. We also produce and export large amounts of fossil fuels — the U.S., in fact, is one of the world's largest exporters as well as one of the largest consumers. And we continue to fund and promote fossil-fuel-dependent development at home and abroad. One of the best ways the United States could help Central America would be to focus time, energy, and money on stopping the burning of fossil fuels.

Migration As A Problem Solver

Isn't it finally time that the officials and citizens of the United States recognized the role migration plays in Central American economies? Where U.S. economic development recipes have failed so disastrously, migration has been the response to these failures and, for many Central Americans, the only available way to survive.

One in four Guatemalan families relies on remittances from relatives working in the United States and such monies account for about half of their income. President Biden may have promised Central America $4 billion in aid over four years, but Guatemala alone receives $9 billion a year in such remittances. And unlike government aid, much of which ends up in the pockets of U.S. corporations, local entrepreneurs, and bureaucrats of various sorts, remittances go directly to meet the needs of ordinary households.

At present, migration is a concrete way that Central Americans are trying to solve their all-too-desperate problems. Since the nineteenth century, Indigenous and peasant communities have repeatedly sought self-sufficiency and autonomy, only to be displaced by U.S. plantations in the name of progress. They've tried organizing peasant and labor movements to fight for land reform and workers' rights, only to be crushed by U.S.-trained and sponsored militaries in the name of anti-communism. With other alternatives foreclosed, migration has proven to be a twenty-first-century form of resistance and survival.

If migration can be a path to overcome economic crises, then instead of framing Washington's Central American policy as a way to stop it, the United States could reverse course and look for ways to enhance migration's ability to solve problems.

Jason DeParle aptly titled his recent book on migrant workers from the Philippines A Good Provider is One Who Leaves. "Good providers should not have to leave," responded the World Bank's Dilip Ratha, "but they should have the option." As Ratha explains,

"Migrants benefit their destination countries. They provide essential skills that may be missing and fill jobs that native-born people may not want to perform. Migrants pay taxes and are statistically less prone to commit crimes than native-born people… Migration benefits the migrant and their extended family and offers the potential to break the cycle of poverty. For women, migration elevates their standing in the family and the society. For children, it provides access to healthcare, education, and a higher standard of living. And for many countries of origin, remittances provide a lifeline in terms of external, counter-cyclical financing."

Migration can also have terrible costs. Families are separated, while many migrants face perilous conditions, including violence, detention, and potentially death on their journeys, not to speak of inadequate legal protection, housing, and working conditions once they reach their destination. This country could do a lot to mitigate such costs, many of which are under its direct control. The United States could open its borders to migrant workers and their families, grant them full legal rights and protections, and raise the minimum wage.

Would such policies lead to a large upsurge in migration from Central America? In the short run, they might, given the current state of that region under conditions created and exacerbated by Washington's policies over the past 40 years. In the longer run, however, easing the costs of migration actually could end up easing the structural conditions that cause it in the first place.

Improving the safety, rights, and working conditions of migrants would help Central America far more than any of the policies Biden and Harris are proposing. More security and higher wages would enable migrants to provide greater support for families back home. As a result, some would return home sooner. Smuggling and human trafficking rings, which take advantage of illegal migration, would wither from disuse. The enormous resources currently aimed at policing the border could be shifted to immigrant services. If migrants could come and go freely, many would go back to some version of the circular migration pattern that prevailed among Mexicans before the militarization of the border began to undercut that option in the 1990s. Long-term family separation would be reduced. Greater access to jobs, education, and opportunity has been shown to be one of the most effective anti-gang strategies.

In other words, there's plenty the United States could do to develop more constructive policies towards Central America and its inhabitants. That, however, would require thinking far more deeply about the "root causes" of the present catastrophe than Biden, Harris, and crew seem willing to do. In truth, the policies of this country bear an overwhelming responsibility for creating the very structural conditions that cause the stream of migrants that both Democrats and Republicans have decried, turning the act of simple survival into an eternal "crisis" for those very migrants and their families. A change in course is long overdue.

Aviva Chomsky, a TomDispatch regular, is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts. Her new book, Central America's Forgotten History: Revolution, Violence, and the Roots of Migration, will be published in April.

Murdoch Son Funded Liberal Groups During 2020 Campaign

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

James Murdoch, son of billionaire media mogul and right-wing supporter Rupert Murdoch, quietly put approximately $100 million into his non-profit organization, Quadrivium, and used the funds to invest in a number of left-wing political groups prior to the 2020 election.

