WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a business meeting to consider several nominees and pieces of legislation. Below is the opening statement of Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, as prepared for delivery:

“As many of my colleagues know, I am a glass-half-full kind of person. I always try to find the good in every situation. So, I will start what’s good on today’s markup, and, Mr. Chairman, there’s a lot of good happening here today. Mr. Chairman, I am very pleased that we again have had the opportunity to work across party lines on multiple pieces of legislation that will have real impacts on people’s lives. I would like to take a moment and thank your staff and staff for members on and off committee that have worked hard to make each bill before us today better than it started. These bills are bipartisan and critical for local economic development. A win-win in my book.

“One of the bills that I have a particular interest in is the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) of 2017. In 2005, my good friend Senator Voinovich came to me with the idea for DERA and, ever since then, I have been one of the program’s strongest supporters. DERA provides voluntary incentives to retrofit older, diesel engines with American-made technology.  The program is one of the most effective EPA programs, resulting in enormous environmental and public health benefits, while creating jobs here at home. Today, we extend this commonsense program for five more years and adopt some changes suggested by our Chairman that ensure all communities – big and small – can use DERA effectively. I’d like to thank Senators Inhofe, Barrasso and Whitehouse for their co-sponsorship of this critical bill. 

“I also thank you, Mr. Chairman, for adding S. 1395 to the business meeting agenda. This bill, which I sponsored jointly with my Delaware colleague, Senator Coons, would remedy a mistake in the boundaries of a unit of the Coastal Barrier Resources System located in North Bethany Beach, Delaware. The Coastal Barrier Resources Act, enacted in 1982, shields American taxpayers from the liabilities that come from building on previously undeveloped coastal barrier islands. The original legislation identified these undeveloped and vulnerable islands on maps. In some cases, developed areas were inadvertently included within map boundaries, causing property owners to lose access to flood insurance, beach re-nourishment, and other federal programs. Such was the case in North Bethany, where a portion of the South Shores Marina development was included.  Under the law, only Congress can change map boundaries and remedy these mistakes. This bill does that, and I appreciate your support in bringing up this legislation, Mr. Chairman.

“We will also be considering S. 822, the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act, which reauthorizes the Brownfields grants program at EPA. This program has been a vital tool in redeveloping formerly-used industrial sites throughout the country, which is a boon to local communities and economies. Delaware alone has received nearly $11 million dollars in grants since the program began. The grant awards have been transformative for communities in my home state, as I am sure they have been in states for all of my colleagues. Each grant dollar by EPA leverages over $16 dollars from state and private partners, and brings thousands of new jobs to formerly blighted areas. The managers’ amendment improves on the bill as introduced in a number of important ways, including helping Alaska Native Corporations that received contaminated lands from the federal government, an issue we heard testimony about in March. Working with Senator Barrasso’s staff and Senator Sullivan’s staff, I’m glad we were able to fix that problem and help right a wrong that was done to those communities.

“But with all the good happening today, I would be remiss not to talk about what could be better. We are considering several GSA prospectuses today. We are taking this action less than 24 hours after the GSA cancelled the procurement process for the proposed new FBI Headquarters.  Such an abrupt action after so many years of work is deeply troubling, and I hope we can work together to better understand this decision.

“We are also meeting today to consider several nominations. First among these is the nomination of Susan Bodine, who has been tapped to lead EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.  Susan has been a collegial partner to my staff, and the agency’s gain will be our Committee’s loss. However, as I said when her nomination was announced, I am unable to support any nominees to the EPA until Administrator Pruitt responds to the many unanswered letters submitted to him by Members of this Committee. I very much appreciate the constructive meeting on this topic that took place at the end of June between EPA staff, my staff and the Chairman’s staff. I also appreciate that shortly after that meeting the EPA provided a substantive, though incomplete, response to a letter I sent on EPA’s enforcement efforts. I hope that we’ll soon see complete responses to the balance of our very reasonable oversight requests. 

“Mr. Chairman, that leads me to talk about the concerns about the NRC nominees. These are two qualified candidates, and one, if confirmed, will be another loss to our Committee’s professional staff. But, as we have discussed at length, I remain concerned that we do not have parity in Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) nominees before us today. I believe it is critical for the independent Commission to have consistent leadership from both political parties, especially as the industry faces an uncertain future. As I said during my floor speech in support of Chairman Svinicki’s nomination, I hoped we would see Commissioner Jeff Baran, who is currently serving on the NRC, renominated and paired with the two other NRC nominees. Unfortunately, that has not yet happened. 

“That means my votes today on all our nominees will reflect my concerns with process, rather than concerns with the nominees before us today. Again, thank you Mr. Chairman for your efforts to get many of these bipartisan bills on the agenda. I hope we can continue to find areas of agreement going forward.”