Click here or the image above to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, delivered the following remarks at a committee business meeting. At the meeting, the committee considered the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021, as well as several nominations listed below:
- Shannon Aneal Estenoz, of Florida, to be Assistant Secretary of Fish and Wildlife and Parks of the Department of the Interior
- Radhika Fox, of California, to be Assistant Administrator for Water of the Environmental Protection Agency
- Michal Ilana Freedhoff of Maryland, to be Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention of the Environmental Protection Agency
- 10 General Services Administration Resolutions
Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairman Carper, for calling this business meeting today and for your ongoing commitment to a bipartisan process for the bill we are considering today: the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021.
“I have always been optimistic that we would get here.
“But I am thrilled that we reached a bipartisan agreement that will address our nation’s surface transportation needs.
“I also want to provide special thanks to Senator Cardin and Senator Cramer who lead our subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
“Your support and partnership during this process was absolutely instrumental in helping us reach this agreement so thank you both.
“I also want to thank your staff, Mr. Chairman—I know they’ve spent a lot of long nights—for their commitment to this process and for the long hours and hard work that they dedicated to this bill.
“Today proves that we can once again come together to develop a bill that reflects input from both parties and the stakeholder community.
“This bill has been one of my top priorities as ranking member of this committee.
“Since the start of this process I have been focused on policies that:
- Enable long-term investment in our nation’s roads and bridges in a fiscally responsible manner;
- Provide certainty and flexibility for our states and other partners;
- Keep the federal interest focused on providing a connected network of roads and bridges to ensure that all communities and economies can thrive;
- Facilitate the efficient delivery of projects in order to improve the safety and resiliency of our surface transportation system; and
- Drive innovation to help pave the way for the surface transportation system of the future.
“I am proud to say that this bill meets and accomplishes many of these goals.
“I’d like to take a few moments to share some highlights of our bipartisan legislation.
“It’s a five-year bill that provides significant funding levels – $303.5 billion out of the Highway Trust Fund.
“It will ensure long-term investment in our nation’s roads and bridges while providing states and communities the flexibility that they need to address their unique transportation needs.
“The bill will distribute 90% of total funding to states through formula giving states the flexibility and certainty necessary to get those projects in the years ahead.
“This funding distribution will benefit all parts of the country, including both urban and rural areas.
“I am particularly excited about the new $2 billion Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program that will provide competitive grants for projects that increase connectivity and generate economic growth in rural areas.
“Among the projects eligible for a grant under this program are projects that will further the completion of the Appalachian Development Highway System.
“Completing the ADHS is absolutely essential to me and to my home state of West Virginia.
“Finishing this will better connect West Virginia and open up significant economic opportunities. So passage of this bill will be a big step in that direction.
“This bill will provide significant funding for bridges, through a new grant program, which is also vitally important my state and everyone’s state and certainly in Delaware, as well.
“The bill also includes provisions that will improve the project delivery process for our states and other partners.
“Notably, we codified One Federal Decision, which will provide more accountability to the environmental review and permitting process by including page limits and joint agency schedules for projects with the goal of completing environmental reviews in two years.
“The bill also requires reporting timelines for NEPA, reduces paperwork burdens for states, and provides opportunity for the adoption of categorical exclusions between agencies through rulemaking.
“Safety, as the Chairman says, is a top priority that we all share.
“To address a variety of safety needs, we increased funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program, and provided states with funding carry out resiliency improvements to their roads and bridges and improve evacuation routes.
“There is a lot in this bill for both sides, and for all communities no matter their size or region in the country.
“It represents the true given and take of bipartisan compromise.
“Most importantly, it will drive economic growth now and in the future, create jobs, while also improving the quality of life for those in our country.
“We share a common goal: getting a bipartisan reauthorization bill across the finish line before the expiration of the FAST Act.
“Today is an important step in that process.
“Finally, today the committee will be voting on other important committee matters, including ten GSA resolutions.
“I am also pleased to support the nominations of:
- Shannon Estenoz to be Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of Interior; and
- Michal Freedhoff to be Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at EPA.
“While I have enjoyed getting to know Radhika Fox and am impressed by her qualifications, she would not commit to maintaining the Navigable Waters Protection Rule issued in 2020.
“But she also would not state the 2015 Waters of the U.S. Rule was overreaching—very vague in her answers.
“For that policy reason, I cannot support her nomination at this time.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman. I yield back my time.”
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