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

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

“Good Morning, Chairman Carper, and welcome to our three nominees. It’s nice to have you in front of the committee.

“You are nominated for positions at critical agencies within this committee’s jurisdiction: the Environmental Protection Agency and the Economic Development Administration.

“Each of you has dedicated the majority of your professional life to public service, and we are grateful for that and I commend you for that.

“Chairman Carper and I have built upon our excellent working relationship this year.

“We are both very proud of the committee’s work in reporting not one—but two—infrastructure bills this Congress by unanimous 20 to 0 votes.

“So, we are very proud of that, and we are waiting to get the surface transportation bill up to the floor.

“Critical to our ability to do these is transparent communication.

“Chairman Carper, you and I have had many frank conversations about our parties’ priorities or our own priorities.

“Through those discussions, we have been able to find areas of common agreement and advance significant legislation.

“I would like to have more of that transparent communication with the administration.

“I know I may not agree with everything the administration does, but I would like to at least be able to understand why and how decisions are made, and to be ensured that my constituents have meaningful input before decisions are made that will impact their lives.

“For example—Ms. Castillo, we had talked about this—there’s a recent change at the Economic Development Administration.

“EDA plays an important role—as the chairman said—in West Virginia and across the country.

“The EDA works hand-in-hand with private partners to bolster job creation in economically distressed communities.

“I was disheartened to see the Biden administration strike two investment priorities from the application consideration process: Critical Infrastructure and Opportunity Zones.

“I have fully supported EDA’s commonsense focus on Critical Infrastructure and Opportunity Zones.

“Opportunity Zones are by definition the types of communities we ought to be investing in, and infrastructure projects such as roads, water, wastewater, and broadband are key to driving economic growth.

“For instance, earlier this year, EDA provided $1.75 million to the airport in Raleigh County, West Virginia—the Chairman’s home county—for infrastructure upgrades that will help create over 600 jobs. That’s the purpose of the EDA.

“I struggle to understand why these priorities would be removed, especially at a time when our infrastructure needs are universally recognized.

“The EDA has received record funding through the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan: $4.5 billion above regular appropriations.

“Transparency is particularly important.

“We need to know money is going to the communities that need it.

“I also have concerns with the how environmental policy decisions are being made.

“I will be honest with you, we are struggling to get information on high-profile decisions coming out of this administration, such as how it developed its new Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Climate Agreement.

“Administrator Regan has said EPA conducted an analysis about how it would reach that goal.

“And, numerous media outlets have reported on administration officials talking about analyses and modeling conducted to support this target.

“But, so far, none of that information has been made available to Congress or to the American public—even after we have repeatedly asked.

“We all care about our environment and climate.

“I would like to find areas where we might be able to work together to meet these challenges.

“Members of this committee have a track record of finding common ground on climate issues – from carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration to nuclear to HFCs to diesel emissions reductions.

“We just reported a bipartisan surface transportation bill with an unprecedented climate title.

“However, we can only find common ground when we are open about our proposed solutions.

“And so far, I feel the administration—unfortunately including the EPA—has not been as transparent as it should on climate and environmental issues.

“Whether it’s the decision to repeal the Navigable Waters Protection Rule that was announced before any formal stakeholder process, or the NDC announcement, decisions seem to be made in a vacuum without significant—or even any—public input.

“That worries me—I try to stay positive—I hope it is an oversight and not intentional, and something we can improve.

“Mr. Prieto and Ms. Nishida, you both have impressive management experience in the federal government.

“I look forward to hearing from you some lessons learned from your past experience and ideas for improving transparency.

“Thank you, Chairman Carper, for holding today’s hearing. I look forward to the testimony. 

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