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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing on the nominations of Shannon Estenoz to be Assistant Secretary of Fish and Wildlife and Parks of the Department of Interior, Radhika Fox to be Assistant Administrator for Water of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Michal Freedhoff to be Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention of the Environmental Protection Agency. Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Today, I am pleased to welcome three outstanding nominees to fill critical roles at the Environmental Protection Agency and within the Department of the Interior. Thanks to each of you for joining us today.

“Before getting to the particulars of our nominees, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the issues we—as members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works—and our constituents back home are wrestling with that make these roles so critical.

“There isn’t one of us who does not value the special natural spaces near our homes and in our states, including national parks and wildlife refuges, from the First State National Historical Park to the Everglades. They support the fish, wildlife and quality of life that we take every opportunity to brag about. We have a moral obligation to care for these special places, the habitats they host, and the variety of species—including us—that they nurture. And, of course, that requires skilled and committed leadership in places like the Department of the Interior, and I’m thankful to Shannon Estenoz for offering that leadership.

“Water has played a significant role in each of our lives already this morning. We’ve turned on faucets, brewed coffee and—hopefully—taken showers, all with the confidence that the water coming from the tap was safe for us and our families. And yet, not everyone in this country has that access to clean water—whether because of lead, PFAS, or other contaminants, or because they simply can’t afford it. We took a large step last week toward addressing those concerns with the passage of our Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, but there is so much more to do. I’m grateful that Radhika Fox is ready to tackle those challenges at EPA.

“And every day, millions of people across the country struggle with the threats posed by chemicals that pervade their homes, workspaces, water, food, and household products. 

Whether it’s from PFAS in their water, ethylene oxide in their neighborhoods, or formaldehyde in their wallboards, people are suffering. The American people need assurances that their products, water, and food is safe for them and their families. That’s a prodigious responsibility, and I am grateful that Michal Freedhoff is willing to serve in this critical position.

“Thankfully, these three nominees are the right people for these roles. 

“Shannon Estenoz brings 24 years of conservation experience to the job, including as the Department of the Interior’s Director of Everglades Restoration Initiatives and Executive Director of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. Her work prompted Eric Eikenberg, Everglades Foundation CEO, to say of her nomination—and I quote, ‘They’re bringing on an extraordinary woman who is committed to the natural resources and environment of this country.’

“Radhika Fox brings to her prospective role as head of the EPA water office a deep understanding of water policy and the importance of making clean water accessible to all Americans, regardless of their income or zip code. She has found success in working with people across the spectrum, prompting the Iowa Soybean Association to note, and I quote, ‘Ms. Fox understands how water management issues are interwoven with the fabric of rural and urban communities and that farmers must be part of the team and beneficiaries of this work. This integration is key for making real and long-lasting progress on protecting and improving water in the 21st century.’

“And last, but certainly not least, is Michal Freedhoff, someone well known to us at EPW. I had the pleasure of working with Michal when I became the EPW Ranking Member in 2017. And since that time, I have benefitted—as have we all—from her profound understanding of chemicals oversight and management policy. During her time with Senator Markey, who was kind enough to let her come work for me on the Committee, she played a key role in helping convert a highly divisive bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, better known as TSCA, into a package that gained broad bipartisan support throughout Congress. It is that kind of knowledge-based, thoughtful and inclusive engagement that we so sorely need as head of the Chemical Safety Office at EPA. All Americans will be very well served to have Michal in that leadership role at EPA.

“I thank you all, once again, for your willingness to share your wisdom, expertise, and inclusive instincts with our nation.”