Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing to examine coastal restoration and habitat conservation legislation.

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery.

“Thank you, Chairman Carper, and I thank all of our witnesses for coming today. I look forward to hearing from each one of you.

“When considering our nation’s natural resources and all that our beautiful country has to offer, it is important to consider the importance of our coastal communities and foster programs that protect those resources while also supporting economic growth. We are lucky on this committee to have much representation from our coastal states.

“We are here today to examine a number of bills that would affect our coastal communities and the programs established to conserve and protect those areas.

“The Coastal Habitat Conservation Act of 2021, introduced by my colleagues, Senators Cardin and Graham, provides statutory authority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, which originated in appropriations language in 1985.

“The Coastal Program works through partnerships to protect, restore, and enhance important coastal areas that provide fish and wildlife habitat.

“I want to thank Senator Graham for inviting our witness Emily Cope from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for their support for partnership programs that encourage the conservation of these areas.

“Next on the agenda is Chairman Carper’s draft legislative text, the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act of 2022, which would amend the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) and codify changes to the John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources (CBRS) maps.

“In the past, these maps have been codified in a bipartisan manner. In 2018, 35 revised maps were adopted with the bipartisan support of this committee.

“That compilation of maps was the largest legislative update to the CBRS since 1990.

“In addition to codification of maps, the legislation we’re looking at today would make programmatic changes to the CBRA program.

“As we learn more about the proposed amendments to the CBRA, it is important to me that we maintain the bipartisan approach to updating CBRA the committee has followed in the past.

“We will also consider the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Reauthorization Act of 2021, which would reauthorize that underlying statute through FY 2027 to fund projects to conserve Great Lakes fish and wildlife habitat.

“Finally, we will consider the Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2022 that the chairman spoke about, which would reauthorize the Delaware River Basin Restoration Grant Program through FY 2030 and makes a number of changes to the program.

“I think the chairman is aware that we have heard some concerns on this bill, specifically that it fails to address the regulatory overreach of the Delaware River Basin Commission.

“They feel the commission has overstepped its intended role as coordinator and clearing house for state and federal stakeholders in the Delaware basin by taking actions to ban the development of natural gas in the commission’s footprint, a troubling precedent.

“Indeed, the commission’s claim to regulatory authority is rooted in a statute enacted before the passage of the Clean Water Act or even the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“At a time when we are seeking to increase our natural gas production to meet domestic and international demands, it is worth the Senate reviewing whether the commission has assumed for itself a regulatory role that is out of step with our current environmental statutes and policy needs.

“As we examine each of the four pieces of legislation before us today, I look forward to hearing more about the programs they support and working towards bipartisan solutions.

“Again, I thank the chairman for this hearing.” 

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