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Public Statements

Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chair, I do rise today in opposition to the amendment offered by my colleague from Alaska on behalf of the gentleman from California.

In 2009, the Congress ratified the San Joaquin Settlement Act, which ended 18 years of litigation in the Central Valley of California over water. The agreement was supported by the Bush administration and California's then-Republican Governor Schwarzenegger. The Federal authorizing legislation was initially cosponsored by Congressman Pombo in the House and Senator Feinstein in the Senate.

If the amendment that has been offered were adopted, I believe we would be undermining the San Joaquin River agreement, which, if it were to stand, would land this case back in court. If the court is forced to take over river restoration, the Friant water users would be at risk of losing the 20 years of water supply certainty provided by the settlement.

By blocking funding for efforts to restore salmon, the Denham amendment offered by Mr. Young would potentially end the broadly supported and bipartisan effort to restore the San Joaquin River while also improving water supply management, flood protections, and water quality. Therefore, I do insist on objecting to the gentleman's amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I would simply also state my objection to the gentleman's amendment.

I appreciate the concerns he expressed, especially for those projects that may not make economic sense. If in those cases the gentleman is correct, there should be no loan guarantee offered. Having said that, for those programs that are in the queue that are under consideration that make sense and move our energy policy forward, we ought not to prohibit them from doing so by passing this amendment this evening.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I want to add my voice to the chairman's in opposition.

The gentlewoman talked about a 1 percent cut. I would point out that several years ago this Nation spent more money on water projects in one city than we did on every water project in the United States of America. The city was New Orleans, because we didn't make the proper investment up front.

I don't think we should risk losing one life. And I would acknowledge that we have already reduced the Corps' budget from existing year level by $216 million.

We have at least a third of the harbors in this Nation that are not dredged to depth. Every time a ship comes in or leaves that is not fully loaded, there is a job that is lost, one job or more. There is $1 of profit for that shipper, for that company, or more that is lost. Those are the numbers I'm worried about.

I strongly oppose the gentlewoman's amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, the WRDA bill 2007, which was passed with much bipartisan support, so much so that it overcame a Presidential veto, authorized the Corps to undertake the Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan and to develop the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee to consult on the study. This authority provided a venue for collaboration between the 70 stakeholder groups of tribes, States, public interest groups, and Federal agencies to develop a shared vision and comprehensive plan for the restoration of the Missouri River ecosystem.

At this time, by prohibiting the Corps from expending any 2013 funds on the study and the committee, we would continue to delay that start. I believe this would be very shortsighted and would lead to a further erosion of trust in the delicate partnership in the basin. While the Corps will continue to comply with Endangered Species' requirements through other activities, I believe there is a role for a long-term plan for this basin. Again, I would urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I firmly believe that the issues that inspire Congress to enact energy efficiency standards in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 2007 have not changed and, if anything, they have gotten worse. Families continue to struggle every day to meet rising energy bills, and there are real savings to be had by moving to more efficient illumination.

However, if this bill is going to carry a provision prohibiting the Department of Energy from implementing and enforcing the light bulb efficiency standards, then it does not make much sense to hold DOE grant recipients to the standard.

I surmise that most recipients of DOE grants who tend to be pretty energy savvy have already made the transition to light bulbs and are enjoying their energy savings as we in the House rehash and debate the exaggerated doubt of the incandescent light bulb. However, I do not oppose the amendment of the gentleman from Minnesota.

I yield back the balance of my time

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, while I agree with the gentleman from Minnesota that the moneys from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund should not be diverted from their intended purpose of dredging, I do think it is an overreach for the legislative branch to prohibit the executive branch from even discussing the topic. I do think we are in a position where looking forward we ought to let other branches of government talk about ideas and concepts so that they can be debated by this body.

Additionally, though, we all know that any proposal put together by the executive branch to expand eligible activities under the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund without first addressing the surplus and addressing backlog issues would not be considered in either House of Congress.

Again, I do not believe particularly that the amendment is necessary. That being said, I do not oppose its inclusion in the bill.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment offered by my colleague from Maryland. The amendment would essentially create an energy renewable program for the U.S.-Israel program by restricting the EERE international program from dealing with any other country.

I certainly am a supporter of the country of Israel, and Israel has a vibrant and cutting-edge clean energy industry, but I do not believe that we ought to limit this program to one country out of many, and think that it would be a mistake to put all of our international program eggs into a single basket.

This program, which directly supports the mission of the Department to advance the development and deployment of clean energy technologies, needs to be able to establish relationships with multiple partner countries in order to be effective.

The program's technical assistance activities help to prime markets for us for clean technologies in major emerging economies. The program can bring home lessons learned from others' experiences to share with national, State, and local authorities. The program can also promote U.S. national security and potentially reduce price volatility of fossil energy resources by decreasing the influence of oil-exporting countries and mitigating world demand for oil.