According to CNBC, a 2019 tax document offers a breakdown of how the funds were spent after the $100 million was donated to the foundation. The publication reports that Murdoch's organization committed to donating funds to a number of groups advocating for progress on climate change initiatives.

"Over $38 million, including $14 million in Quadrivium donations and $24 million in individual contributions from the couple, went toward election organizations, including those dedicated to protecting voting rights," the publication wrote, adding that the couple also "donated over $20 million to Biden's campaign, groups supporting him and opposing Trump, and organizations dedicated to disrupting online threats and extremism."

In the time leading up to the Georgia Senate runoff, James and Kathryn Murdoch also donated to "groups dedicated to getting out the vote during the Georgia Senate runoff elections in January," a race which both Democratic candidates won. As of 2019, Quadrivium reportedly had nearly $100 million in assets.

Per CNBC:

"The $100 million contribution to the foundation came in the form of Disney stock, and it was made the same day that the Fox-Disney deal was completed. James Murdoch made a reported $2.1 billion from the transaction."

The latest report about Murdoch's contributions come shortly after he verbalized his support for voting rights. As Murdoch's father and brother run their right-wing empire, James Murdoch has joined hundreds of other corporations and CEOs who publicly opposed "any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot."

The spokesperson for James and Kathryn Murdoch declined requests for comment on the matter.

Progressive Democrats Set Conditions For Infrastructure ‘Compromise’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Democratic leaders are reportedly mulling accepting a bipartisan compromise infrastructure plan as long as the Democratic senators working with Republicans on the plan agree to another massive investment package later that would include the care giving and climate infrastructure investments.

According to Politico, they are open to passing a compromise bill with $579 billion in new investment in transportation, broadband, and water system infrastructure being shopped by a group of five Democrats and five Republicans. But they would only do so if they got assurances from those Democrats that they will later support passing more spending through the budget reconciliation process, which would not require any GOP support.

On CNN on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed a similar sentiment: "We must build back better. So if this is something that can be agreed upon, I don't know how we can possibly sell it to our caucus unless we know there is more to come."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week, "We all know as a caucus, we will not be able to do all the things that the country needs in a totally bipartisan way. But we're not going to sacrifice the bigness and boldness in this bill. We will just pursue two paths and at some point they will join."

President Joe Biden initially proposed a $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan that would invest in transportation, water systems, broadband, climate change, clean energy, child care, and caregiving infrastructure. He also asked Congress to pass a $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which would provide free community college and expand access to affordable child and health care.

Republicans have objected to both plans, calling them "socialism," not really infrastructure, and too expensive. They also unanimously opposed his proposals to pay for the investment by keeping his campaign promises to raise taxes on corporations and those making $400,000 and up.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), one of the 10 senators pushing the compromise package, said Sunday that the bipartisan infrastructure plan would contain no tax increases and would be funded mostly by repurposing unspent pandemic relief funds and charging new fees to drivers of electric cars.

Two of the most conservative members of the Senate Democratic caucus are also part of the bipartisan group: Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Both have refused the go-it-alone Democratic strategy in the narrowly divided chamber, pushing to work with Republicans.

Several other Democrats have spoken out against accepting a plan like theirs that does not include investment to address climate change.

"No climate, no deal," warned Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey on June 9.

With "nothing on climate change," said Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden the next day, the package would be "a complete nonstarter."

But if the conservative Democrats promised to support a subsequent bill that included vital investments that were excluded from the infrastructure package, those concerns could be assuaged.

"There would have to be clarity that we're getting the second package. Manchin and Sinema are going to have to give assurances to [Senate Budget Committee Chair] Bernie [Sanders]," an unnamed Democratic source told Politico.

For that to happen, however, at least 10 Republicans would have to agree to the infrastructure proposal. So far, only Sens. Bill Cassidy (LA), Collins, Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH), and Mitt Romney (UT) have endorsed it.

If that does not come about, the Democrats could pass the entire plan without a single GOP vote using the Senate's budget reconciliation rules if all of them were to vote in favor.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Praising Biden, Macron Agrees That 'America Is Back’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday declared to reporters that President Joe Biden definitely" convinced allies that "America is back" following their meeting at the Group of Seven (G7) summit.

