Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing on the implementation the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Following a December 16, 2021 memorandum issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that outlined several policies contradicting those negotiated and agreed to in the IIJA, Ranking Member Capito and Republican Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sent a letter to governors across the country reaffirming their commitment to ensuring the proper implementation of the law.
In February, Ranking Member Capito—along with Senators Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)—led more than half of the Republican conference in a letter requesting that Secretary Buttigieg direct FHWA to rescind or substantially revise the memorandum to ensure the agency intends proper implementation of the IIJA as enacted.
Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Mr. Secretary for being with us today. I think this is going to be a great hearing, and I thank the chairman for his ongoing commitment to bipartisan oversight of the implementation of the IIJA.
“I am proud to say—as he has said—that the foundation of the IIJA consists of two of our committee’s bipartisan products, which were unanimous coming out of this committee: The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 and the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021.
“This historic legislation I think proves once again that we can come together to develop bills that tackle our nation’s pressing challenges in a manner that reflects input from both of our parties and a diverse stakeholder community.
“I will say in the week that I was home last week, we are already starting to see the benefits and the excitement from counties and cities and regional areas who are going to be able to make a difference in a lot of people’s lives.
“I also want to thank you, Secretary Buttigieg, for joining us today, as well as the staff at the Department of Transportation for their tireless work to implement the IIJA and also for their work in formulating many of these projects and visions that are contained within.
“As we look at the status of the implementation, it’s important to acknowledge that the department is constrained in its efforts by operating under the current Continuing Resolution.
“Senators on this committee, including myself, have urged our colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to take action to ensure that the IIJA can be fully implemented as quickly as possible—hopefully next week we will have some resolution—whether through enactment of final Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations legislation or providing ‘anomalies’ so that states can take advantage of the new levels of formula funding.
“Implementation is further compounded by the still-vacant position of Administrator at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
“As I have repeatedly said, a Senate-confirmed administrator is critical to ensuring timely and effective implementation. It will certainly help the secretary as well.
“Chairman Carper and I sent a letter to the White House on this matter earlier this year, and I look forward to considering a qualified nominee for this position.
“As the committee was developing the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act—the chairman outlined many of those provisions—I came to the table with several major policy and funding priorities. I am proud to see that many of them are reflected in the final product.
“I would like to take a minute to highlight a few of my priorities.
“The IIJA provides significant funding levels, $303.5 billion out of the Highway Trust Fund over five years for federal highway programs.
“90% of that funding is being distributed by formula, giving states much-needed certainty to plan and carry out projects to address their unique surface transportation needs.
“My home state of West Virginia will receive over $3 billion in formula funding.
“The legislation creates a new $2 billion Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program that includes dedicated resources for the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) and other critical projects across rural America.
“This dedicated funding is critical to completing the ADHS, in particular, Corridor H in West Virginia, which will connect the eastern and central parts of our state with the metro-D.C. area and open up more opportunities for economic growth and tourism.
“The IIJA also includes numerous project delivery provisions, including environmental review and permitting reforms for highway and bridge projects.
“Notably, it codifies One Federal Decision, which requires agencies to coordinate on a predictable, joint schedule and sets a two-year goal for completing the environmental review and permitting process for major projects, which we have heard could take previously between seven to ten years.
“The IIJA also includes a number of policy and funding wins for my colleagues across the aisle and up and down this dais.
“All of these priorities were addressed in a bipartisan manner through thoughtful negotiations.
“No one got everything they wanted.
“Some priorities were considered and intentionally excluded over the course of these negotiations.
“On December 16th, the FHWA issued a memorandum to staff entitled ‘Policy on Using Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Resources to Build a Better America,’ which I found troubling.
“The memorandum provides an overarching policy framework to guide the use of funding in the IIJA in a manner that reflects the policy priorities of the Biden administration.
“A number of these policies run contrary to the compromises that this committee made when negotiating the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act and seeing it through to enactment within the IIJA.
“Specifically, the memorandum seeks to restrict the flexibility of states and impose one-size-fits all solutions to address the surface transportation needs of all communities.
“It discourages states from moving forward with projects that add highway capacity and instead prioritizes projects that improve existing surface transportation assets.
“The memorandum also, in my view, creates winners and losers among different types of projects based on their level of environmental review required by NEPA.
“Attempts to direct funding to assets not owned and operated by state departments of transportation, and focuses on projects that advance the administration’s priorities regardless of whether those projects meaningfully address the needs of a particular state or community.
“In response to this memorandum, I promptly met with Deputy Administrator Pollack to express my concerns, and I expressed them to you yesterday on the phone.
“Since then, numerous other senators and the stakeholders have raised a similar alarm about the memorandum.
“Approximately two weeks ago, my colleagues and I—including every Republican on this committee—sent the secretary a letter requesting that this memorandum be rescinded or substantially revised to demonstrate that FHWA intends to implement the IIJA as enacted.
“I look forward to hearing from the secretary on these and other important matters, and I yield back my time.”
# # #