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April 28, 2021

Inhofe Speaks on Senate Floor in Support of Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, senior member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, spoke on the Senate floor yesterday on surface transportation, the American Jobs Plan and the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021. 

As Prepared for Delivery:

This week we have a real opportunity before us – to pass the bipartisan Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021.

If you only listen to the national media, you’d think Congress can’t come together to get much done – but this bill is a real example of how that isn’t always the case. The reason is simple: everyone agrees that we need clean, safe drinking water and to support state and local projects to protect water quality.

There are tangible benefits for communities too – just consider what this bill will do for my state of Oklahoma:

First, it will increase the federal funding for local projects by over $315 million in the next five years – an increase of 123 percent. More than that, States retain the control to direct funds to projects they have identified. Projects to modernize waste water treatment plants in Oklahoma City and Lawton, build a new water treatment pump station in Stillwater, and to build an indirect potable water reuse project in Bartlesville.

It will also provide needed resources to help Oklahoma achieve its Comprehensive Water Plan – meeting its goal of using no more fresh water in 2060 than was used in 2010. I am proud to cosponsor this bill because it not only recognizes that urban and rural communities have different water infrastructure needs – but it also provides specific benefits to rural states like Oklahoma.

A month ago, the Water Quality Division Director of the Oklahoma DEQ, Shellie Chard, testified before the EPW Committee to highlight the challenges facing rural water systems, and the innovative solutions rural States and communities are employing to ensure safe and affordable drinking water. She highlighted the need for assistance to small, rural states in complying with government regulations—and this bill does that by giving small and rural states priority access to federal funding and assistance in complying with government regulations that are often more burdensome and overbearing for them.

This bill also empowers rural communities to work with technical experts at non-profit entities and state agencies to implement best practices and more efficiently comply with federal regulations.

When a small town like Meridian, Oklahoma needs help addressing harmful contaminants in their water system, local rural water organizations can provide consistent help and expertise. Dedicating resources to help our rural communities will ensure they spend more of their time and money on community projects—not navigating a bureaucracy.

More than just taking care of our water infrastructure today, this bill has an eye to the future by reauthorizing the Water Resources Research Act.

The Water Resources Research Act supports cutting edge water research at universities across the country, including Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. OSU will receive research funding over the next four years to study waste water reuse, produced water from oil and gas operations and more.

The bill also more than doubles the funding for the Enhanced Aquifer Recharge Research Program. This program does essential work to refill groundwater aquifers, especially in areas with water shortages, to sustain a reliable municipal water supply. 

I thank my colleagues, Senator Carper and Senator Capito, for working together to move this bill through the normal committee process and bring it to the floor—this is what bipartisanship and regular order looks like. I look forward to this bill being passed and enacted into law quickly – but it’s important that this not be the end of our bipartisan infrastructure work.

We also need to reauthorize a new surface transportation plan before October 1st.

I know that it can be done—because I did it—twice— with Senator Barbara Boxer: MAP-21 in 2012 and the FAST Act in 2015, We were successful because we focused on actual infrastructure: roads, highways, bridges, waterways and the like. Senator Capito rolled out a meaningful infrastructure plan just last week. It is bold and focused on what our country actually needs.

While President Biden and the Biden Administration recognize the Republican plan as a starting point, sadly, Senate Democrats dismissed it outright—without even waiting to read it. Why? Because the extreme Left wants to hijack the popularity of infrastructure to pass their Green New Deal agenda.

They want to pass President Biden’s $2 trillion plan that is nothing more than a liberal wish list. Since when has paid leave, caregiving, expanding Medicaid, community colleges or child care been considered infrastructure? The reality of the Biden plan is that true infrastructure—just five percent of the bill’s total spending—takes a back seat to the wishful climate agenda.

The proof is in the numbers. The Biden Plan would spend more on electric vehicle charging ports and subsidies for electric cars than it does on roads, bridges, and airports combined. If this sounds familiar to you…that’s because it is. Remember then-President Obama’s American “Recovery” Plan that was supposed to be a massive investment in infrastructure with “shovel ready jobs?” Less than five percent of that bill went to infrastructure – the rest of the $800 billion went to finance the Obama climate agenda. I guess history really does repeat itself. Worse, it trades responsible pay-for methods with a tax and spend approach.

A lot of people here may be too young to remember this, but I remember when the biggest problem we had with the Highway Trust Fund is that we had too much surplus. But one of the unique things about our highway system is the user-pays-user-benefits model. At a recent EPW hearing, every single witness was in agreement that users who benefit should pay into the system. They all agreed that electric vehicles should be paying their fair-share to maintain and improve our infrastructure.

But instead, the Biden plan takes a tax and spend approach – increasing the deficit and raising our corporate tax rate, undoing the historic tax cuts we achieved under President Trump. People hear that and they don’t fully appreciate what that means. They think the corporate tax rate won’t affect them – but the people hurt the most by a higher corporate rate tend to be the most vulnerable workers. That’s because higher taxes on job creators not only hurts American competitiveness around the world, but it means lower wages, lower GDP growth and fewer jobs to go around.

In fact, the nonpartisan CBO found that 70 percent of the savings businesses got when we lowered the corporate tax rate in the Trump tax cuts went straight to worker wages. And the Biden plan would undo that! A study done by Rice University found that raising the corporate tax rate back to 28 percent like the Biden plan does will actually kill a million jobs in just two years.

Before the pandemic, the economy was growing fast – thanks in large part to historic tax cuts and regulatory reforms that drove record job growth, the lowest poverty rate on record, and billions in new domestic investment. And now, 12 months into the pandemic, as many states are just now allowing businesses to reopen the Administration is looking to raise taxes on the job creators who can get our economy back on track.

The White House said it was serious about infrastructure investment and I’m committed to working with the President and my colleagues in the Senate to do this right. It can be done this year, just as it has many times in the past, but it needs to be real infrastructure. Not a big-spending liberal climate bill.

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