May 6, 2020 - Issue: Vol. 166, No. 85 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 2nd Session
AMERICA'S WATER INFRASTRUCTURE ACT OF 2020; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 85
(Senate - May 06, 2020)
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[Pages S2275-S2277] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] AMERICA'S WATER INFRASTRUCTURE ACT OF 2020 Mr. CARPER. I have come today to talk about a couple of bills that the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reported out today unanimously that would vastly improve our Nation's water infrastructure. What does infrastructure include? It includes the pipes that bring us our water or that take our wastewater where it can be treated. Infrastructure includes our dams, includes our harbors, our ports, our waterways--all that and a whole lot more. When we talk about improving our water infrastructure, what we are really talking about is keeping the promises afforded to every American through the Declaration of Independence. Remember those words: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? The legislation that we acted on today--the two bills that will be combined into one later on, on the floor--called the Water Resources Development Act, the underlying message is that our work today directly reflects those words in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Certainly, none of those things--life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness--are possible without access to clean water, whether it is to wash our hands or to drink. We can't have life without clean water to drink. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of that too--just how important it is to have access to clean water to wash our hands and soap to wash our hands. We are reminded daily--I would say almost hourly--to wash our hands with soap and water. It is a simple yet effective way to prevent the spread of this deadly, virulent disease. In our committee today, the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Sullivan from Alaska talked about the Native Americans who live in his State who don't have running water. They don't have a spigot to turn on. They don't even have the ability to flush toilets. For them, the idea that you can actually do those things is just a dream that they could never imagine being realized. The thing is that too many communities across our country do not have access to clean water because of harmful contamination in their groundwater or water supply pipes. Sadly, this public health disparity usually goes hand in hand with economic opportunity. While water is the essence of life, it is also an essential part of our economy. More than 99 percent of the U.S. overseas trade--more than 99 percent of U.S. overseas trade--moves through our waterways. Imagine that. Most people would never imagine that. Our Nation's water infrastructure, our ports, our shipping channels, and other related projects support economic growth, facilitate commerce, sustain jobs, and create new jobs as well. Americans cannot truly pursue happiness without the economic opportunity that comes with having strong water infrastructure, a lot of which we can't see--we have been joined on the floor by the chairman of our committee. There are pipes and wastewater treatment plants and the facilities that clean the water for us; we don't see those. Fortunately, somebody does--somebody builds them, somebody maintains them--in order for us to have that life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Well, today, our committee, led by John Barrasso, Senator from Wyoming--I happen to have the privilege of being the ranking Democrat on that committee--we approved two bills that are going to help us keep those promises laid out in that Declaration of Independence--life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 will help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency make improvements to key water infrastructure systems throughout our country. The programs we passed in our committee today will support the Army Corps of Engineers' operation and maintenance of--listen to this--13,000 miles of commercial, deep-draft ship channels--13,000 miles--and 12,000 miles of commercial inland waterways. I had explained earlier, Mr. Chairman, before you joined, how 99 percent of the cargo that we send to other countries or that comes to us comes by ship. It doesn't come by airplanes; it doesn't come by train. It comes by ships. Those ships don't move without waterways largely maintained by the [[Page S2276]] Army Corps of Engineers. These are little known projects that keep our economy moving. They are essential to our way of life as well. What comes into the Port of Los Angeles today will be on shelves in stores in the Midwest a day or so later. In Delaware, we have a port on the Delaware River. It is called the Port of Wilmington, not far from where my wife and I live. It supports more than 19,000 jobs in our region. For a big State, 19,000 jobs is not much. For Delaware, that is a huge deal. The Port of Wilmington is the United States' top seaport for fresh fruit imports. If you happen to live in the eastern part of the United States and you got up and had cereal this morning with some banana on your cereal, there is a good chance that that banana came through Port Wilmington. The Army Corps is working diligently with our port on an expansion project that will open a channel to a new containment facility just a couple miles north of the current port along the Delaware River. The Army Corps is responsible for dredging and maintaining access to this new channel which, over time, will support more commerce, more jobs for our region--not just for our State, but for our region. For such a small State, if you were to stand and draw a circle around the house where my wife and I live, in about a 10-mile radius, you cover New Jersey, you cover Pennsylvania, you get pretty darn close to Maryland as well. So the impact will be regional. In addition to authorizing necessary Corps projects, the two bills that we reported out of our committee today unanimously included authorizing the Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund for the first time since 1987. We used to be able to provide grant programs to