WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the nominations of Douglas Benevento to be Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), David Wright to be a member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and Christopher Hanson to be a member of the NRC. Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me begin by welcoming our nominees this morning, all of whom have been nominated for important positions.
“Mr. Benevento has been working in various capacities at the EPA since almost the very beginning of the Trump Administration. He also spent six years serving in leadership roles in Colorado’s Department of Public Health and the Environment. Before that, Mr. Benevento worked on environmental issues for former Senator Wayne Allard – and, as an aside, I learned when we met privately last week that Senator Allard and his staff actually occupied the very same office space in the Hart Building that my staff and I currently occupy.
“It is clear from a review of Mr. Benevento’s qualifications that he is qualified for the job. Senator Tester also asked me to mention that he is sorry that he couldn’t be here to express support for Mr. Benevento this morning. Senator Tester is leading a VA hearing this morning. But he wanted me to share that he appreciated the leadership, engagement with local communities, and solution-oriented mindset that Mr. Benevento brought to the table as the head of Region Eight.
“However, the concern that I – and I imagine, some of my colleagues share – is that Mr. Benevento has spent the past few years working at an agency that is making some of the most controversial and, potentially, least environmentally protective decisions in the agency’s history. From its purposeless rollback of the clean car standards, to its ongoing efforts to undermine the legal underpinnings of the mercury and air toxics standards, to its failure to move quickly to address PFAS contamination, EPA is making people question the ‘environmental protection’ phrase in its name.
“The agency’s relentless assault on rules to protect health and the environment is matched only by the assault on the agency itself. We continue to hear about EPA career experts being sidelined, relocated and deprived of basic worker protections and assurances. While EPA is no longer plagued by the same steady stream of embarrassing ethical lapses that existed during the Pruitt era, I cannot say that any of the environmental outcomes have improved. Sadly, I also cannot say that the agency’s relationship with my office has improved either. For one, my oversight letters remain largely unanswered.
“Mr. Wheeler has just hired a new chief of staff whose tweets proclaim that she believes that the so-called ‘loony left’ wants to, quote, ‘implement a Soviet-styled takeover of our energy and our economy’ and that, quote, ‘Democrat actions are corroding democracy.’
“Mr. Chairman, with the death of our late colleague John McCain, I am the last Vietnam veteran serving in the U.S. Senate. I served five years and three tours during a hot war in Southeast Asia to oppose the expansion of communism. These comments conflating climate action with communism aren’t just intellectually dishonest. They are reprehensible, especially when you consider the military service record of our commander-in-chief during that same war.
“Meanwhile, EPA is still refusing to release its own economic analysis of my bipartisan bill with Senator John Kennedy to phase down HFCs, even though we’ve learned that analysis finds that our legislation would save consumers up to $3.7 billion dollars over 15 years. I look forward to hearing how Mr. Benevento plans to address these matters, should he be confirmed.
“Let me turn briefly now to the two nominees before us today for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As I have said before, I believe it is critical that the NRC has consistent leadership from both political parties, especially as the nuclear industry faces an uncertain future. I am heartened that this Administration has nominated the well-qualified Christopher Hanson to be a new Commissioner and re-nominated David Wright as a Commissioner, as well. These are good choices, and I look forward to working with the Chairman to confirm both of these NRC nominees as a pair out of the Senate.”