Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a committee oversight hearing on “Modernizing our Nation’s Infrastructure.” The hearing focused on the infrastructure needs of the country, particularly in rural communities.

The hearing featured testimony from William “Bill” T. Panos, director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation; Michael McNulty, general manager of the Putnam Public Service District in West Virginia; Cindy R. Bobbitt, commissioner of Grant County, Oklahoma; Anthony P. Pratt, administrator for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control, and president of the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association; and Shailen P. Bhatt, executive director for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

For more information on their testimonies click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“President Trump has made improving our nation’s infrastructure a top priority.

“Infrastructure is critical to our nation’s prosperity.

“The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has jurisdiction over our nation’s highways and roads, its locks and dams, and its ports.

“These things allow for American goods to go from the heartland to the coasts and even overseas.

“They allow for flood protection for both rural and urban communities that save lives.

“In addition, our committee has jurisdiction over the environmental laws that impact the modernization of infrastructure.

“It doesn’t matter whether the setting is urban or rural, rules and regulations can halt and delay the modernization of infrastructure and the impact is particularly counterproductive if they are applied without understanding the difference between urban and rural.

“Our committee has members from both urban and rural areas.

“The members of this committee represent New York City and Newport, Rhode Island.

“Nebraska City, Nebraska and Natchez, Mississippi.

“Wheatland, Wyoming and even the town of Wyoming, Delaware.

“The diversity of these cities and towns makes it clear; solutions to address and pay for fixing our nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and dams cannot be ‘one-size-fits-all.’

“What works for Baltimore, Maryland might not work for Baggs, Wyoming.

“Big ticket projects on the scale of the big dig in Boston that cost billions of dollars, or even projects that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, are rare in rural and small states.

“Funding solutions that involve public-private partnerships, as have been discussed by administration officials, may be innovative solutions for crumbling inner cities, but do not work for rural areas as today’s testimony will show.

“As was stated in written testimony submitted today on behalf of Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota — ‘Public Private Partnerships and other approaches to infrastructure investment that depend on a positive revenue stream from a project are not a surface transportation infrastructure solution for rural states.’

“This committee has a number of members who represent small or rural states.

“Delaware, Alabama, Alaska, Iowa, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Vermont just to name a few. Didn’t forget West Virginia.

“I want to ensure that the voice of these states is not lost in the overall discussion of how to fix our nation’s infrastructure.

“I want to work with my colleagues to address issues important to our states, while also not ignoring the legitimate needs of large metropolitan areas as well.

“As stated in the written testimony submitted by the five western states that I referenced earlier,

federal highways in our rural states enable ‘agriculture, energy, and natural resource products, which largely originate in rural areas, to move to national and world markets.’

“This is true. It makes no sense then to simply fix the roads and ports in our urban areas, while ignoring the roads and inland ports in our rural areas that allow for products from Wyoming, Nebraska, or Iowa to get to world markets.

“As testimony today will demonstrate, rural water systems also have unique challenges. 

“They have been inundated by regulations from EPA, which harms their ability to modernize and function.

“Rural water systems are challenged with the same regulations that big city water systems face, yet do not have the same resources to comply.

“Any infrastructure solutions this committee considers should help address rural challenges.

“These challenges include funding.

“Like their road project counterparts, these systems are not the best candidates for loans.

“It is important to note written testimony today from Mike McNulty, the general manager of the Putnam Public Service District in West Virginia. 

“He states: ‘Due to lack of economies of scale and lower median household incomes in rural America, water infrastructure is often less affordable (i.e. a much greater cost per household).  This means that a water infrastructure project poses a greater financial risk compared to the metropolitan project and, very importantly, requires some portion of a grant, not just a loan, to make the project feasible.  The higher the percentage of grants required to make a project work results in less money repaid to the infrastructure funding agency and a correlating diminution of the corpus fund.’

“So we are going to have to find new ways to help pay to modernize these important rural projects.

“It is my hope that this committee will work to find solutions that not only work for urban America, but rural America as well.

“I urge my colleagues to work with me in a bipartisan way to find these solutions.”