Speaking to the press, Macron lauded Biden's leadership as he admitted that he believes the president is prepared to resume the United States' role as a collaborative ally on the global stage, reports The Hill.

According to Macron, Biden's willingness to cooperate and co-exist will give leaders the ability to work toward developing effective resolutions to global obstacles such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of climate change.

"For all these issues, what we need is cooperation, and I think it's great to have the U.S. president part of the club and willing to cooperate. And I think that what you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership," Macron said.

Biden echoed similar sentiments as he reiterated that the United States "is back."

"The United States, I've said before, we're back, the U.S. is back," Biden replied. "We feel very, very strongly about the cohesion of NATO and I, for one, think that the European Union is an incredibly strong and vibrant entity that has a lot to do with the ability of western Europe to not only handle its economic issues but provide the backbone and support for NATO."

When Biden was asked whether or not he'd convinced global leaders of America's return, he opted not to answer the question but instead, welcomed Macron to answer the question himself.

He responded saying, "Definitely."

Macron's praise of Biden is a distinct contrast in comparison to his previous interactions with former President Donald Trump. Back in 2019, Macron and Trump clashed over the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) amid the former president's "America first" policy as well as his stance on trade and other global issues.

Biden’s Big History Lesson For Republicans

Embedded in Joe Biden's first speech to Congress was a crucial lesson in our nation's economic history that every American ought to understand.

Explaining why he proposes to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the construction of new power grids, broadband internet connections and transportation systems, the president reminded us of the public investments that have "transformed America" into a prosperous world power. It is a lesson too often and too easily forgotten amid the incessant propaganda, imbibed by almost all of us from an early age, about the "magic of the free market," the "dead hand of government" and various equally hoary conservative cliches.

Markets are marvelous, but government has been essential in growing and regulating the economy from the republic's very beginning. Biden cited the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway system, the construction of public schools and colleges that enabled universal education, the medical and scientific advances that sprang from the space program and defense industries - but his speech could well have continued for quite a while in that same vein. Political leaders from Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy all have promoted public investment in research, infrastructure and people as the prerequisites of progress, and sometimes even national survival.

What progress requires, however, changes in every generation along with technology and society. Today, we face rapid climate change that jeopardizes the future of human civilization, creating threats that range from flood and fire to pandemic, famine, drought and mass migration. We must swiftly rebuild our basic infrastructure, which is crumbling after decades of neglect. And we have to bring the entire country into the modern digital economy before inequality permanently damages our democracy.

When Republicans say Biden wants to spend too much on a "liberal wish list" and we should do nothing more than repave roads and repair bridges, because that's "real infrastructure," their complaints only expose their ignorance. The expansion of rural broadband is just as necessary as fixing a bridge on a country road, and the replacement of lead pipes in city water systems is just as critical as filling potholes on an urban highway. The long list of projects enumerated in Biden's proposal, from new schools to veterans hospitals, from upgrading water systems to capping old oil and gas wells, and yes, for providing child and elder care — these are harbingers of a future that works.

We ought to have started this transformation years ago, even before the former guy uttered his false promises about infrastructure. But interest rates are still low — and more importantly, the billionaires whose fortunes derive from public investment can certainly pay for its upkeep and expansion. Biden correctly observed that while most Americans suffered from lost jobs and income during the pandemic, the richest families saw their wealth increase by a trillion dollars, after pocketing a Trump tax cut that awarded them trillions more. Are we all in this together? Not unless the super-rich pay their fair share.

It's nice that some Republicans — though not all, apparently — understand that we can't just let everything fall apart because we don't like taxes or we distrust government. Unfortunately, their comprehension of what infrastructure means is quaintly out of date. While the president warmly welcomed Republican proposals because he's interested in achieving a measure of bipartisan agreement, what they have offered so far is absurdly inadequate.

So, he offered a clear warning as well. Doing nothing — like the Republicans and their incompetent leader over the past four years — is not an option.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

In Unusual Move, Progressive Democrat Will Respond To Biden's Address

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After U.S. President Joe Biden gives his first joint address to Congress on Wednesday, one of the more progressive members of his own Democratic party, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), plans to deliver a response. It is routine for a member of the opposition party to give a rebuttal to a president's address, and Republicans have chosen Senator Tim Scott to do so this time. But it is very unusual for someone from the president's own party to deliver a reply. Bowman, 45, a Black former middle school principal who ousted a 16-term incumbent in New York City last November, is e...

