WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), addressed the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) during its spring meeting.
Chairman Barrasso’s remarks focused on the work of the EPW Committee and the important role of states in protecting the environment.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you for inviting me to address you at your spring meeting.
I would like to thank both ECOS President John Linc Stine and Vice President Todd Parfitt for inviting me to speak to you today.
I also want to thank Vice President Parfitt for his introduction and for all the great work he is doing for the state of Wyoming as the director of the Department of Environmental Quality. He is a great partner.
All of you serve a vital role.
You are the front line of making sure that we have clean air, clean water, and a clean environment.
Those are goals that I share as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming and as the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works.
As Vice President Parfitt can tell you, Wyoming is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
People come from all over to see our state’s natural wonders.
I am committed to protecting those.
The Senators who serve with me on the Environment and Public Works Committee represent a wide swath of states and communities.
Senators represent large urban areas like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City.
Others represent rural communities in states like Oklahoma, Iowa, and Alaska..
While we come from very different parts of the country,we share a similar goal: we want to protect our environment, while allowing our economy to grow.
In many ways people from the West understand the value of protecting nature because they count on it for their livelihoods.
Farmers and ranchers depend on clean water and clean soil to grow their crops and feed their herds.
People across the West are committed to keeping the environment clean since it affects us on a daily basis.
I think it is vital our committee have that same mentality.
We have gotten off to a fast start.
The EPW Committee has begun the important process of keeping Washington accountable to clean up messes that it caused.
The committee held an oversight hearing on the need to address Cold War-legacy sites across the country.
During the Cold War, several communities did their part to win the struggle against communism.
In Wyoming, we are very proud of the role our state played in deterring the threat from the former Soviet Union.
Aging Cold War sites have led to ground water contamination in towns like Cheyenne, Wyoming and elsewhere.
Washington has an obligation to leave states like Wyoming whole.
To not only provide for our nation’s safety, but also to restore the environment of our communities.
We have seen similar situations at the Gold King Mine in Colorado, where the Environmental Protection Agency poisoned a river.
The committee will continue to work with the new administration to right these past wrongs.
The Environment and Public Works Committee has also begun important bipartisan work on energy development.
America boasts an abundance of natural resources, particularly for energy production.
Energy is called the ‘master resource.’
Nations around the world wish they had the resources America has.
We need to use an all-of-the-above approach with American-made energy.
Here in America, we have coal, oil, natural gas, hydropower, solar, and nuclear and we need to use them all.
Growing this American-made energy mix will create jobs, grow our economy, and keep energy prices low.
Our committee is working to make American energy as clean as we can, as fast as we can, without raising costs on American families.
Working on a bipartisan basis our committee has already passed legislation that I introduced to promote innovation in our nuclear sector.
Nuclear energy is clean, safe, reliable, and affordable.
Washington’s regulatory framework for nuclear development has been built around one technology: water-cooled reactors.
Today, innovators are creating new types of reactors using advanced technologies.
America needs a Nuclear Regulatory Commission that mirrors that change.
Working with a large, bipartisan group of Senators, we introduced, and the committee passed, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act.
This nuclear bill will promote innovation that will help keep energy costs low for families.
Our committee also has jurisdiction over our highways and roads, our locks and dams, our water systems, and our ports.
In personal meetings, members of our committee, both Democrat and Republican, have expressed that infrastructure is a top priority.
President Trump has also voiced his support for rebuilding our public works.
Our committee can work on a bipartisan basis to improve the nation’s aging infrastructure.
Last Congress, Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee worked together to pass the first long-term highway bill in a decade.
I believe we can build on those efforts and continue that bipartisan momentum.
An important part of our infrastructure plan is streamlining the permitting process to allow states, localities, and private interests to build infrastructure in a safer, more efficient way.
For these projects, there is always an important local and environmental element.
The Republican majority in Congress and the Trump administration are working together to roll back the regulatory rampage that Washington has imposed on the country.
Additionally, the committee has held hearings on several issues that impact all of your states, every day.
One of these hearings examined how to improve and modernize the Endangered Species Act.
At that hearing we heard testimony from Wyoming’s Democratic former Governor David Freudenthal.
He testified that there needs to be an increased emphasis on improving the recovery rates of threatened species.
Governor Freudenthal testified that recovered species need to have consistent criteria for delisting.
The grizzly bear has been on the endangered species list for more than 30 years.
Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department has spent more than $43 million on grizzly bear management, which has led to significant recovery.
As Governor Freudenthal pointed out to the committee, each time the grizzly bear neared delisting, the goal posts for recovery were moved.
Those of us from Wyoming know the important role the Endangered Species Act plays in responsible environmental stewardship.
Wyoming isn’t alone, 99 percent of the counties in the country are home to at least one threatened species.
We need to modernize the Act to work better for wildlife and for people.
Since the Endangered Species Act became law, only three percent of listed species have been delisted because of recovery.
I am a doctor and have practiced for decades.
If only three out-of-every 100 patients I treat recovers enough to go home, I deserve to lose my medical license.
Working with state and local environmental agencies, meaning with all of you, we can boost recovery rates, leading to the eventual delisting of species.
We will be working closely with all of you, as we move forward in this Congress.
Input from state and local leadership is absolutely necessary as we work to protect the environment.
You know what works best for your communities, wildlife, and the environment in your states.
Every American wants clean air, clean water, and common sense protection for species.
Let’s work together so future generations can enjoy our nation’s natural beauty and abundance.
Thank you for the important work you do and for inviting me to speak to you.