EPW Hearing Statement: “Hearing on the Nominations of Mary Bridget Neumayr to be a Member of the Council on Environmental Quality and John C. Fleming to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held the hearing, “Hearing on the Nominations of Mary Bridget Neumayr to be a Member of the Council on Environmental Quality and John C. Fleming to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development.” Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“For today’s hearing, we have two nominees before us who have been nominated to serve in two very important roles.

“Mary Neumayr has been nominated to lead the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).  CEQ has a vital role in coordinating the efforts of all federal agencies on cross-cutting and important environmental issues.   I know this from first-hand accounts from one of my earliest mentors, former Governor of Delaware Russell Peterson, who later served as CEQ Chair during the Nixon and Ford Administrations.  Russ spoke fondly of his time as CEQ Chair and shared with me, on more than one occasion, the real importance and influence of the job. In his words, the CEQ Chair is like an orchestra conductor – you’re not playing the instruments, but you try to make sure that everyone is playing in harmony. In the last Administration, CEQ led federal efforts to strengthen our resilience to extreme weather, reduce our emissions of climate change inducing gases, and reform our broken chemical safety laws.

“The CEQ Chair also plays a critical role in protecting the environment through implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, which helps Federal agencies make good decisions for our nation.  Under Ms. Neumayr’s acting leadership, CEQ has signaled an intent to make significant revisions to the way NEPA operates. While we should always look for opportunities to improve processes, we must also be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater by undermining critical protections for our communities and the environment. The nominee to carry on this important work at CEQ must be someone who can build alliances, work with Congress, and determine a path that strengthens the economy, while protecting our environment. As I told Ms. Neumayr when we met in my office earlier this month, I’m always looking for commonsense solutions that are good for our environment and our economy.  Win-win outcomes, if you will. 

“A good example of a commonsense solution is fuel economy and greenhouse gas tailpipe standards for cars and SUVs.  The Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Administration have the opportunity to create a real ‘win-win,’ where automakers and California could both support a deal that provides some near-term flexibility for the industry in exchange for longer-term standards while helping California, and states around the country, meet their climate goals.  However, a draft of these rules obtained by my office earlier this year shows that the Trump Administration is looking to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory instead of working responsibly to achieve consensus.  CEQ can and should help to coordinate a true effort to govern on an environmental issue that does not need to be a polarizing one.

“Another example of a commonsense solution is adopting the recent changes to the Montreal Protocol that phase down HFCs, a substance used to help cool our homes and our food.  Supporting the phase-down of HFCs allows U.S. companies to capture a large portion of the projected $1 trillion global market – which is expected to create 33,000 jobs in less than a decade.  The phase down is also a critical action to address the effects of climate change.  U.S. business leaders have told me that if we walk away from this policy now, we will cede our global leadership to countries like China.  There is a clear win-win opportunity for businesses and the environment here.  This Administration just needs to act and CEQ can help make that happen.

“Our other witness this morning, John Fleming, has been nominated to serve as Assistant Secretary for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) at the Department of Commerce. As many of our colleagues on this Committee know, EDA provides critical infrastructure and economic assistance funding to communities across America; however, the Trump Administration has sought to eliminate EDA and similar economic development programs. In addition, the nominee himself has voted twice as a Member of Congress to eliminate funding for EDA. This is deeply concerning to me and, I suspect, to others on this committee.  I hope that our nominee can shed some light on those previous votes and what those positions mean today.  Further, I hope that he has changed his position and – if confirmed – will protect and advocate for EDA programs and funding that provide much needed assistance to many communities throughout the United States.

“My home state of Delaware has been the beneficiary of some of these funds, and I suspect that the same is true of a number of the states represented on this committee. Delaware enjoys an excellent working relationship with our regional EDA office in Philadelphia. I look forward to working with them, and our nominee, if confirmed, in order to strengthen and improve the EDA.

“Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. I would also like to extend a warm welcome to the families and guests of our witnesses this morning, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.”