Poll: Big Majority Favors Biden Plan To Combat Climate Change

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A new poll shows that President Joe Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan is popular. When voters are told about its provisions aimed at combating climate change, they like the plan even more.

Senate Republicans are pushing to strip that spending out of the American Jobs Plan entirely.

A Data for Progress poll released Thursday found 68 percent of voters support Biden's plan when told it is a "$2.3 trillion investment to create millions of new good-paying union jobs in clean energy modernizing American roads and bridges, electricity grid, drinking water systems, public transit, home and schools," including 44 percent of Republican voters.

When told specifics of the plan, including its investments in "new energy innovation," "reducing pollution and improving energy efficiency in homes, schools and childcare centers," and "cleaning up abandoned mines and abandoned oil and gas wells," support for the bill rises to 71 percent overall and 48 percent of Republicans.

The poll also found that 76 percent of all voters and 57 percent of Republicans believe it is "very" or "somewhat" important for the plan to fund investments "that will help America combat climate change and create a thriving clean energy economy."

But despite the bill's strong popularity, Republicans in Congress have vowed to unanimously oppose it, objecting to both the corporate tax increases that would fund the new investments and its inclusion of human and climate infrastructure.

For weeks, GOP lawmakers have railed especially hard against the green energy and environmental provisions, calling them "socialism," framing them as not really counting as infrastructure, and falsely claiming that the package is really just the Green New Deal in disguise. John Barrasso of Wyoming, a high-ranking member of the Senate GOP leadership, warned on April 13 that it would even cause a "dangerous" move toward the use of recyclable lunch trays in schools.

On Thursday, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and a group of her GOP colleagues announced a five-year, $568 billion infrastructure alternative. Their plan removes virtually all of the climate-related spending as well as the human infrastructure components like child care. Despite removing about three-quarters of the spending Biden deems necessary, Capito called it a "robust package."

The GOP plan would be funded in part by penalizing with new fees those drivers who use electric or hydrogen-fueled vehicles. A fact sheet released by the Sierra Club notes that a fee would make it more expensive to operate a cleaner vehicle than to drive a gas-powered car, and that at a time when the number of Americans choosing cleaner cars is tiny but growing.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Biden Moves To Strengthen EPA For First Time In Decades

Reprinted with permission from DC Report

The Biden administration is asking Congress for more than $110 million to hire and support scientists and staff at the Environmental Protection Agency, which the previous president decimated.

The EPA lost almost 1,000 scientists and other employees under Donald Trump administrators Andrew Wheeler and Scott Pruitt.

The budget was cut yearly or stagnant for decades. In inflation-adjusted dollars, it was more than 50 percent higher under President Ronald Reagan than it is today.

"The 2022 budget proposal is an excellent first step in rebuilding EPA's funding and strengthening the agency," said Michelle Roos. She is executive director of the Environmental Protection Network of former EPA employees and appointees.

The proposed funding is part of $11.2 billion the Biden administration is asking to fund the EPA. That request represents a 21 percent increase.

The Biden administration is also asking for $75 million to help designate perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, or PFAS, as hazardous substances and set enforceable limits for the chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The poisons, made since the 1940s, are sometimes called "forever chemicals" because they don't break down in the environment and can remain in our bodies for years. Designating the chemicals as hazardous substances would give the EPA more power to clean up contaminated sites.

The "announcement recognizes that science is at the core of all we do at the EPA," said current EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

Betsy Southerland, who oversaw science and technology issues in the EPA Office of Water, told the House science committee's investigations and oversight panel that the Biden administration should restore funding to bring EPA to its average over the past four decades. The cost to rebuild the budget over four years would be $11.4 billion in 2019 dollars.

Southerland was one of the EPA employees who left. She resigned in 2017, saying "the administration is seriously weakening EPA's mission."

About $48 million of the $110 million to hire EPA staff would go to the EPA Office of Air and Radiation to implement climate change programs under the Clean Air Act. The office is led by acting assistant administrator Joseph Goffman.

Bill Wehrum, who sued the agency at least 31 times as a corporate lawyer, headed that office for much of the Trump administration. Under Wehrum, who resigned in 2019 during a federal ethics investigation, the office worked to help coal-burning Martin Lake Power Plant in east Texas.

The plant spews out more sulfur dioxide which causes acid rain than any other power plant in America. Wehrum was a partner at a law firm that lobbied for the plant's owner.