Chair: Tom Carper
Grade for the 117th Congress
0 Investigative Oversight Hearings
28 Policy/Legislative Hearings
62 Total HearingsLast updated: March 26, 2023, 2:30 p.m.
The committee has broad responsibilities for environmental and anti-pollution laws, as well as transportation infrastructure, including most prominently highways, but also waterways, dams, ports and harbors. The primary agencies under its jurisdiction are the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. These conflicting mandates—massive construction and environmental protection—tend to attract members with sharply differing political views. It has four subcommittees: Transportation and Infrastructure; Clean Air and Nuclear Safety; Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight; and Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife.
Over the years, the committee has maintained a steady hearings schedule, about average for Senate committees without large nomination responsibilities. In the 116th Congress (2019-2020), under Chair John Barrasso (R, Wyo.), the committee held 56 total hearings, lower than the committee’s historic average, and a drop from the 72 it held in the 115th Congress (2017-18).
The committee’s legislative and policy oversight hearing schedule was lower in the 116th Congress than any previous Congress studied, holding only 22 hearings in 2019 and 2020. The committee average for previous Congresses was 38 policy and legislative hearings per Congress, peaking at 44 hearings in the 111th (2009-10).
Over the 12-year period, the Committee held more investigative oversight hearings than the average Senate committee. Investigative oversight activity was highest in the first Congress after the White House shifted from Republican to Democrat in 2009. Under chair Sen. Barbara Boxer (D, Cal.) the committee held seven investigative oversight hearings in the 111th Congress (2009-10). Investigative activity bumped up again when committee leadership shifted in 2015 from Sen. Boxer, an ardent environmentalist, to Sen. James Inhofe (R, Okla.), one of the Senate’s leading climate deniers. Upon taking the gavel, Sen. Inhofe promptly launched a series of investigative hearings into management and regulatory issues at the Obama administration’s EPA.
In the 115th Congress, with President Trump in the White House and under chair Barrasso, the committee held just two investigative oversight hearings. Sen. Barrasso used investigative oversight to challenge the Obama-era EPA’s controversial Clean Water Rule, also known as the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule. Later that year, the committee held a bipartisan oversight hearing on the Trump administration’s abrupt decision to pull the plug on the six-year quest to locate and build a new FBI headquarters in the D.C. suburbs. Senators of both parties decried the wasted taxpayer money and the continued lack of a secure, modern facility for the FBI. Chair Barrasso did not hold any investigative oversight hearings in the 116th Congress.
111th Congress: Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
112th Congress: Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
113th Congress: Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
114th Congress: James Inhofe (R-OK)
115th Congress: John Barrasso (R-WY)
116th Congress: John Barrasso (R-WY)
117th Congress: Tom Carper (D-DE)
We are 100% of the way through the 117th Congress
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works0 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 0% historical maximum
Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]