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Katko Opening Statement in Water Preparedness and Resilience Hearing

September 21, 2022

Katko Opening Statement in Water Preparedness and Resilience Hearing

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, delivered the following statement in a full committee hearing entitled, “Critical Infrastructure Preparedness and Resilience: A Focus on Water.”

Ranking Member Katko’s Opening Statement (as prepared for delivery)

 Mr. Chairman:

Before I begin, I would like to say that I am encouraged to hear that water services have been restored in Jackson, Mississippi. While I realize there is still a lot more work to be done, it is my sincere hope that the situation continues to move in the right direction.

It is my understanding that FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are currently working with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and the City of Jackson to identify longer-term solutions to improve the water infrastructure in Jackson. I hope that this process moves quickly, because access to clean water is critical to the overall health and economic security of a community.

I would also like to express my concern for the ongoing situation in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Fiona has caused catastrophic flooding and island-wide blackouts. This most recent Hurricane comes while Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated the island five years ago.

With this in mind, I want to thank the Chairman for holding this very important hearing on the cyber and physical threats facing our Nation’s critical infrastructure, with a particular focus on water infrastructure.

As we have seen in recent years, America’s aging infrastructure systems are increasingly susceptible to ransomware and cyber attacks. And our water systems are no exception.

In February 2021, a hacker remotely altered the chemicals in a water treatment system in Oldsmar, Florida. If a plant operator hadn’t noticed the attack, it’s estimated that a city of about 15,000 people would have been exposed to poisonous levels of chemicals in their water.

This incident demonstrated first-hand the devasting, real-world consequences that a cyber attack can have. And unfortunately, the attack in Florida was not an anomaly.

For this reason, I introduced the DHS Industrial Control Systems Enhancement Act of 2021. My legislation, which was cosponsored by the Chairman, would solidify the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) lead role in protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure, particularly industrial control systems (ICS), from cyber threats. The Committee’s cyber subcommittee also just held a hearing on ICS cybersecurity, which further exemplifies how Congress is taking this issue seriously.

In addition to being susceptible to cyber attacks, aging water infrastructure also poses a growing threat to economic growth, public health, and our environment.

In Central New York, we are no strangers to the challenges caused by water infrastructure. In the Finger Lakes Region, harmful algal blooms present severe health risks to humans and aquatic life. While sustained high-water levels continues to threaten homes and businesses in communities along Lake Ontario.

That is why, during my time in Congress I have led efforts to modernize our Nation’s water systems and have worked hard to provide safe, clean, and reliable drinking water to all of my constituents.

Most recently, I was proud to introduce the Water Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2021. My legislation would expand on local efforts to develop and deploy smart water technology in Central New York. By making this technology more widespread, we will be taking meaningful steps to improve water quality and bolster the reliability and sustainability of our water systems.

In addition to introducing this legislation, I have also worked with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to ensure robust funding for the primary federal programs that assists state and local governments with water infrastructure needs — the Drinking Water and the Clean Water State Revolving Funds. Since their creation, these programs have provided billions in interest-free loans and grants to state and local governments with water infrastructure needs. For this reason, I was proud to support the recent bipartisan infrastructure bill to bolster these crucial funding streams, and to maintain this advocacy through the congressional appropriations process.

As demand for these programs continues to grow, it is critical that we keep an eye towards federal support for the security of our water infrastructure assets.

In conclusion, the water crisis in Jackson comes at a time when our country is having a serious conversation about the future of our Nation’s critical infrastructure systems.

While the members of this Committee represent a wide range of districts – rural and urban, large, and small – we have all been impacted in some way by the issue of aging infrastructure.

Given this fact, I look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses here today about how to increase infrastructure resiliency across the country.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and with that I yield back.