Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a business meeting to consider several nominees, including:

  • Alejandra Castillo to be Assistant Secretary for Economic Development of the Department of Commerce
  • Jane Nishida to be Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Following the business meeting, the committee also held a hearing on the nomination of Michael Connor to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works at the U.S. Department of Defense.

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling this business meeting and hearing today.

“First, I would like to speak briefly on the two nominations we are voting on today.

“I am pleased to support the nomination of Alejandra Castillo to be Assistant Secretary for Economic Development at the Department of Commerce.

“I appreciated Ms. Castillo’s support for some of the key initiatives that impact West Virginia, like broadband development.

“I am also pleased to vote in favor of reporting the nomination of Jane Nishida to be Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I appreciate the service Ms. Nishida has given over the years and her responsiveness to my questions for the record.

“We also gather today to consider the nomination of Michael Connor to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

“Welcome, Mr. Connor.

“I appreciated the opportunity to talk with you earlier this week.

“As you agreed during our conversation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can and should improve its operations and more efficiently deliver important water resources projects, both in West Virginia and across the country.

“Tasked with overseeing the Corps’ Civil Works Program, the Assistant Secretary position for which you are nominated is integral to decisions pertaining to our nation’s water resources and infrastructure.

“The Corps’ activities through navigation, flood risk management, and ecosystem restoration enable economic growth, save lives, and support conservation.

“In 2019, approximately 2.3 billion short tons of waterborne commerce moved in the U.S., facilitated by our nation’s ports and an inland waterways system dredged, constructed, and maintained by the Corps.

“This includes everything from energy commodities to the goods Americans depend on in their daily lives.

“The Corps’ flood risk management activities provided $348 billion in benefits to the national economy in 2019 alone.

“These are in addition to other important mission areas, from hydropower to recreation and environmental infrastructure.

“These projects and activities are authorized and directed under the biennial Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, which is legislation developed by this committee.

“As I stated at our most recent meeting, I look forward to building on the bipartisan consensus that we have already achieved on water and surface transportation infrastructure legislation in this committee and moving a WRDA bill to enactment.

“The cooperation of the assistant secretary’s office will be integral to this process, as well as the ability of this committee to track implementation of prior WRDA legislation.

“That being said, I am troubled by language included in support documents for the president’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget that devalues investment in Corps projects that facilitate American energy independence.

“This will have real-world impacts for my state of West Virginia and, as we learned from a Corps stakeholder at a recent meeting, will hinder development of key infrastructure and energy projects, like offshore wind projects, critical to this administration’s professed climate goals.

“I am also very concerned about this administration’s recent decision to repeal and replace the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule, as well as the lack of transparency in the decision-making process and the rationale provided by the Corps and the EPA.  

“Underpinning the administration’s decision were several assertions that have yet to be substantiated by evidence of practical environmental harm.

“Instead, the absence of federal jurisdiction is cited as de facto evidence of environmental harm.

“It also remains unclear which stakeholders were consulted prior to making this decision.

“I look forward to hearing Mr. Connor’s views on these matters and other issues pertaining to the Corps.

“His years of experience both in the private sector, this body, and in leadership positions at the Department of the Interior speak to his capability and knowledge of water resources issues.

“The missions of the Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation do differ in certain respects, and I hope to learn more about how he will approach the important position for which he is nominated.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back my time.” 

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