fund water projects in States, to help fund water projects, to help fund wastewater treatment projects in our States, and we changed that when Ronald Reagan was President, and then we have these revolving loan funds. The Federal Government replenishes them every now and then. The States invest the money out of those funds, but we haven't reauthorized the Clean Water Revolving Fund which focuses less on drinking water and more on cleaning water, reducing the effluent it is putting out in our community. So many of our communities rely on these funds to improve their wastewater systems. In the drinking water bill, a corollary, we also authorized more than a half billion dollars to provide critical drinking water infrastructure through the Small and Disadvantaged Communities grant program. I just talked earlier, when I spoke of Senator Dan Sullivan's comments at our hearing today, we talked about Native American communities in his State who don't have flush toilets. In a number of cases, they don't turn on the faucets and the clean water just comes out. There are other communities, not just there, in my State at one time, not long ago, in other States where there are disadvantaged communities, and we have a grant program that we are going to use to help more and more of them--not all of them--and this will help us keep the promise of clean and safe drinking water, maybe not for every American, but more Americans, no matter what their ZIP Code is or what kind of bank account they have. I think of Matthew 25--I don't care what our faith is--Matthew 25 starts out with these words: When I was thirsty, did you give me a drink; when I was hungry, did you feed me? Well, when I was thirsty and I didn't have any clean water to drink, what did you do about it? Well, in this bill, we do something about it, and I am proud of what we have done. As we work to ensure clean water for all, our drinking water bill will continue our work to address what are called ``forever chemicals.'' A forever chemical is a chemical that doesn't degrade, and there is a word that is about a mile long--there are a couple of words that describe it--we call it PFAS. That is the acronym. I am not big on acronyms, but I like this one a lot. There are thousands of ``forever chemicals'' that just don't degrade in our environment. For the most part, they are not dangerous, but a couple of them are really dangerous, and they can lead to thyroid and liver disorders. They can increase the risk of cancer. They can adversely affect people's immune systems. We have a pretty good idea of which ones they are, and we need to do something about it. We sought to do that early this year and late last year, through other legislation. We have an opportunity with the bill that we reported out today to do more good work on addressing these forever chemicals. One of the ways is by developing a clean drinking water standard for two of them that are most concerning: PFOA and PFOS. Between today, reporting the bill out of committee, and the time we come back to the floor to debate it here, we have an opportunity, I hope, to do even more good work in addressing that. Madam President, I know you have a military base in your State. I have been to one or two of them. We have one big military base in our State, the Dover Air Force Base. It is the biggest employer in the central and southern part of our State: 6,000 uniformed and civilian personnel. They have some of the biggest planes in the world, C-5, C- 17. It is a cargo base. It has been recognized many times as the best cargo base in the world, best Air Force base in the world too. About 5, 6, 7 years ago, one of our C-5s took off--they fly around the world--they had a full load of fuel, full load of cargo, and as they took off, the flight engineer noticed that an engine light came on from one of the engines--not a good sign--and the flight engineer turned off--not that engine--turned off another engine, and then he had two engines working and two engines not working. Long story short, the airplane came around and tried to land again where it had just taken off. It crashed a mile short of the runway, and fortunately, nobody was killed. The fire department came rushing out and foamed down the area and helped put out the fire. Nobody died. I am sad to say that, when I was on Active Duty as a naval flight officer at a naval air station one morning, driving into work many years ago, there was a huge fire. One NASA airplane, big plane, landed on top of one of the Navy airplanes. It killed everybody. I think one person survived in the whole crash. Again, folks, firefighters rushed out and tried to save lives with this firefighting foam. The true irony is that the firefighting foam which is used to save lives in air crashes actually, when it rains, it gets washed into the ground and a lot of times ends up in wells and groundwater that people drink and consume, and it creates very serious health results for them. At any rate, between today and the time our bills come to the floor, we hope to make a lot more progress in adjusting those for everyone. While millions of Americans rely on the Army Corps projects to safely navigate our waters, stay safe from flooding and storm damage, and reap the benefits of healthy aquatic ecosystems and marshlands, we know impacts of climate change propose a real threat to public safety and to the durability of our infrastructure. I would like to use the example of Ellicott City, MD--not even 30, 40 miles from here. A couple years ago, within 18 months of each other, they had two 1,000-year floods. What is a 1,000-year flood? It is a flood that is supposed to occur every 1,000 years. We had two of them within 18 months of each other, and we are seeing that kind of extreme weather in places all over the country, and not only does it wreak havoc at our homes and our businesses and our transportation system, but also our drinking water systems. One of the things that we do in our bill is to address that. These two bills expand grants that will help small and medium-sized communities increase the resiliency of their water systems to natural hazards and extreme weather, like what was experienced in Ellicott City and any number of places around our country. Before I yield the floor to my friend and colleague, our