Chairman Carper’s Opening Statement: Business Meeting and Hearing on Nominees

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a business meeting to consider the nominations of Alejandra Castillo to be Assistant Secretary for Economic Development of the Department of Commerce and Jane Nishida to be Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Immediately following the business meeting, the committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Michael Connor to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works at the Department of Defense.

Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Today, our Committee will vote on whether to move to the full Senate two outstanding nominees for offices within the Department of Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency. Those votes will take place in a few minutes. After that voting is concluded, we will proceed to hold a hearing on the nomination of Michael Lee Connor to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

“Let me first say a few words about the two nominees whom the Committee will vote on shortly. They are Alejandra Castillo, who has been nominated to serve as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, and Ms. Jane Nishida, who has been nominated to serve as EPA Assistant Administrator for Tribal and International Affairs.

“They are exceptional individuals and are well prepared to serve in the positions to which they have been nominated.

“Both are established federal government leaders. If confirmed, they will bring decades of leadership experience to EPA and the Economic Development Administration.

“We had the opportunity to hear from each of them at our hearing last month, and both of them did an excellent job of demonstrating why they have earned the respect and confidence of President Biden, along with so many of their former executive branch colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I am grateful that both of them have agreed to serve our country once again, and I urge my colleagues to support their confirmations.

“Next, let me turn to Michael Connor, from whom we will hear today. President Biden has nominated Mr. Connor to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. As we all know, this is a critical leadership position for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The Corps of Engineers Civil Works program is the nation’s primary provider of water resources infrastructure. And with more extreme weather events and our changing climate, that work has never been more important to ensure that we are building resilient infrastructure that protects the American people. 

“And protecting the American people is particularly critical to those who need help the most. They include communities of color, as well as rural, tribal, and economically disadvantaged communities across America.

“As a descendant of the Taos Pueblo, Mr. Connor brings a unique perspective and has built a career advocating for Indian country and tribal water rights. He understands the importance of reaching those communities that have not benefitted enough from federal investments, and he knows how to do it.

“Mr. Connor has the experience and character to be successful in this role. During the Obama Administration, he served as Deputy Secretary of the Interior, where he managed complex natural resources challenges for the benefit of our nation. He has proven himself to be a capable leader and is more than ready to meet the robust and varied responsibilities of this position to which he has been nominated.

“If confirmed, Mr. Connor will lead efforts that dramatically impact every corner of this country—from coastal to inland to rural communities. All of these regions have unique water challenges—from navigation, to flood control, to ecosystem restoration—managed by the Corps.

“If confirmed, Mr. Connor will also have to balance a wide range of complex and critical interests. To better ensure that he is successful in doing so, I recommend that he visit as many of these communities throughout this country as possible in order to garner a broader understanding of the challenges that they face.  

“And, he must meet all those demands with limited resources. Due to the persistent underfunding in recent years, the backlog of authorized—but not completed projects—has grown to $109 billion. That is more than 15 times the agency’s annual operating budget, and that should concern all of us.

“The Corps shares the responsibility for water infrastructure investments with state and local governments, and this shortfall is clear evidence that the federal government has not been holding up our end of the bargain for some time.

“That said, there is no simple solution to this problem. Should he be confirmed, though, Mr. Connor will quickly become a key figure in endeavoring to ensure that bipartisan concerns about Corps funding and priorities are addressed. I look forward to hearing his thoughts on these important matters.”