January 27, 2021

T&I Chairs Praise Biden Climate Orders and Urge Swift Adoption of Water Infrastructure Legislation to Meet Resiliency and Equity Goals

 Washington, DC – Today, 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) released the following statements praising President Biden for his Executive Orders on Climate and Science that prioritize modern and resilient infrastructure as well as environmental justice. The Chairs also urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to swiftly implement key provisions from the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA 2020)—which was signed into law last month—in order to give the Biden administration the tools it needs to meet its resiliency and equity goals.

“With today’s Executive Orders, President Biden is demonstrating his steadfast commitment to fighting the climate crisis, lifting up the voices of low-income communities and communities of color, and ensuring that science is always driving decisions about the future of our planet,” Chair DeFazio said. “Our bipartisan WRDA 2020 legislation, which was signed into law at the end of last year, has several provisions that will help give the Biden-Harris administration the tools it needs to deliver on environmental justice, build modern and resilient infrastructure, and protect America’s waterways. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must implement these provisions without delay.”

“We applaud President Biden’s commitment to bringing the entire administration together in a comprehensive effort to address climate change, to protect and assist low-income and disadvantaged communities that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution, and to bring back sound science to the decision-making process,” Chair Napolitano said. “These executive orders expand on the important progress we achieved in WRDA 2020 and the work the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee will continue to do to treat and protect our nation’s waters for future generations. The President’s bold, forward-looking actions give hope to our country and our planet. With science again leading, polluters will no longer call the shots.”

Key provisions from WRDA 2020 that will help the Biden administration achieve its climate, resiliency, and equity goals include:

  • Directing the Secretary to issue final agency procedures for its Principles, Requirements, and Guidelines (PR&G). The PR&G ensures that future water resources development projects maximize sustainable development, protect and restore the functions of natural systems, and fully-evaluate environmental, economic, and societal goals (including both monetary and non-monetary effects), in addition to addressing environmental justice concerns and ensuring meaningful participation of locally-affected communities.
  • Expanding the ability of the Corps to provide local governments with direct resiliency planning assistance (at no cost to the local government through the Corps’ Flood Plain Management Services) to avoid repetitive flooding impacts, to prepare and adapt to climate change and extreme weather events, and to quickly recover from flooding events.  Directing the Corps to prioritize planning assistance to economically disadvantaged communities and communities subject to repetitive flooding events.
  • Reaffirming the commitment to greater use of natural and nature-based projects by ensuring natural and nature-based alternatives are fully evaluated in any flood or storm risk-reduction feasibility study carried out by Corps and are provided the same cost-share as structural alternatives.
  • Directing the Corps to quantify efforts to address potential sea level rise or inland flooding in the calculation of costs & benefits for future water resources projects.
  • Authorizing the Corps to study, design, and construct water resources projects for communities that have been subjected to repetitive flooding events and have received emergency flood assistance, including construction of temporary barriers. This authority is directed at helping repetitive loss communities, especially those in economically disadvantaged communities, obtain critical flood protection.
  • Creating additional flexibility for the Corps to address the water resources needs of economically disadvantaged communities, minority communities, and rural communities both through pilot efforts to reduce (or eliminate) the local cost share for partnering with the Corps, or through providing additional resiliency planning or technical assistance, at no cost to the community.
  • Requiring the Corps update its environmental justice policies, regulations, and guidance and to ensure that future water resources development projects promote the meaningful involvement of minority communities, low-income communities, and Indian Tribes.
  • Requiring the Corps to assess and update the economic and environmental impacts of antiquated projects before they may be carried out.

Additional Background:

A fact sheet from the White House on President Biden’s Climate and Science Executive Orders can be found here.

More information on WRDA 2020 can be found here.