chairman, John Barrasso, who is patiently waiting for me to stop talking, I want to thank him again. I already thanked him once, but now that he is here, I want to thank him again. I want to thank him for his leadership and helping us to move this legislation through. We have all heard the saying--I think it was Joe Biden that said it--just because somebody is my adversary or somebody is on the other side of the aisle, they don't have to be my enemy. We are actually--don't let this word get out in Wyoming--I think we could [[Page S2277]] say we are friends and we like to work together. Our staffs, most days, like to work together, hopefully. But I want to thank his staff. I want to thank all the Senators. He and I pleaded with our colleagues from all 50 States to give us their ideas of what should go into this bill, and a bunch of our colleagues--a majority of them--did that. So it is not just something we dreamed up in our committee, but had great input from a whole bunch of our colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, and we were able to put together a bill that passed our committee unanimously. I just want to mention the names of a couple of people on both sides of the aisle, and they include Richard Russell, Brian Clifford, Andy Harding, Lizzie Olsen, Susan Lucas, Craig Thomas, Beth Lange, Christina Rabuse, Matt Leggett, who worked for Senator Barrasso; and on my team, Mary Frances Repko, our staff director, Mark Mendenhall, Annie D'Amato, and John Kane, who works harder than just about any person I have ever had the privilege of working with. Lastly, Senator Barrasso introduced me last year or so to a fellow from Wyoming who had been nominated to be a very senior official at the Commerce Department, and he had been nominated for a position where he would be Assistant Secretary of the Interior to handle, among other things, national parks, national wildlife refuges, fish and wildlife-- big job, important job for all of our States--certainly mine and certainly Wyoming. During his testimony, Rob Wallace testified, I thought, so well, and it is hard not to like the guy. I liked him almost immediately, but he said these words to our committee. He said: Bipartisan solutions are lasting solutions. That is what he said: Bipartisan solutions are lasting solutions. I sat there that day thinking: Boy, he nailed it. I have stolen that line--sometimes, I give him credit for it; sometimes, I don't--but think about that. Bipartisan solutions are lasting solutions. We need the lasting solutions. We especially need them with respect to making sure those words in the Declaration of Independence--life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--aren't just words on a sheet of paper or old words on a piece of parchment, but they are real words today, and we have renewed our commitment to them, and we have done that with the legislation we reported out of our committee. We still have some work to do. Harbor maintenance, we need to try and resolve that--people have strong views, not always in sync with one another--and the legislation on forever chemicals and how do we deal with that in ways that are smart and respect science and enable us to make sure that we better protect people's health. So these bills, in closing, are a win, win, win, for our Nation's economy, for our public health, and for our environment at a time we desperately need it. As we face down the COVID-19 crisis before us, I hope that these two pieces of legislation will serve as a model for how we can continue to work together, which is what I intend to do with our chairman. I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wyoming. Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, before my friend and colleague, Senator Carper from Delaware, leaves the floor, I will tell you what a privilege it is to work with him, and we have worked together as partners on the Environment and Public Works Committee. As you know, every chair works with a ranking member, and I couldn't have a better partner than I have in Tom Carper. He has been magnificent in times, always trying to find a right solution that is a bipartisan solution, and we have done it again today on the Environment and Public Works Committee as we passed two major pieces of water infrastructure legislation. Last year, we passed highway legislation, and he is focused, as am I, on rebuilding for America the highways, the bridges, repairing as well the tunnels, all of the areas--roads, bridges, ports, riverways, reservoirs. I could not find a better partner. You know, it is interesting he mentioned Matthew 25, and if you read Matthew 25, it was Ben Franklin's favorite Bible verse. What Ben Franklin would say is, if someone chose to live their life by one Bible verse, if they chose Matthew 25, he said, the world would be a better place. Tom Carper is one who leads his life every day consistent with the teaching and the readings and the writings of the Gospel of Matthew 25. He mentioned my good friend Rob Wallace from Wyoming, who is now the Assistant Secretary of the Interior overseeing parks, as well as fish and wildlife for the country. Rob always said, as was so quoted by our Ranking Member Carper, that bipartisan solutions are the best solutions. He is somebody who knows. He worked on the Hill. He worked as a staffer for former Senator Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming and then on the Energy Committee when Senator Wallop was so actively involved in those days in the 1980s and '90s. But the other thing that Rob Wallace talked about, to which Senator Carper and I agree as well, is there are lands in this great country that need to be protected and preserved and passed on because, as Rob pointed out that day, he said whether it was John Muir, who carried a stick, whether it was Ansel Adams, who carried a camera, or Teddy Roosevelt, who carried a gun all into these vast areas of our country, they all recognized, no matter what they were carrying, the value that these wonderful lands meant for the people of our country, and we needed to make sure that they were there for generations to come. I know that the work that Senator Carper is doing on this committee is meant for generations to come, and it is a privilege to work with him. ____________________