Chairman Carper’s Opening Statement: Hearing on EPA & Commerce Nominees

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) will hold a hearing on the following nominations:

  • Jeffrey Prieto to be General Counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency;
  • Jane Nishida to be Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency; and
  • Alejandra Castillo to be Assistant Secretary for Economic Development at the Department of Commerce

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

“Today, I am pleased to welcome three outstanding nominees who have been nominated for important roles at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Commerce. Jeffrey Prieto, Jane Nishida, and Alejandra Castillo—welcome to the EPW Committee.

“These nominees bring with them decades of leadership experience and dedication to public service. Thank you all for agreeing to serve our country once again in critical positions to help our communities thrive and make sure that our government works more effectively for the American people.

“Let me start today with the nomination for EPA General Counsel. As chief legal advisor to the EPA Administrator, and as the leader of the agency’s hundreds of legal professionals, the General Counsel must make sure that EPA upholds the law. That means making sure the agency is doing everything in its power to ensure the American people are getting the full protections afforded them by our country’s environmental laws. It also means making sure that the rights of the people, organizations, cities, states and tribes with whom EPA interacts every day are respected and guaranteed.

“It also means seeing to it that EPA conducts its rulemakings according to the law, through a transparent process, and with scientific and economic analyses that are honest and robust.

“The General Counsel’s job is no small undertaking. This is why I’m delighted to see that the President has nominated Jeffrey Prieto for this role.

“Mr. Prieto has dedicated over 20 years of his distinguished career to public service. In addition to prior roles at EPA, Mr. Prieto has served at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and most recently, as General Counsel to the Department of Agriculture during the Obama administration.

“As someone who has already done the same job at a different agency, I expect that Mr. Prieto has a pretty good idea about the opportunities and challenges that await him if confirmed. I’m glad he has agreed to sign up for another round of service, a commitment to the American people shaped in part by his family’s proud history of military service on behalf of our nation. I know that his dedication will be a boon to the agency and to the American people.

”I am equally pleased that Jane Nishida is nominated to be the Assistant Administrator of International and Tribal Affairs at EPA.

“The office that Ms. Nishida has been nominated to lead plays a key role in helping communities both here in the United States and across the world to benefit from EPA’s tremendous technical expertise. She brings a wealth of state experience, a particularly helpful attribute given the predominant role of the states in executing our nation’s environmental laws.

“She also appreciates—through her World Bank experience—the robust needs of nations across the globe for equitable economic opportunity and environmental stability. 

“Our ongoing pandemic has laid bare the unique and substantial needs of our tribal communities for economic opportunity and environmental equity. Ms. Nishida can tap into her experience to cement her ongoing efforts to ensure full and fair consultation with tribal nations and respect for unique tribal treaty rights.

“Ms. Nishida has been a highly respected leader in the Office of International and Tribal Affairs for eight years, having served in both the Obama and Trump administrations. When President Biden was inaugurated earlier this year, Ms. Nishida was selected from among all of EPA’s career officials to lead EPA as Acting Administrator until Michael Regan won confirmation.

“Ms. Nishida’s professional record demonstrates her profound dedication to the mission of EPA and the respect she commands from leaders within both parties. She will make an excellent Assistant Administrator.

“Finally, let me turn to the Economic Development Administration. As we know, EDA supports economic development by providing federal funding to locally-driven projects that spur growth and job creation, often serving as a lifeline for struggling communities. EDA has proven itself to be an agency that punches above its weight.

“Over the past several years, it operated with roughly $300 million in funds per year. But, at times of disaster and hardship, EDA has stepped up to the plate, distributing billions of dollars to help American communities recover and persevere through recent crises, from wildfires to hurricanes to, most recently, COVID-19.

“EDA can play a vital role in getting our economy back to full speed after the economic crisis borne from the pandemic. I’m sure that almost every member of our committee can point to an example in their state where EDA is helping a community in need. It has a profound impact that can reach every corner of our great nation.

“So, I am grateful that Alejandra Castillo is stepping up to lead the agency at this crucial time. Ms. Castillo is a veteran of the Commerce Department, where she served as national director of the Minority Business Development Agency. Her leadership in that role helped secure over $19 billion in financing for minority owned small businesses across the country, which helped create over 30,000 jobs. I’m looking forward to seeing Ms. Castillo bring that record of success to EDA.

“I am confident that all three of these nominees will serve our nation well. Ms. Castillo, Mr. Prieto, and Ms. Nishida—thank you for your previous service and for your work on behalf of our nation moving forward. We look forward to hearing your testimony shortly.”