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WASHINGTON – At a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee confirmation hearing today, U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) questioned Michael Connor, who would oversee the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) if confirmed as Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), about North Dakota’s water and energy priorities. The senator began by speaking with him about the Water Supply Rule, a previous proposal which was withdrawn by the Trump Administration after Senator Cramer led a bipartisan effort to oppose it. 

“At the end of the Obama Administration, the Corps proposed what became known as the Water Supply Rule, which Republican and Democratic western states adamantly – and when I say adamantly I mean unanimously — opposed. I mean, it’s not often that Oregon and North Dakota are on the exact same page,” said Senator Cramer. “When it comes to messing with states’ water rights, we in the west get pretty serious and pretty united. Thankfully, the rule was formally withdrawn under the Trump Administration after this bipartisan blowback. … Do you believe the Corps was right to withdraw the rule, and if so, can you commit it will not be proposed again?”

“I am very sensitive to the concerns that you just raised, given the opposition. There can’t be progress moving forward with something that’s been rejected previously. You have my commitment to look into that issue and make sure we work on something productive together,” replied Mr. Connor. “My overall objective is ensuring [USACE] facilities have the maximum multiple beneficial purposes. I’m happy to work with you on your approach.”

Senator Cramer then pivoted to questioning Mr. Connor about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and urging him to keep politics out of the USACE’s decision-making process moving forward. As the legality of DAPL’s operations were being litigated in court recently, Senator Cramer applauded the USACE and the court’s decisions to keep the pipeline operating, as it has safely for four years, while an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is being performed. Their exchange comes amid continued pressure from far-left advocacy groups who want the Biden Administration to shut down the pipeline.

“While the pipeline continues to function safely … a judge here in [Washington, D.C.] ordered the Environmental Assessment to be replaced with an EIS,” said Senator Cramer. “Do I have your commitment that you’ll do everything you can to keep politics out of the EIS process?”

“Senator Cramer, yes, we need to move forward consistent with the law and the very clear direction that the court has given with the EIS to do a thorough analysis addressing the deficiencies that the court found,” replied Mr. Connor. “That’s going to be the process. It is not going to be a political one.”