Again, this is an excellent program. I do not believe it ought to be simply limited to one country. I am opposed to the gentleman's amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I would point out to my colleagues that this debate is not about choice--or energy efficiency, for that matter. It is about, from my perspective, endangering American jobs and, specifically, American manufacturing jobs.

We have a significant trade imbalance in this country. Given that American manufacturers have committed to following the law regardless of whether or not it is enforced, the only benefit to this amendment is to allow foreign manufacturers who may not feel a similar obligation to export noncompliant light bulbs that will not only harm the investments made by U.S. companies but place at risk U.S. manufacturing jobs associated with making compliant bulbs.

Further, I believe they represent a tax increase. It represents an equivalent of a $100 tax on every American family--$16 billion across the Nation--through increased energy costs.

The performance standards for light bulbs were established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. At that time, the bill, as I pointed out in an earlier portion of this debate, enjoyed such strong bipartisan support that we were able to override a Presidential veto of that act. As far as I'm aware, the issues that inspire this standard have not changed, and I would argue have gotten worse.

It is a common misunderstanding that the Energy Independence and Security Act bans the incandescent light bulb and requires people to have the limited choice of only a compact florescent bulb. This is not true. It simply requires that they be more efficient. And I do not see what the harm is in that.

Further, while claiming that the incandescent bulb is dead makes for a great sound bite, it does not reflect reality.

I am opposed to the gentleman's amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the recognition and rise in strong opposition to the gentleman's amendment.

The gentleman, during his debate, mentioned a penny of savings out of a significant sum of monies. I would point out in conjunction with the chairman's remark that the non-security programs in this bill for fiscal year 2013 are $188 million below current year level spending because the subcommittee and the full committee made discreet decisions account by account.

Dependent upon nomenclature--and I don't want to get into a semantic argument--there may be some of these cuts that the gentleman proposes that touch what nominally would be considered defense accounts, but he also makes a point that he is going after non-defense discretionary spending. I assume because he has left defense harmless that he has never read an inspector general's report relative to any defense program in the United States. And he mentioned a penny in his remarks, and I find it curious that he could not find 1 cent of savings out of 1 dollar spent in a defense account.

For that reason among many, I am strongly opposed to the gentleman's amendment. If we are going to, in fact, make an investment in this country and if we are, in fact, going to address our budgetary problems, everybody has got to be on the table with no exceptions.

The gentleman's amendment, from my perspective, is a mistake, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I would note at the beginning of my remarks that Davis-Bacon is a very simple concept and is a very fair one.

The law requires that workers on federally funded construction projects be paid no less than the wages in the community in which the work is being performed for similar work.

Large Federal projects can disrupt local markets if cheap imported labor is used. Davis-Bacon requirements ensure that local workers, citizens, Americans, have a fair chance at bidding for Federal contracts in their own individual communities.

Additionally, prevailing wage protections are not the reason we have deficits. Doing away with them will not result in savings to the Federal Government. Davis-Bacon does not add to a project's total cost. A 2011 study of highway construction projects in the State of Colorado proved this point as it found no statistical significance between the cost of highway projects in the States which were subject to Davis-Bacon and the cost of State highway projects which were not subject to Davis-Bacon.

Davis-Bacon has not led to extravagant wages for affected workers. I would point out at this date, 2012, from 2000 and 2008, the real hourly wage rate for construction workers, carpenters, electricians, iron workers, plumbers, steelworkers, declined--declined--despite a small increase in the hourly wage rate.

I would point out when my mentor, Congressman Adam Benjamin, Jr., walked into this room in 1977, the real hourly wage for 1 hour's worth of a human being's work in the United States of America--it could have been laying brick, it could be pushing papers in Congress, it could be waiting on tables at a diner in the middle of the night--was more for 1 hour's worth of a human being's labor in the United States of America than it was in 2010, and we're here trying to slam down that wage.

You want to save money on contracts, why don't we look at the executive compensation for these construction firms? Why don't we look there for some as opposed to going to the lowest common denominators.

Opponents claim that Davis-Bacon requirements are a union giveaway. However, more than 75 percent, three-quarters of Davis-Bacon wage determinations, are not based solely on union wages. There are issues about the quality of work. Get it done efficiently, get it done right, do not do it a second time. That is crucial to these communities depending upon them.

When local workers are hired, they are duly accountable to their employers and to the communities in which they reside. If the work is shoddy and therefore is delayed or needs to be redone, their families, their friends, their communities, have to live with the consequences. This is a throwback, and I am strongly opposed to the gentleman's amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I would simply mention that if the gentleman from Iowa is suggesting that labor organizations in this country today are discriminating on a racial basis, he has not attended many union meetings lately.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I would simply say this is not a Davis-Bacon attempt to increase wages. It is protecting those who labor in this country from having their wages undercut.

