The E.P.A. has come under scrutiny recently for not punishing tens of thousands of polluters over the last decade, and many of the lawmakers at the hearing on Thursday are longtime critics of the agency’s vigilance. In September, a New York Times investigation found that companies and other workplaces had violated the Clean Water Act more than 500,000 times in the last five years, but fewer than 3 percent of polluters had ever been fined or otherwise punished.
“Some states and E.P.A. regions have abysmal records of significant noncompliance,” said Representative James L. Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat and chairman of the hearing, citing The Times’s reports. “Administrator Jackson, I look to you to begin taking the management steps necessary to protect our water, our public health and our environment.”