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Public Statements

Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DUNCAN of Tennessee. I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Chairman, H.R. 4348 extends the surface transportation programs through September 30, 2012, at funding levels consistent with the fiscal year 2012 transportation appropriations bill, which we passed in November. Under the current extension, the highway, transit, and highway safety programs are set to expire on June 30. This legislation will allow these programs to continue through the fiscal year and to provide predictability during the summer construction season.

This bill also includes provisions related to the approval of the Keystone pipeline. With the rising gas prices and uncertainty in the Middle East, it is vital that we complete construction of this crucial pipeline in order to help secure our Nation's energy resources. If we don't do this, Mr. Chairman, all we will be doing is helping foreign energy producers.

I had originally hoped that the House would be able to move H.R. 7, the 5-year surface transportation reauthorization bill that was passed by our committee in February. Unfortunately, we were not able to bring H.R. 7 to the House floor at this time. Instead, we will use this bill as a vehicle to conference with the Senate-passed surface transportation reauthorization bill.

There were three amendments that were made in order by the Rules Committee, and I would like to express my support for all three. Mr. Boustany's amendment would require that we spend the revenue we are collecting for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund on Army Corps of Engineers projects, as opposed to using this revenue to offset spending elsewhere in the Federal budget. This is a commonsense solution to help upgrade our Nation's ports and maintain our global economic competitiveness. Just this morning, we held a hearing on the importance to our entire economy of our inland waterway system, and Mr. Boustany's amendment will certainly help in that regard.

Mr. Ribble's amendment is based on the environmental streamlining provisions that were included in H.R. 7. This amendment would eliminate duplication by providing a single system to review decisions. It reduces bureaucratic delay by requiring concurrent, instead of consecutive, project reviews and setting deadlines for the completion of environmental reviews. These changes could cut the delivery process in half and could save taxpayers many, many billions over the next several years.

The last two studies by the Federal Highway Administration said the average highway project takes 13 years, one study said 15 years. That is far too long. Other developed nations are doing these projects in half the time or less than we are.

Mr. McKinley's amendment includes the text of H.R. 2273, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act. This amendment would prohibit the United States Environmental Protection Agency from driving coal-powered plants out of existence and doubling and tripling our utility bills.

The U.S. has been called the Saudi Arabia of coal, Mr. Chairman. If we do not use our coal in a clean and safe way, we will hurt millions of poor, lower-income, and working people all across this Nation.

I salute Chairman Mica for his hard work on this bill for the last several months, and I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 4348 and the subsequent amendments.

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