Chairman Carper’s Opening Statement: Hearing on Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Implementation
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On March 15, 2023, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on the implementation of the drinking water and wastewater investments and authorizations in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:
“We are here today to examine the implementation of the drinking water and wastewater portions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This historic, bipartisan law is helping deliver clean water to millions of households and schools across our country.
“Yesterday, the Biden Administration took a major step in addressing the presence of the toxic forever chemicals known as PFAS in our drinking water. This announcement was some 20 years in the making. And, I commend President Biden, Administrator Regan, Assistant Administrator Fox and all of EPA for proposing a thoughtful, science-based, national drinking water standard for PFAS.
“This critical step to protect our drinking water comes on top of the President calling for significant investments to protect our public health and environment in his proposed 2024 budget released last week. In his budget, the President requested more than $12 billion for EPA—a $1.9 billion or 19-percent increase from the 2023 enacted level. More than $4 billion of that proposal is reserved for water infrastructure. That includes an additional $219 million for grants to reduce the amount of lead in drinking water, to test for and remove lead in schools and to replace lead pipes.
“This budget builds on our committee’s work in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to invest in our nation’s water infrastructure, which brings us to the topic of our hearing today: oversight of the implementation of the drinking water and wastewater portions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“Our work in this committee to improve our water infrastructure is personal to me. It’s rooted in my faith and in my family history. The Bible, in Matthew 25, calls us to care for those that are in need—to give those that are thirsty something to drink. For me, this means ensuring that Americans have access to clean, safe and reliable water services.
“As some of you may recall, I was born in Beckley, West Virginia, a coal-mining town in the southern part of the state. For two of the six years that our family resided in the Mountain State, we lived alongside a stream known as Beaver Creek. Sometimes, my sister, Sheila, and I—along with other kids in our small community—would play on the banks of the creek and try to catch small fish from it. But, we were never allowed to eat the fish we caught or drink the water.
“That is because many of the nearby septic tanks were not well maintained and, as a result, raw sewage and other pollution could seep into the creek. At the time, our situation was not too different from many other small communities across our country.
“In the years that followed, our government responded to this water crisis by creating grant, and later loan, programs that made it easier for communities across our country to build and upgrade their drinking water and wastewater treatment systems.
“Over time these programs languished and were in dire need of updating. That is why I, along with our Ranking Member, Senator Capito, Senator Duckworth, Senator Lummis, Senator Cardin, and Senator Cramer, joined forces to address this need. We worked in an overwhelmingly bipartisan way to draft the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act. You’ll recall that our legislation included historic investments in EPA’s state revolving funds. Those funds are the primary vehicles for state and local governments to finance water infrastructure projects in our country.
“We advanced our legislation out of committee unanimously and later passed it out of the full Senate by a vote of 89-2. If the American people are looking for bipartisanship, they can look no further than our committee and its work on infrastructure.
“This water bill, combined with our committee’s historic highway legislation, served as the foundation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which President Biden signed into law in November 2021.
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invested an unprecedented $55 billion to improve drinking water and wastewater systems in communities across our country and was paid for. This remains the single-largest water infrastructure investment in our nation’s history. Now, EPA has the responsibility of putting these investments to work for the American people.
“Today’s hearing is an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of how this process is going. This hearing will also allow us to explore future opportunities to improve the way we invest in our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
“That includes investigating how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law programs are benefiting communities with the greatest need and what additional authorities or changes might be needed to make the programs function better. For example, is there more that could be done to adapt these programs to changes in our climate, population, and infrastructure age?”