July 14, 2021

Chairs DeFazio, Napolitano Statements from the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment’s Second Hearing on President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) during today’s hearing titled, “President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request: Agency Policies and Perspectives (Part II).” More information on the hearing can be found here.

Chair DeFazio:

Thank you, Madam Chair, for holding today’s hearing.

Today’s hearing is another important opportunity to examine President Biden’s budget request and administration priorities. I am pleased to be discussing a budget that finally demonstrates a federal commitment to protecting our nation’s waters and environment, investing in science and research, and maintaining our water infrastructure. It is a budget that recognizes the critical role that the federal government plays in sustaining our economy, our environment, and our quality of life. 

First and foremost, I am glad to see across-the-board increases to programs under the Environmental Protection Agency—a total increase of 21.2% over the previous enacted levels. The last administration acted with particular malice towards our environment, consistently under-funding critical EPA programs and personnel and working to dismantle or weaken over 100 environmental laws. It is time to finally reverse that pattern.

Increased funding to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program, which the House recently reauthorized through the INVEST in America Act, will allow municipalities to upgrade and maintain their wastewater infrastructure. In fact, I would argue that wastewater investment needs are still greater than the amount included in this request.

The EPA also receives increased funds for both regulatory and non-regulatory programs, which work to protect our natural resources and improve our water quality across the nation. The EPA has a lot of work to do to restore its core mission areas, and these dollars will be necessary for that pursuit.

One of the largest single-program increases is to the Superfund and Brownfields program; I hope to hear from the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management later this year on how the additional funds will be spent and directed towards addressing environmental injustices.

Other agencies before us today are also well-supported in this budget. In many cases, these programs have significant community-level impacts, such as watershed restoration, flood prevention, coastal protection, and measures to increase community resiliency to climate change. Additionally, investment in critical research and innovation programs will help prepare us for climate change impacts and inform decisions on water contaminants and their prevention. Properly funding these programs will restore and protect our waterways, will allow our local and national economies to thrive, and will help us to meet the complex challenges of the 21st century.

Aside from the specifics of the budget request, I hope to hear from the agency officials before us today about their priorities and policy objectives for the new administration.

The Trump administration spent four years trying to make the critical missions of the federal government significantly harder or impossible to execute.

This included attacks on bedrock water protections to benefit corporations, dismantling climate policies, and weakening other environmental laws to the point of obsolescence. Fortunately, the Biden administration immediately paused several such rulemakings, but there is still work to be done to reverse the worst of them and ensure they are not allowed to devastate our natural resources and communities.

One of the most important, at least for this committee, will be the rewrite of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, known as the Trump Dirty Water Rule. This rule has removed Clean Water Act protections from up to 71 percent of streams, and more than 50 percent of wetlands. That is simply unconscionable.

I was pleased to hear the announcement that the Biden administration will overturn the Dirty Water Rule; however, I believe this rule must be immediately repealed and then replaced.

EPA Administrator Regan stated that the Trump Dirty Water Rule “is leading to significant environmental degradation,” and I agree.

Every day that the Dirty Water Rule remains in place, countless waters and wetlands are polluted, degraded, or destroyed, and American families will pay the cost of this destruction through more polluted waters, less protected drinking water sources, greater flood risk, and a degraded environment.

This is too high a cost to pay for inaction and I will continue to push the president and the administrator for the immediate repeal of the Dirty Water Rule.    

I am also deeply concerned with coal-fired power plant regulation reversals of the last administration, namely the rollback of pollution discharge requirements and the storage of coal-combustion waste. There is no such thing as “clean coal;” these power plants produce waste that includes arsenic, lithium, mercury, and selenium. We know each one is detrimental to the health of our waterways and should be prevented from entering it either directly or through seeping coal ash ponds into our groundwater.

Madam Chair, one other issue that was uniquely missing from the last administration was ensuring agency actions were developed with significant community engagement. This means meaningful involvement and consultation with tribes, rural communities, economically-disadvantaged communities, and minority communities.

Addressing environmental justice considerations and community engagement needs to become the norm again as we address how our environmental laws are developed and applied, and how our federal agencies communicate and discuss potential impacts of federal actions on local communities. 

As we look forward to real federal investment and implementation of the policy goals of the Biden administration, I hope to see continued support for the protection of our communities and our environment. We must be determined in restoring and renewing our federal commitments to our vital natural resources, the health of our communities, and protection of our waters. 

Thank you, Madam Chair.


Chair Napolitano:

Today, we will hold our second hearing on the president’s fiscal year 2022 budget request and other policy goals and objectives of the Biden administration. 

Let me start by commending the Biden administration for restoring critical funding and respect for the agencies under the jurisdiction of this Subcommittee, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Each of the agencies here today play a critical role in the management and stewardship of our water resources. Whether through regulatory efforts, conservation programs, or the treatment and research of water contaminants and impacts on human health, your work is more important than ever as we face increasing threats from climate change, extreme drought, and emerging pollutants.

This budget will help leverage additional funding from state, local, and non-profit partners, as well as make federal knowledge and expertise more accessible to communities.

Many of the programs provided by these agencies assist state and local governments by providing technical assistance and expert level knowledge for conserving land, managing water systems, mapping sea-level rise, and creating easy to use public websites to widely share data. It is important that these agencies work together and communicate their work effectively.

I am pleased to see that President Biden has proposed to reverse the destructive funding cuts and undo the damaging regulatory rollbacks of the previous administration.

Robust funding for these agencies and their programs is important to the delivery of clean water, understanding the potential health impacts of emerging contaminants, the conservation and preservation of wetlands and aquatic ecosystems, and the movement of goods and economic competitiveness of regions.

Additionally, across the country, our communities and environment are under unprecedented strain as we deal with the effects of climate change. Much of the west is facing extreme heat and drought. These are dangerous conditions for humans and our planet. I am interested in hearing from these witnesses on how we can better manage our resources today and understand and prepare for future needs and challenges. 

We must take swift action to mitigate ongoing and future harm to our environment. Most critically, I hope the Administration moves quickly to replace the Trump Dirty Water Rule—which was the greatest undermining of the Clean Water Act in its history—and I urge its complete and immediate repeal. The longer this harmful regulation stays on the books, the more we will forever degrade and destroy our rivers and wetlands.

I am also pleased that the Biden administration has already taken action to make environmental justice a core part of every federal agency’s mission. For too long, minority and economically-disadvantaged communities have borne a disproportionate share of the burden of industrialization and pollution, and have been overlooked for necessary public health and environmental investment —a situation made even worse by the impacts of climate change. Addressing this disparity will improve public health, spur economic development in these communities, and create a more equitable society.

Today, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on your budget priorities and learning how you are planning to restore your offices to their sworn duties and mission areas that were so neglected over the past four years.