EPA water nominee commits to ‘enduring solutions’ in confirmation hearing
Radhika Fox, President Biden’s nominee to be the Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant administrator for water, on Wednesday pledged to “listen to all sides in order to find enduring solutions” in a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Fox, who currently serves in the position on an acting basis, told the committee that “most people don’t think about” the policies and programs that go into Americans’ water service, including “the key role of states and tribes in providing these essential water services.”
“It just works, for most Americans but not for all,” she added, invoking the water crisis in Flint, Mich., after its water supply was contaminated.
She went on to argue that the role calls for active engagement with stakeholders, saying “we can’t make policy sitting behind a desk in Washington, D.C. We have to actively engage with all who are impacted by our decisions, whether it’s water utilities, farmers and ranchers, community orgs, environmental groups, states, tribes, local officials and many, many others.”
“Water is the great uniter. It can unite this country; it can help pull us out of the compounding crises that face our nation, whether it’s a global pandemic, economic recession, longstanding racial inequities and climate change,” she added.
Ranking member Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) questioned Fox on her position on the Obama administration’s 2015 Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which significantly broadened the definition of “waters of the United States,” later curtailed under the Trump administration.
Fox responded that “we are in the process of reviewing” the rule, adding that the EPA is “trying to understand, what are the lessons learned from an implementation perspective on both the 2015 rule and the 2020 rule?”
“Administrator [Michael] Regan and I want an enduring definition of waters of the US, one that can withstand administration changes,” she added.
Asked what her priorities would be if confirmed, Fox said they would include “mak[ing] sure the Office of Water is implementing the range of water infrastructure funding and financing programs this committee has taken so much leadership on developing.”
Another priority, Fox said, would be addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other emerging contaminants, noting that Regan has asked her to co-chair an executive council on PFAS.
“That is going to be important as we think about making sure that water is clean for all families,” she said.
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