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Chairwoman Napolitano’s Statement at Hearing on the Trump Administration’s Actions Under the Clean Water Act

September 18, 2019
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, DC)  House Transportation and Infrastructure Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairwoman Grace F. Napolitano (D-El Monte) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing titled: “The Administration’s Priorities and Policy Initiatives Under the Clean Water Act:”

Today’s hearing has been a long time in coming.

This is our first opportunity in three years to question this administration on its vision of the Clean Water Act – and whether this vision is consistent with the law and in line with the wishes of the American people.

We have much to discuss.

In the past three years, this administration has taken unprecedented steps to critically weaken our Clean Water Act – one of our nation’s most important environmental laws for protecting our health and the health of our environment.

In just three short years, this EPA has repealed efforts to restore long-standing protections for the rivers, streams, and wetlands that provide drinking water to over 117 million Americans.

In just three years, this EPA has proposed to eliminate Reagan-era protections on an estimated 50 million acres of wetlands and over 2 million miles of rivers and streams – more than half of the remaining wetlands and stream miles in this entire country. 

In just three years, this EPA has brought Clean Water Act enforcement to a standstill, imposing political influences on decisions when (or if) to enforce the law and relying on unproven and unquantifiable so-called “compliance initiatives” to make it sound like the agency is doing something.

In just three years, this EPA has attached the foundational underpinnings of the 1972 Clean Water Act, including the long-standing Federal-State partnership in co-administering the law, the backstop EPA veto authority which ensures that projects with “unacceptable impacts” to the environment cannot move forward, and the authority to prevent pollution from existing point sources.

Finally, in just three short years, this administration has actively tried to eviscerate, undermine, and silence the scientific and technical expertise and effectiveness of this agency – clearly demonstrating this administration’s fear of science, and its view that a weakened, underfunded, and understaffed agency is a “compliant” agency.  

As noted in recent testimony by the former Republican EPA Administrator, Christie Todd Whitman:
“Today, as never before, the mission of EPA is being seriously undermined by the very people who have been entrusted with carrying that mission out … The Trump administration has explicitly sought to reorient the EPA towards industrial and industry-friendly interests, often with little or no acknowledgement of the agency’s health and environmental missions.”

Administrator Ross, I am glad you accepted our invitation to testify here this morning and appreciate your being here.  

However, as you can surmise, Members on both sides of the aisle are frustrated by the seeming disconnect between your actions and the missions of EPA.  

I can only imagine that polluters love what you are doing.  

However, when 63 percent of the Americans tell us they are a great deal worried about pollution in their drinking water, when 57 percent of American worry a great deal about pollution in their rivers, lakes and reservoirs, and when hard working Americans and communities of color say they are more concerned about water pollution than any time in recent history – something is clearly wrong.

That is your job today – to answer to this Subcommittee and the American people why you think a weakened Clean Water Act is in the best interests of the hard-working American families.

And, please, don’t fall back to the tired, false choice of economy versus the environment.  I can easily point you to both the Clinton and Obama administration’s where the economy was strong, as was our Clean Water Act protections.

I wish you luck.

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