WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, participated in a full committee hearing on the CHIPS and Science Act implementation and oversight with U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and National Science Foundation Director, Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan.
During her questioning, Senator Capito pressed Secretary Raimondo for answers regarding hurdles in the CHIPS and Science Act implementation due to the burdensome National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which applies to large scale construction projects, and asked for clarity regarding Tech Hub requirements to benefit small and rural communities.
NEPA HURDLES: “Your agency, the Department of Commerce, has run into an unexpected hurdle in implementing CHIPS and that being the NEPA process. Well, I’m on the [Environment and Public Works] Committee, I’m the Ranking Member, and this is an issue. Doesn’t matter if it’s chip manufacturing, broadband development, transmission, energy exploration, everything is being held up by the NEPA process, the permitting process, and often the ensuing litigation delays that come forward.”
ON NEPA EXEMPTIONS MADE FOR SEMICONDUCTOR MANUFACTURING: “How does this administration, with you as their representative, actually square exempting one industry over another when it’s holding up progress of all of it – national security, energy security, communication, everything? Why would that be a good idea? How can this administration think that’s a good idea?”
ADMINISTRATION DISCONNECT: “I would say to you, energy security is just as important as chip security. I would say transmission in this country is just as important as something that does that manufactures chips. And then, if you’re going to manufacture the chips, you’ve got to mine them and recover them. That means you have to permit the mine. If you look at arsenic, which is used in chips, 97% of that is from China. If you look at cobalt, 70% of that is from China. Rare earth elements, 60% of that is from China, 10% from the United States. Titanium, 86% from Japan. Noble gases are from Russia and Ukraine, but we have these resources in this country, but we can’t get these mines to permit. So, how are you going to go from permitting the [Facilitating American-Built Semiconductors] when you can’t get the materials permitted? There’s a disconnect here.”
EXEMPTION IRONY: “I just think it’s rather ironic that an administration would actually make an exception for something they consider a marquee plan for them, albeit the best interest of the country, when there’s these other things that I think, politically, are more difficult to touch. That they wouldn’t look for the streamlining of permitting, which should be fair and even across the board, without giving up any environmental controls. I sit on the committee that does this, I’ve been very strong on air and water all the way through, but there’s a better way to do it.”
RURAL TECH HUB EQUITY: “I do, obviously, have my West Virginia Tech Hub application in and we’re all putting our foot on the scale for our own projects. I understand the program requires one-third of Tech Hub grants and designations must significantly benefit small and rural communities. So, that means one out of three Tech Hubs designations under Phase Two would be awarded to rural communities? Is that a safe statement?”