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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing on the nominations of Shannon Estenoz to be Assistant Secretary of Fish and Wildlife and Parks of the Department of Interior, Radhika Fox to be Assistant Administrator for Water of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Michal Freedhoff to be Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention of the EPA.

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

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and it’s nice to be with you after our win on the water bill on the floor. I add my voice of congratulations to you and your leadership team and your staff. Our staffs worked great together.

“Somebody asked me, ‘well, how did you do that?’ I said, ‘Well, we listened to our committee and we listened to our witnesses and we wrote a bill that tried to accommodate as much as we could the varying views.' And so, I think that in a place where there is a lot of talking, maybe a little listening is the better key to getting things done. You’re a great listener, and I appreciate being a part of your committee.

“But I can say—I look out here and I see three very talented women, and I’m very proud of the fact that we get to see more and more women take the helm of leadership positions in the highest levels of our government. So, congratulations to the president for nominating three strong women and having them in front of our committee today.

“We are going to look at another core function of our committee—and I want to add a caveat that we’re working hard to do the same thing with surface transportation that we were able to do with water. It’s a heavier lift we are finding, but we are working hard together to reach that point at which we can bring something to not just our committee, but to the full Senate as well.

“So, we are gathering today to do the consideration and oversight of the president’s nominees. You all have a wealth of experience in your respective fields, and the chairman went over that.

“Unlike the past nominees who have appeared before us this year, all three of today’s nominees are already in place at the agencies in which they’ve been nominated to serve.

“Put another way, they are already actively executing President Biden’s agenda.

“Ms. Estenoz, Ms. Fox, and Dr. Freedhoff, thank you for your willingness to serve and for appearing before us today.

“Given your perspectives from now being inside the administration, I especially look forward to hearing about the policies you’re working on.

“I am interested to know what roles you have had in the decisions the Biden administration has made to this point.

“I also want to understand in which new or different directions you would push the administration if you were in a Senate-confirmed role, and what additional authorities you believe that additional layer of accountability will allow you to bring.

“That insider perspective will be very helpful for all us.

“From the outside, the pace of executive action has seemed to occur at warp speed and without a lot of external engagement—especially from many of us in Congress.

“As National Public Radio reported, President Biden issued more executive orders in his first 100 days than any president since Harry Truman.

“NPR observed that Biden ‘may have campaigned on bringing bipartisanship back to Washington, but much of his early focus at least has been on policies he can implement on his own…’

“Many of President Biden’s key actions and reversals have come in the environmental and energy policy area.

“I understand that we should expect a new administration of the opposite party to have different positions than its predecessor.

“However, the pace of these changes and their unilateral nature concern me.

“Dramatic changes in regulations without adequate thought or input can hurt people, businesses, and local communities.

“That is particularly true during the economic recovery we now face.

“Of particular concern to me and this committee are issues like the Biden administration’s decision to revisit the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, the streamlined National Environmental Policy Act, and the recent Migratory Bird Treaty Rule—the last for which a proposal was released just last week.

“That said, some of the activities we have seen so far at the Department of Interior and EPA I do agree with and wholeheartedly support.

“Just last week, I participated in the sign unveiling for America’s newest national park. Really a source of pride for me.

“The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is already bringing economic opportunity and excitement to my home state. I cannot overstate how excited folks are, and I am too.

“Its administration would come under your oversight if confirmed, Ms. Estenoz.

“In terms of activities at EPA, I was pleased to see the administration prioritizing research on PFAS in its budget proposal.

“And, I am also glad EPA is moving forward with a primary drinking water regulation for PFOA and PFOS.

“If confirmed to the Office of Water, Ms. Fox would take the lead on that.

“Dr. Freedhoff, I know you have a wealth of experience dealing with PFAS and other bioaccumulative chemicals from your years of service, including to Chairman Carper.

“I look forward to hearing how the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention also plans to address PFAS.

“I hope we can use this hearing to discuss both my points of concern and equally important, our areas of agreement.

“Thank you, Chairman Carper, for holding today’s hearing.

“I turn it back over to you.” 

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