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 an oversight hearing of the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) formula.
Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and great statement.
“I can’t start without saying the images and the video that we saw, and the powerful statements by President Zelenskyy has probably drained every American. We are pretty united in our thoughts, and certainly in our prayers. So, thank you for that moment of silence. I appreciate that.
“I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling the hearing, but I want to thank all of the witnesses for being here today, and I look forward to their remarks.
“The chairman summarized this, but I do think this committee values hearing your perspectives on the challenges facing this nation’s wastewater infrastructure, as well as your thoughts on effective solutions to address those challenges through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF).
“We are all here today to discuss the important issue of updating—possibly—the Clean Water SRF formula itself, which came into sharp focus during consideration of the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (DWWIA) around this time last year on that bill’s way to enactment in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
“As we committed at that time to colleagues interested in this issue, we should consider updating the formula for the Clean Water SRF in the same bipartisan and thoughtful approach we undertook in advancing DWWIA to an 89-2 vote on the Senate floor.
“I believe ensuring reliable, modern water infrastructure is a fundamental responsibility of government.
“Water is not a red state issue or blue state issue.
“It is not a big city or small town problem. It’s everybody, and it’s in everybody’s best interest.
“The issues we are discussing today effect every single American, which is why I am committed to doing the appropriate due diligence and outreach to ensure we come up with a final product that does not leave anyone behind.
“Since its inception in 1987, the Clean Water SRF has been an effective tool to provide much needed federal funding to improve our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure, enjoying broad and consistent bipartisan support at the federal and state levels.
“Through the Clean Water SRF program, EPA provides funding to states, which then issue loans to communities to facilitate infrastructure improvement projects. And we know through testimony and certainly through talking to our local government officials and folks who run these systems, that many of them are very old and antiquated.
“Interest on those loans then ‘revolve,’ providing additional funding for future projects and a greater investment return from taxpayer dollars.
“This program has been cost-effective and well-utilized—certainly in our state—with EPA leveraging $45 billion in federal dollars into more than $145 billion in assistance to local communities to improve their wastewater treatment systems, protect human health, and reduce pollution.
“It is noteworthy to mention that the reason for the SRFs success has been the flexibility given to the state revolving fund. Recently, EPA released an SRF memo which takes away—or could potentially take away—some of that flexibility, and I view that—as I have other memos by this administration—as an overreach.
“In April of 2021, Senators Rubio and Scott offered an amendment to the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, which would have changed the formula deployed for 34 years to allocate state revolving loan funding.
“As I mentioned, Chairman Carper and I pledged to Senators Rubio and Scott that we would continue to work with them on this issue, which spurred today’s hearing.
“I respectfully disagreed with the approach of their amendment, which was ultimately defeated, and would have converted the Clean Water SRF to a wholly population-based formula.
“This ignores the crucial issue of need, which was baked into the original formula and, for states like Delaware and West Virginia, could have had some negative effects.
“Need varies across and within the states, based on population growth or reduction, the age and condition of existing infrastructure, and the unique public health, environmental challenges, and development needs of impacted communities.
“It is essential to me that rural communities are treated appropriately and their unique challenges in infrastructure deployment are accommodated in any revised Clean Water SRF formula.
“And this committee and the Congress explicitly acknowledged that need must be assessed and documented in the Clean Water SRF.
“Section 50220 of the IIJA, carried over directly from DWWIA, instructs the EPA, within two years, to conduct a Clean Watersheds Needs Survey along the lines of what the agency already does for the Drinking Water SRF.
“This information will be essential to any revision of the formula.
“I acknowledge that formula allocations set back in 1987 may not adequately address today’s needs and demographic shifts.
“But, given the complexity of the issue, we have our work cut out for us.
“Major changes to the Clean Water SRF formula should not be rushed and must be the product of a deliberative process here in Congress that allows impacted stakeholders the opportunity to provide the input needed to ensure that any legislative action works for all states and types of communities.
“It is one thing to draft a law here on Capitol Hill, but quite another to have to implement it back home.
“That is why this hearing, with this panel of experts, and the work that will follow, is so important.
“I remain committed to working on these clean water issues that are so important to me, the citizens of my state of West Virginia, and my fellow committee members.
“With that Mr. Chairman, I yield back.”
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