Washington, D.C. – Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Ranking Member David Rouzer (R-NC) from today’s hearing entitled, “President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request: Agency Policies and Perspectives (Part II)”:

Thank you, Chair Napolitano.  I appreciate your holding this hearing, and I would also like to thank our witnesses for being here today.  As noted, today’s hearing will focus on the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (GLS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  

I would like to first discuss actions involving the EPA.  I am appreciative that we have high-level representation from the Agency’s political leadership at our hearing.  Thank you for joining us today, Ms. Fox, and congratulations again on your recent Senate confirmation.  I enjoyed our recent visit very much.  

I am growing increasingly concerned that this administration is reversing reasonable policies put in place by the previous administration.

Now, I certainly understand that different administrations will have different policy priorities and approaches.  That is to be expected.  However, it seems as though some of these actions have very little merit considering most stakeholders have been very happy with the commonsense policy clarifications that were made under the Trump Administration. 

A few examples include the reversal of the Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule and the unprecedented mass firing of all members of two advisory panels.  I’ll not get into those details here, but have certainly made note of it.  

And then, of course, there is the announced effort underway to rewrite the Trump Administration’s rule defining “Waters of the United States” (or “WOTUS”) for purposes of the Clean Water Act.

Three weeks ago, this subcommittee hosted Jaime Pinkham, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and I’ll say again today what I said about WOTUS when he was here, as I certainly think it bears repeating.

While not a surprise to hear that the Biden Administration is proposing to take this action on WOTUS, it is no less a disappointment.

The system we have in place now works.  It is fair to our nation’s farmers, ranchers, construction businesses, city planners, and everyone else.  A return to anything close to the 2015 WOTUS rule would be a failure, and the regulatory burden placed on average Americans and the effect on the economy would be highly detrimental.

As I said when this re-write was announced, no bureaucrat in Washington should be able to dictate what our farm families, small businesses, local governments, and citizens do on their property after a significant rainfall.  So, outreach to solicit, truly listen to, and meaningfully address stakeholder concerns is going to be of paramount importance.

While I certainly appreciated Mr. Pinkham’s appearance here, I still have questions.  This is why shortly after that hearing I led a letter to him and to you, Ms. Fox, pointing out the concerns many members of Congress still have on this issue.  I was joined by 125 of my colleagues here in the House on that letter.

I know you believe stakeholder outreach is important, and I think we would all like to hear whatever specifics you may be able to provide regarding that timeline and other details as to how stakeholder engagement will be achieved.

On another topic, I would like to highlight an issue very important to me as well as many others in my home state of North Carolina and other states too, which is PFAS.  We need a rational, scientifically informed approach to address this, and under the chemical safety laws passed by Congress, this responsibility rests with EPA.  I understand that EPA is actively moving forward with developing important scientific information as part of implementing a “PFAS Action Plan.”  Implementing this plan and establishing a safe consumption standard is a difficult, time consuming, and expensive process.  I look forward to getting a progress report on these activities and hearing how this is coming along under EPA scientists and chemical safety experts.

In addition to the EPA, we also have folks here from four other important agencies, as I mentioned before.  Between them, these agencies have a diverse set of missions, including maintaining one of North America’s most important waterways, helping farmers and ranchers with their conservation needs, protecting our country’s coastal zones, and completing the nexus between public health and chemical safety.  I look forward to hearing how they complete their objectives and what challenges they face in carrying out their respective duties. 

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