WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) questioned witnesses at the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation hearing entitled: Connecting America: Improving Access to Infrastructure for Communities Across the Country.
Witnesses included Dennis Daugaard, governor of South Dakota; Philip Levine, mayor of Miami Beach; Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation; Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA, the Rural Broadband Association.
During his questioning, Inhofe highlighted the need for permitting reforms, suggesting that reforms to the Endangered Species Act would streamline transportation project delivery. “In Oklahoma we have the American Burying Beetle, which has caused substantial delays in building roads and bridges in spite of the numerous conservation efforts by impacted stakeholders,” Inhofe said. Under the Endangered Species Act, “it’s easy to list but very difficult to delist.”
Braceras expressed similar concerns, “In the 43 years since the Endangered Species Act was enacted, there have been over 1600 species that have been listed but on 47 have been delisted,” Braceras said. “Congress can really work to ensure that states are more actively listened to and can be involved. We have a good working relationship with our U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but we don’t think they completely understand that we care as much or more so about our environment in Utah.”
Braceras also expressed concerns about overregulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “I like to remind [EPA] that it’s job is to administer the law, not to save the planet from us,” Braceras said, expressing frustration that the EPA often failed to take into consideration geographic and atmospheric factors when regulating the implementation of new infrastructure projects. “This is a sore point for Utah, we have some geography that creates a challenge for air quality. Most of our population lives in a basin so our geography creates a challenge where we are not in conformity on an air quality issue. We would like for those types of factors to be taken into account when they make these determinations.”