WASHINGTON— The head of the Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday defended President Barack Obama’s proposal to reduce the agency’s spending by 12.5 percent in 2012 in an appearance in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“This FY 2012 budget request, while a deep cut resulting in a budget of $8.973 billion, will allow the EPA to carry out its core mission and fund the most critical efforts to protect the health of American families,” said Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator.

Obama’s proposed budget reduces EPA spending from $10.3 billion to about $9 billion. It also cuts the EPA’s research program by 2.4 percent. House Republicans, propose decreasing the research program by $3 billion, or by about a 30 percent.

The president’s proposal would reduce grants for state and local water projects and The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program that cleans up the great lakes. It would increase money for climate change, air quality and chemical safety scientific research.

“[…]The FY 2012 President’s budget will allow the agency to maintain its core programs while investing in areas of urgent need and will support key priorities during this time of fiscal challenge,” Jackson said.

Jackson acknowledged her responsibility to squeeze every penny out of each dollar it receives but said she is equally accountable for pointing out cuts that risk public health. The administrator requests an increase in congress to support funding that keeps Americans safe.

“Making the right choices now will allow the Agency to improve health, drive technology innovation and protect the environment; all without placing an undue burden on the nation’s economy,” Jackson said.