Tuberville Leads Hearing on Natural Disaster Infrastructure in Rural Communities

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Ranking Member of the AG Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, led a hearing on the necessity for strong infrastructure to safeguard our rural areas from natural disasters and examine how the federal government can better support rural communities with disaster response, recovery, and resiliency.  Senator Tuberville questioned two Alabama natives—Wiregrass Electric Cooperative CEO Brad Kimbro and Alabama Rural Water Association President Mark Bohlin—on the significance of apprenticeship programs for workforce development, cybersecurity, access to disaster assistance for rural communities, and ensuring a diverse portfolio of energy resources for utilities, including fossil fuels.  

Excerpts from Senator Tuberville’s remarks can be found below or on YouTube or Rumble


“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for having this [hearing].  This is well needed.

And thanks to the witnesses for being here. […]

You know, today’s discussion [is] on a very important issue for my constituents in Alabama. We’re on the Gulf and we’re obviously in the tornado fly-away, as we call it, down south.

And we live in a in a very vulnerable area of need a lot of times. You know, the state of rural infrastructure during national disasters, a lot of times is lacking, and we all know that. I still have farmers that are still struggling from a hurricane that we had five, six years ago. That have not gotten the need that they’re supposed to have.

So, communities never expect to have this happen to them. When [a] tornado, hurricane, or flood unexpectedly strikes, they quickly have to figure out what to do and how to rebuild. [Communities] usually [have to rebuild] on their own, [with a] little bit from the county, city, state, usually the last one to show up is federal, and that needs to change.

So, this is a topic all my colleagues should be able to agree on because it’s not partisan. Access to affordable electric, water, and wastewater infrastructure is essential for survival in any place in the country now. Because there seems to be more and more whether it’s fires, whether it’s floods, whether it’s tornadoes. Of course, we all know we have hurricanes. Disaster resiliency, community safety, and rapid recovery are critical to all Americans impacted by natural disasters. But this is especially in the rural areas.

Rural areas are usually the last one to get any relief. Just this week, Hurricane Beryl has wrecked havoc across Texas and brought high winds [and] torrential rain to Arkansas, Missouri, and the Midwest.

Alabama, my state, is all too familiar with natural disasters due to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, making the state more prone to tropical storms, hurricanes, and extreme weather. Over the past few years, Alabama has suffered through its fair share of natural disasters such as Hurricane Michael, Ivan, Sally, and numerous tornadoes. Storms like these highlight the significant need to prioritize investments in rebuilding and hardening critical infrastructure that provide water [and] electricity, especially in the rural communities.

Our rural communities often struggle, they often struggle, to compete for federal grants to help recovery efforts from natural disasters due to lack of full-time grant riders, attorneys, and experts who are able to identify available relief resources.

Unfortunately, they are oftentimes ill-equipped to navigate the maze of bureaucracy and complex application process. On top of that, I routinely hear about workforce challenges, in my state of Alabama and across the nation.

Our rural areas struggle, really struggle, to recruit and maintain qualified technical assistant experts, certified operators and technicians placing them at a competitive disadvantage compared to their urban counterparts. Many certified water and electrical operators across the country are aging towards retirement without enough qualified applicants to backfill their positions.

So, considering the numerous challenges already faced in rural areas, the last thing we need is more burdensome government red tape, which seems to be more and more every year. As policy makers, we need to ensure applying entities shouldn’t have to wait an average of seven years to navigate the federal permitting process of jumping through various environmental and climate hoops. States and local entities must, they must, have the flexibility to implement funding as they see fit. 

Just as each community is unique, so are natural disasters. Which is why states and local entities must have the flexibility to implement funding as they see fit. One size fits all approach doesn’t work. We found that out. What works in one town or state may not work in another.

We need to get the government out of the way and reduce regulations to make it easier for our rural communities to stand on their own. So, I look forward to today’s witnesses and hearing their experiences and trying to find some solutions for the future for people that live in rural areas. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”



TUBERVILLE: “Mr. Bohlin, workforce, is gonna play a large role in the next few years [and] decades, especially in our rural areas. Now my understanding is you have an apprenticeship program in your water area. Could you tell us a little bit about that?”

BOHLIN: “Thank you for the question, Senator.

As you mentioned, we are members of [an] apprenticeship program that’s provided through Alabama Rural Water that they have put together with the Labor Department.


We’ve found out by partnering with the Alabama Rural Water Association and the apprenticeship program, that they can provide an avenue that we can get our employees classroom time to get the education that they need in order to pass the certification, state certification, so that they can become licensed to operators. It’s also hands on, work under a mentor type program. And I’m proud to say that right now, we’ve got one employee that is in the apprenticeship program. He is fixing to finish it. He’s already acquired his Alabama State Certification. And we’ve got another employee we’re fixing to put in there.

And I’d also like to mention that the employee that we have in the apprenticeship program right now that’s finishing up, will be the first graduate in the State of Alabama in the apprenticeship program. So, I feel that it’s very important, Senator, that we look out for young people and try to bring them into the field and get them involved and that we have ways to get them educated. And also give them the tools that they need so that they can go out and make the taps, put in the services.”



TUBERVILLE“You know, most people don’t know where you where your region is in your part of Alabama. You’re not actually on the Gulf [of Mexico], but you do see quite a bit of devastation from tornadoes to hurricanes as we saw a few years ago.


TUBERVILLE“And you have huge problems with electric and water anytime that we have this devastation. Speak to the importance of being able to utilize all energy sources, like natural gas. Tell me about your experiences with that.”

KIMBRO“Yes, sir. 

Well, as CEO of Wiregrass Electric Cooperative, I’ve learned about reliability and affordability. They’re both important. We would like to see an all [of the above] approach, where one size doesn’t fit all. We certainly depend on a lot of generation resources, and we need that capacity. Certainly, after these storms, […] the reliability is very, very critical and having access to that affordability and reliability is critically important as we move forward in this country.”

Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.