Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Chair: John Barrasso

D

Projected Grade for the 116th Congress*

* 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]

1 Investigative Oversight Hearings

20 Policy/Legislative Hearings

47 Total Hearings

Last updated: July 4, 2020, 11:04 a.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 115th Congress (2017-2018), under new Chair John Barrasso (R, Wyo.), the committee held 72 total hearings, greater than the committee’s historic average, and an increase from the 66 it held in the 114th Congress.

The committee’s legislative and policy oversight hearing schedule has varied over the years, from a low of 31 in the 113th Congress (2013-14) to a high of 44 in the 111th (2009-10). In the 115th Congress the committee held 40 policy and legislative hearings, in line with its historic average.

Over the 10-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.


Chairs

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)


Current Congress

We are 82% of the way through the 116th Congress

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

1 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 16% historical maximum
20 Policy/Legislative Hearings; 52% historical maximum
47 Total Hearings; 71% historical maximum

Committee History

Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
Investigative/Oversight Policy/Legislative Total Hearings Score Grade
111th Congress 7 44 76 100% A
112th Congress 3 38 62 75% C
113th Congress 2 31 51 60% D-
114th Congress 5 41 66 86% B
115th Congress 2 40 72 78% C+
116th Congress* 1 20 47 62% D
Historical average 3.3 35.7 62.3

* 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]

Number of Hearings

--- Historical Average

Hearings held by the
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Date Hearing Title Committee Category