Opening Statement of Ranking Member Carper: Business Meeting to consider Substitute Amendment to American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a business meeting to consider substitute amendment to S. 4897, American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020, and 8 General Services Administration Resolutions. Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Welcome, everyone, to the last Senate Environment and Public Works Committee business meeting of the 116th Congress. Today marks the end of an era. It is the last EPW business meeting to be led by our friend and colleague, Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming.

“Mr. Chairman, I’m proud of all we’ve accomplished in this committee these past four years by working together. I’ll mention a few. We enacted a comprehensive reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act, and we are on the cusp of doing so again, two years later.

“Last year, we unanimously reporting out of committee the most significant highway funding bill the Senate has ever seen, one with a substantial climate title included in it. In addition, we’ve enacted a slew of wildlife bills that improve conservation efforts, protect habitat and the creatures that God has put on this Earth. And, we reached a consequential bipartisan compromise to enact a nationwide phasedown of HFCs. That’s worth a half degrees Celsius alone in our battle against the climate crisis.

“I would be remiss not to mention one of my favorite moments that we’ve shared together—when a nominee from Wyoming sat before us and testified at his confirmation hearing for Assistant Secretary for Interior. Your friend, Rob Wallace, said these words: ‘Along the way I’ve learned so much, especially that no one ever really wins by winning everything, that bipartisan solutions are always the lasting ones…’

“Mr. Chairman, as my staff knows, these words of wisdom really struck a chord with me and a number of our colleagues, as well. Because that’s something all of us have learned along the way, too—that bipartisan solutions truly are lasting solutions.

“When I reflect on our work together over the last four years, it gives true meaning to these words. Because that’s exactly what we endeavor to do on this committee and more often than not, we do it well. We foster lasting solutions to clean our air and water and combat global warming while creating an environment that fosters economic growth and job creation.

“So thank you, Mr. Chairman, and a special thanks to your staff led by Richard Russell, some of whom I suspect may go with you to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. And, a special thank you for bringing the timeless words into our lives of your friend, Rob Wallace, and into the work of this committee.

“This markup falls on a monumental day for our nation. Today is the 50th anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1970, I was a young naval flight officer preparing to head out on my first of three tours of duty in Southeast Asia. As our nation waged a war abroad, we faced deepening divisions and mounting environmental crises at home.

“Polluters dumped waste into our waterways without consequence, factories released toxic fumes and acid rain fell from the sky. In Cleveland, Ohio, not far from where I went to college at OSU, the Cuyahoga River was so polluted that it caught on fire. In California, an offshore oil rig spilled millions of gallons of oil onto the beaches. Many of us saw it with our own eyes. Smog in major cities around our country was so thick you could almost cut it with a knife.

“In the face of all of that adversity, the American people didn’t just sit around and whine about it. They created a movement. Millions of Americans took to the streets calling for transformative action to protect our planet.

“In response, a Republican president – President Richard Nixon – helped lead the effort to create the Environmental Protection Agency, a new federal agency with the mission of protecting human health and the environment. For 50 years, the EPA has been instrumental in protecting the air we breathe, cleaning up the water that we drink and improving public health.

“As we celebrate the strides made over the last 50 years to clean up our air and improve public health, it’s all so timely that our committee is considering legislation that will help to harness our nation’s potential for nuclear power—by far the largest source of clean, reliable, carbon-free energy in our country—and make it safer still.

“Today, we are considering the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020, co-authored by our chair and by Senators Booker and Whitehouse to support advanced nuclear technologies. During our committee hearing on this legislation in August, I shared some of my reservations about the bill, specifically its proposed changes to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s permitting process.

“Some of you may recall that we had recently enacted the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, or NEIMA, which made several necessary changes to the NRC’s regulatory structure for advanced nuclear technologies. I feared that any additional and unwarranted changes to that structure could seriously disrupt the regulatory process, jeopardizing safety. I also expressed my concerns that creating a new but unfunded incentive program for the existing nuclear industry at EPA would risk asking the agency to do more with far fewer resources.

“Given the budget restraints placed on the NRC through NEIMA, it was important to me that this new legislation would not further strain the NRC in a way that jeopardizes safety and public health.

“For six months, my staff has been working with Chairman Barrasso’s staff to address those concerns. Today, I am happy to say that our substitute amendment resolves them. I thank Chairman Barrasso and his staff for working with my staff. Supporting nuclear energy and advanced nuclear technologies is a high priority for me, so I am grateful for the chairman’s willingness to help us ‘get to yes’ on this legislation.

“Today, we are also moving eight General Services Administration prospectus resolutions, including one for a Veterans Administration building in Hawaii. Several of us on this committee, including Senators Ernst and Sullivan, have also served our country in uniform, and I know we take a special pleasure in moving that GSA resolution out of our committee today.

“Let me conclude my remarks this morning by briefly sharing with our colleagues the passage of S. 4684 during wrap-up last evening. Introduced by Senator Mike Enzi and me, it calls for the naming of the Post Office building in Thermopolis, Wyoming after its former Postmaster, Robert Brown, the late father of Bobbi Barrasso, our chairman’s wife.

“Robert Brown didn’t just serve in the Army. He served with courage and distinction in combat in both World War II and the Korean War. Among his many military awards was the Bronze Star. He passed away earlier this year at the age of 94. Several months before his death, Mr. Brown was driven to a treatment facility in Montana hundreds of miles away and later that day, driven back home to Wyoming. His driver for that memorable road trip was his son-in-law, our chairman John Barrasso, a man of many skills: surgeon, talk show host, driver, and chairman of this committee that all of us revere.

“So, my friend, as you weigh anchor this year and set sail for your next assignment on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, we all wish you fair winds and a followings sea.

“God bless you, Mr. Chairman.”