WASHINGTON, D.C. — On September 7, 2023, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held an oversight hearing on the implementation of the drinking water investments and authorizations in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:
“In March, our committee held its first oversight hearing on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s drinking water and wastewater provisions. Today, we will expand upon those efforts, focusing on the law’s drinking water programs.
“Nearly two years after becoming law, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is helping to make clean drinking water a reality for millions of households, schools, and childcare facilities across our country. As the benefits of this law continue to become a reality in more and more communities, our committee wants to hear from stakeholders about how this work is progressing — and if we can make any improvements. As my colleagues have heard me say again and again, everything we do, we can do better.
“Investing in our nation’s water infrastructure is deeply personal to me. Growing up in West Virginia, I lived near rivers and streams, like Beaver Creek, that were contaminated by septic tanks and other waste. I also attended the Ohio State University — a two-hour drive south of the Cuyahoga River, which famously caught fire in 1969 — a few months after I graduated from OSU.
“Both of these experiences ingrained in me the importance of water in our daily lives. From protecting our beaches and wetlands to maintaining our service lines and our ports — clean water is critical to our health and our nation’s economy.
“In the Bible, Matthew 25 calls on us to care for those who are in need — to give those who are thirsty something to drink. I believe that includes a moral obligation to ensure that all Americans have access to clean, safe, and reliable water services.
“Fortunately, I am not alone in that belief. Shortly after taking office, President Biden invited Senator Capito and me — along with Senator Cardin and others — to the Oval Office. He tasked us with leading the charge on updating our federal infrastructure investments, including our highways, bridges, and water systems.
“As some of you may recall, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work after that meeting. Senators Capito, Duckworth, Lummis, Cardin, Cramer, and I — along with our staffs — worked together to draft the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act. We advanced this bipartisan legislation out of our committee unanimously and later passed it in the full Senate by a 89-2 vote.
“This water bill, combined with our committee’s historic highway legislation, served as the foundation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which President Biden signed into law in November 2021 — a day that many of us will long remember.
“To date, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the single-largest water infrastructure investment in our nation’s history. Through that law, Congress is investing an unprecedented $55 billion to improve drinking water and wastewater systems in communities across our country, including replacing lead service lines and addressing emerging contaminants. And, it was all fully paid for.
“Still, there is more that needs to be done and more that can be done. My hope is that today’s hearing will allow us to gain a deeper understanding of how the implementation of these historic funds is going. Our hearing also presents us with the chance to explore future opportunities to improve our drinking water infrastructure and to make sure that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law programs are benefiting communities with the greatest need, too.
“While I am excited to hear from all of our witnesses, I want to take a moment and welcome back Kishia Powell to the EPW Committee. For those who don’t know, Ms. Powell testified before our committee in 2021 when we were drafting the water portions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Her testimony was instrumental in moving that package forward, and I look forward to hearing her perspective on the law’s implementation today.
“As I mentioned, this is not our first hearing on examining our nation’s water infrastructure needs — and it won’t be the last. As you’ll recall, earlier this year, we held a hearing with EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox and other stakeholders to discuss some of these programs. Just this past May, Senators Padilla and Lummis also held a water affordability hearing at the subcommittee level — looking at low-income water assistance programs and what additional authorities or changes might be necessary to make those programs function even better.
“Later this month, that same subcommittee will be reviewing tribal water needs. I hope that this series of hearings will help inform us of what more we can do to ensure that these programs continue to work even better as we face changes in our climate, our population, and our infrastructure needs.
“With that, I am again grateful to our panel of witnesses for joining us today — they each bring diverse experiences representing state perspectives, city water utilities, and rural water.”