WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled, “Implementing IIJA: Perspectives on the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, Part II.”

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as delivered.

“Thank you, Chairman Carper, and it’s great to be back with you. Hope you had a nice break in the beautiful state of Delaware.

“This is a great opportunity for the Committee to get an update from stakeholders on the progress, as the chairman has lined out very explicitly, on DWWIA, which was enacted in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“I thank all of you for being here, several of which we’ve seen before, and it’s nice to see you back I front of the Committee.

“Today's hearing will focus on the critical importance of clean and efficient drinking water and wastewater systems for the health, wellbeing, and economies of our communities.

“It is vital that all Americans, obviously, have access to reliable water and sanitation that they can afford.

“The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act authored by this Committee is a critical component of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, IIJA.

“It has introduced new programs, opportunities, and support to meet the current needs and challenges in small, rural, and disadvantaged communities.

“During this hearing we will examine the current state of our nation's water resources, the challenges we face in safeguarding them, the successes and failures of federal agencies’ implementation of policies from the IIJA, which was meant to ensure that every individual has access to clean and healthy drinking water and wastewater, and how other federal policies may be helping or hindering communities’ efforts to provide for their residents.

“The IIJA, as the chairman said, authorized $55 billion in funding for a variety of water infrastructure programs.

“These programs aim to address issues faced by our nation's water infrastructure, including grants for small and disadvantaged communities, funding for lead service line replacement, and support for innovative water technologies.

“The IIJA recognizes that many communities are struggling with aging infrastructure and emerging contaminants, such as PFAS. Small, rural, and disadvantaged communities often lack the necessary resources and technical expertise to tackle these challenges, leaving them vulnerable to water quality issues and also public health risks.

“The IIJA offers funding opportunities for grants, low-interest loans, and technical assistance to help ease some of these burdens.

“As we work to implement and secure funding for these programs, it is crucial to ensure that resources are directed towards the communities that are most in need based on actual public health and environmental risks.

“The federal government must also provide the necessary technical assistance and training to support these programs. Many of our small communities do have this technical expertise.

“However, I have significant concerns regarding the EPA’s approach to implementing the directives from Congress as it begins to allocate substantial financial investments to our nation's water infrastructure.

“The EPA has repeatedly tried to impose its policy priorities on states and communities, often in violation of authorities reserved to them under the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Acts.

“Regulatory obligations to meet vague environmental justice goals and inconsistent and untimely imposition of Build America, Buy America waivers have led to delays, cost overruns, and legal uncertainty.

“These unnecessary obstacles imposed by federal regulators are especially inappropriate when elevated inflation eats away at the historic infrastructure investments that America needs and that were demanded by Congress.

“Additional threats to reliability and affordability may come from other environmental regulations.

“In particular, failure to provide CERCLA liability protections for water systems facing PFAS contamination will our slam water systems and their ratepayers while only enriching trial attorneys.

“As we have discussed repeatedly, West Virginia has had to deal with PFAS contamination originating, and I know your states have as well, from both industrial and military sites, the two major sources of contamination nationally.

“The concept of ‘polluter pays’ is enshrined in CERCLA and has had broad bipartisan support over the years.

“That is why I find it truly perplexing to hear that environmental groups are actively lobbying against protections for water systems and other passive receivers.

“With PFAS contamination going back decades and regulatory efforts to protect our drinking water, which I support, there will be an increasing need to protect water systems that had no hand in creating or didn’t have the benefit from these chemicals.

“As we look to preserve safety, reliability, and affordability of drinking and wastewater systems for the future and maximize the benefits of the IIJA’s investments, protecting passive receivers is something Congress must get right.

“I’ll close by saying what everyone in attendance today already knows: water infrastructure investments are critical to public health, environmental health, and economic development.

“The successes we have had to date have been based in cooperative federalism as enshrined in the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Acts.

“Communities and states know their needs the best and need a helping hand from the government, but not a heavy hand.

“Thank you for all you do to keep our country’s water and wastewater systems clean, healthy, and I look forward to hearing your perspectives on these issues. Thank you.”

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