After Four Weeks of Infrastructure-Related Hearings Heavy on Deregulation, Grijalva Asks Where GOP Infrastructure Plan is Hiding
Washington, D.C. – Following a month’s worth of Natural Resources Committee hearings in which Republicans and their invited witnesses argued falsely that major environmental deregulation is the only way to improve our nation’s infrastructure, Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today asked where the Republican infrastructure plan is hiding and why the GOP is using infrastructure as the latest cover story for its unchanging pro-polluter agenda.
Throughout the month, Republican lawmakers and their hearing witnesses attacked the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and other environmental laws and refused to discuss any new public funding for infrastructure – or even acknowledge shortfalls in current funding levels. April hearings included “Modernizing Western Water and Power Infrastructure in the 21st Century (link),” “Improving and Expanding Infrastructure in Tribal and Insular Communities (link),” “Identifying Innovative Infrastructure Ideas for the National Park Service and Forest Service (link),” “The Importance of Domestically Sourced Raw Materials for Infrastructure Projects (link)” and – most tellingly – “ESA Consultation Impediments to Economic and Infrastructure Development (link).”
A January 2017 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) found that the nation faces “an $836 billion backlog of highway and bridge capital needs.” No amount of environmentally destructive deregulation can make up that shortfall, Grijalva pointed out today – and the need to invest is growing every year Congress delays. As ASCE found:
More than two out of every five miles of America’s urban interstates are congested and traffic delays cost the country $160 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2014. One out of every five miles of highway pavement is in poor condition and our roads have a significant and increasing backlog of rehabilitation needs. After years of decline, traffic fatalities increased by 7 percent from 2014 to 2015, with 35,092 people dying on America’s roads.
Despite heated Republican rhetoric, it is unclear how weakening the ESA, the National Environmental Policy Act or other environmental laws would fund the repair of those roads or the many bridges, dams, water systems and other infrastructure sites in need of attention across the country.
“If this promise to work on infrastructure is anything more than an excuse to wipe out the Endangered Species Act and other bedrock environmental laws, we need to see an actual bill,” Grijalva said today. “So far Republicans haven’t offered any infrastructure ideas – they’ve offered the same old environment-bashing and snake oil sales pitch we’ve seen for decades. Even the coal industry acknowledges that President Trump’s deregulation miracle cures have no credibility. It’s time to talk about investing real money into actual projects and end this unpopular deregulatory charade.”
Rather than address the clear need for funding, Republican witnesses focused on deregulation throughout the month. Representative testimony includes:
- “Federal regulations like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), though well intentioned, often serve more to complicate project development, delay project construction and increase project costs than they do to safeguard environmental resources.” – Gordon Cruickshank, Commissioner Chairman, Valley County, Idaho (on behalf of the National Association of Counties). Identifying Innovative Infrastructure Ideas for the National Park Service and Forest Service
- “The Endangered Species Act is known as the ‘pit bull’ of environmental law. For good reason. As many economic-development and infrastructure project proponents have learned the hard way, once the Endangered Species Act sinks its teeth into you, it does not let go easily.” – Jonathan Wood, Pacific Legal Foundation. ESA Consultation Impediments to Economic and Infrastructure Development
- “In our industry, environmental activists have seized on the Endangered Species Act and an Orwellian interpretation of what constitutes Waters of the United States to stop new facilities or expansion of existing facilities. These Acts, in part, may be necessary, but their application has been expanded far beyond what Congress intended and they have simply become a tool to let courts, not agencies or state governments, decide what projects are approved. The burden and fear of these suits means that environmental activists now employ the sue-and-settle model, often settling their suit against one project for money that they can then use to fight the next project.” – C. Howard Nye, CEO, Martin Marietta (on behalf of National Sand, Stone and Gravel Association). The Importance of Domestically Sourced Raw Materials for Infrastructure Projects
– Note that the “sue and settle” argument was recently directly refuted by the Government Accountability Office
- “Associated Equipment Distributors commends Congress and the president for utilizing the Congressional Review Act to rescind the Department of Interior’s duplicative and unnecessary ‘stream protection’ rule. [. . .] If the federal government abstains from overregulation, the mining sector will create more jobs, drive our economy, improve the financial health of our country, rebuild our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure and help the United States become energy independent.” – Michael Brennan, Bramco Inc. (On behalf of Associated Equipment Distributors). The Importance of Domestically Sourced Raw Materials for Infrastructure Projects
- “The federal regulatory regime that impacts the development, distribution and management of the nation’s water resources is outdated and is difficult to apply to current on-the-ground realities. These regulations, while well intended, are often overly burdensome with little environmental or economic benefit.” – Andrew Colosimo, Government and Corporate Affairs Manager, Colorado Springs Utilities. Modernizing Western Water and Power Infrastructure in the 21st Century
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