Review of Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request: Agency Perspectives (Part I)
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.
Opening remarks, as prepared, from Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer (R-NC) from today’s hearing, entitled “Review of Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request: Agency Perspectives (Part I)”:
Today’s hearing is part one of two in a series of hearings this Subcommittee will hold on the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal. We will hear from the rest of the agencies under this Subcommittee’s jurisdiction in part two, but I am glad to see that today we have before us the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.
Let’s start with the Army Corps of Engineers. I appreciate that we have both Major General Graham here today from the Corps itself and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Mr. Connor, from the political leadership here as well.
I’d like to start by bringing attention to an issue that is incredibly important to my constituents in North Carolina and communities across the country: the definition of “waters of the United States” or “WOTUS.” The Corps plays a major role in enforcing the Clean Water Act Section 404 “dredge and fill” permitting program over waters that are considered WOTUS.
The WOTUS question has been debated for decades in court and through varying Presidential Administrations. But the definition of WOTUS and its implementation is more than simply a few words that lawyers and bureaucrats can make a career out of. It is an issue regulated communities deal with daily, including farmers, ranchers, homebuilders, private property owners, and infrastructure developers.
I was heartened to see the Supreme Court deliver a clear, seemingly easily implementable decision over the definition of WOTUS in Sackett v. EPA last month. This ruling enables the Administration to kickstart project completion and eliminate regulatory red tape while maintaining crucial environmental protections. Now that the Supreme Court has clarified what the intended scope of the Clean Water Act has been from the beginning – once and for all getting rid of the “significant nexus” test – regulated communities will finally have some clarity under the law.
Now it is up to EPA and the Corps to quickly bring the Biden Administration’s flawed and legally outdated WOTUS policy into compliance with the Sackett decision and provide implementation guidance consistent with its direction. Regulated communities deserve the clarity that came in Sackett to be implemented in Corps districts across the country, so that important projects can be permitted to move forward. I look forward to the Corps putting its resources towards ensuring compliance with Sackett, rather than trying to find a way around its requirements.
On another note, Major General Graham and Assistant Secretary Connor, you both know how important the Corps’ projects are around the country, and my district—the seventh district of North Carolina—is no different.
The beaches in my district rely on regular Army Corps maintenance to protect life, property, and our critical tourism economy. I am pleased the Corps has provided an emergency use exemption of the Masonboro Inlet as the Wrightsville Beach Borrow Site for the upcoming renourishment project, which is a year delayed, as you know. Without speedy nourishment, Wrightsville Beach could suffer catastrophic disaster and losses in the event of a natural disaster. I also look forward to the approval of 10 million dollars in emergency funding for the project under the Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies account. And I appreciate all the great work you all are doing on that front.
The President’s budget proposal and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) would provide the Corps with robust funding, especially for flood control and beach nourishment maintenance activities. I hope the Corps will use the funds provided by both IIJA and regular appropriations efficiently for important projects.
Moving on from the Army Corps, we also have folks here from two other important entities: the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (GLS).
TVA has not taken any federal funds since 1999, which certainly is a rarity amongst entities created by Congress. I look forward to hearing more about TVA’s “all of the above energy approach,” utilizing a diverse portfolio of energy sources, including solar, natural gas, and nuclear, all while providing relatively stable rates and reliable power to its consumers.
I would also like to offer TVA a special congratulations on this year being its 90th anniversary.
Finally, congratulations to Mr. Tindall-Schlicht on his appointment as Administrator of GLS. GLS plays an important role in ensuring crucial routes from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean remain open via the St. Lawrence Seaway. At a time when we understand the need to strive for economic prosperity in the face of global competitors like China, the GLS provides important services to the flow of minerals, steel, and other critical goods.