Senator Jim Jeffords
Opening Statement
EPW Committee Business Meeting I am very pleased that we have on our agenda S. 1400, the Water Infrastructure Financing Act, a truly bi-partisan water infrastructure bill. I have grave concerns about the state of our nation’s water infrastructure. There are three major estimates of the size of the need for water infrastructure, which range from $200 billion to $500 billion over the next twenty years. It is imperative that we take care of this looming problem. We have been working on this legislation in Committee for the last two Congresses. People say that the third time is a charm, and I hope that is true in this case. Senator Inhofe, Senator Chafee, Senator Clinton and I have worked together to craft a consensus bill. I believe we have a good product here that can make its way through the legislative process and to the President’s desk. I would like to take a minute to highlight just a few provisions in the bill. First – funding. The funding authorized by this bill is critical to helping communities repair crumbling infrastructure. Second – the formula. The formula in the bill is based on the needs survey. It takes steps to ensure that no states are left “high and dry” as they would be under a straight needs survey allocation like the one offered on the Senate floor this year. Everyone on the Committee wins, which would also not be the case under a straight needs survey allocation. Third – planning. One of my priorities in this bill has been to ensure that the Federal government does not inadvertently provide incentives for types of growth that local communities seek to avoid. As Attorney General for Vermont in the 1970s, I wrote Vermont’s Act 250, one of the first statutes of its kind, which seeks to ensure that land use planning occurs on a consensus basis at the local level. For the last two Congresses, I have worked on this issue as it pertains to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. Senator Inhofe has very strong feelings about it, as do I. This year, we really worked hard to resolve this issue, and found common ground. Fourth – lead in drinking water. I am pleased that we have agreement on the two provisions on lead in the bill, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on a separate piece of legislation that addresses some additional issues including public notice and removal of lead in schools. Again, I want to thank the Chairman, Senator Chafee, and Senator Clinton for their work on the Water Infrastructure Financing Act, and I look forward to reporting it favorably. Also on our agenda is the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, which I have co-sponsored. It's important that we move forward to control diesel emissions because they are toxic, carcinogenic and contributing to serious public health damage, especially in high traffic volume and urbanized areas. I urge the Administration and the Congress to stop under funding and delaying the benefits of important toxic air pollution programs, like clean school buses, the national diesel initiative and legal MACT standards. This Administration is very late in setting and implementing fine particulate matter standards that adequately protect public health from diesel exhaust, power plant pollution and other sources. The Administration must take public health more seriously in setting its budget and policy priorities. I am also pleased that we are reauthorizing several programs within the Fish and Wildlife Service, in particular the very successful Great Ape Conservation Fund and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. I hope we can move quickly to adopt the items on our agenda today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.