I am adamantly opposed to the gentleman's amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I rise in opposition to the gentleman's amendment.

The title 17 loan program has had its share of publicized problems, but I do believe that the Department of Energy has implemented changes to the program that will strengthen the management of it going forward. And while it is impossible to ensure the success of a loan guarantee, these reforms, I believe, will significantly reduce the risk borne by the Department.

This amendment is specifically targeted at renewable energy projects pending approval under the 1705 Innovative Loan Guarantee program. Some of these projects are eligible to have their credit subsidy costs covered by the Department. Generally, given the current capital markets and project structure, it is difficult for renewable projects to raise sufficient revenue to use loan authority. Because we have several promising projects that remain in the pipeline and the companies behind these applications have invested a significant amount of time and financial resources to advance them, I do not believe that this amendment is fruitful.

The amendment would make these efforts multiyear for naught and further exacerbate the uncertain business environment facing innovative energy companies at this time. Therefore, I would be opposed to the gentleman's amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I rise to express my opposition to the amendment offered by the gentleman from Missouri. I would certainly agree with him that we are not making sufficient investments in our infrastructure, but this amendment would do nothing to resolve that problem. But it would introduce a host of other detrimental impacts to the basin and will lead to a failure to comply with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

The $90 million which was in the President's budget is the Corps' best assessment of the minimum required to maintain long term biological opinion compliance. There is in the bill a $18.6 million cut already which reduces the Corps' ability to maintain required progress on emergent sandbar habitat construction, shallow water habitat, Yellowstone intake, and real estate acquisition.

While the gentleman indicates he does not want to gut the program, the fact is he would add another $21.4 million worth of cuts, essentially representing a 44 percent cut of the President's budget. If that's not gutting, it is certainly a significant hindrance.

Given the extent of existing cuts, the Corps would need to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the potential for reduced progress on biological opinion compliance and on potential operational adjustments, opening the possibility of a jeopardy determination.

Further, reducing the amount would have a significant and negative impact with regards to maintaining biological opinion compliance for the Missouri River, and the Corps may not be in a position to serve all eight congressionally authorized purposes.

Additionally, operational changes may have to be made to avoid impacts to listed species that could result in a split navigation season, impacts on hydropower production, and impacts on water supply and recreation. A split navigation season will further erode the ability of farmers and manufacturers to get their products to market or to the consumer.

And given that the power produced by the Missouri River projects provides base power loads for the region, reduced production would further jeopardize peak power needs in the area.

The impacts to water supply also potentially could be great. Many communities are already having difficulty with the intake infrastructure to local water supplies. Without the regulation river flow provided by the projects, these communities will have a monumental task to extend the intakes for the low flow periods, increasing the burden on already cash-strapped local governments.

For these reasons, I urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I do rise in opposition to the gentleman's amendment. While I have some sympathy for the issue that the gentleman has raised, I believe that more consistency should be brought to the way we evaluate wetland impacts, not less, as this amendment would ensure.

The Charleston Method has been utilized for two decades in various Corps districts. The Charleston Method is a quick, inexpensive, and consistent methodology--I think that's very important to note, a consistent methodology--for use by the regulated public and the Corps.

The gentleman suggests that it doesn't work. If it doesn't work, I do not know why in 2006 and 2007 the New Orleans District worked with its Federal and State partners to modify the Charleston Method so that it better reflected the unique conditions found in southern Louisiana resulting in the Modified Charleston Method.

The use of the Modified Charleston Method is longstanding in many Corps districts. Many regulatory customers use the tool to assess their potential mitigation requirements for their impact site as well as credits required at mitigation banks. This transparency in Corps mitigation requirements has helped the applicant prepare a complete application package and determine mitigation costs up front.

Suspension of the use of the Modified Charleston Method in Corps districts would require that any pending permit applications--section 404 of the Clean Water Act--and pending mitigation banks would need to be reevaluated using a different assessment tool/methodology or, in the absence of such, use best professional judgment to determine appropriate mitigation requirements for impacts and for available credits in mitigation banks, obviously encompassing a great deal of delay.

All approved mitigation banks with available credits that were determined by the Charleston Method would be temporarily closed until a new methodology could be developed and the bank credits converted to the credit system of a new methodology. These banks were established utilizing the credit system of the Modified Charleston Method, and until a similar credit system can be determined for these projects, it would not be possible to correlate the new requirements with the old system. We would not have transparency; we would not have consistency. We would have delay.

For these reasons, I do oppose the gentleman's amendment.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the recognition and do rise to oppose the gentleman's amendment.

The standards the gentleman is very exercised about were contained in the EPA Act of 1992 and have been in effect for more than a decade. And they, in fact, do save energy and they do save water. A number of States are starting to adopt tighter standards on these products, including the State of Georgia, because they do save energy.

There is no part of the country, including mine that borders the Great Lakes, the largest body of fresh water on the planet, that does not have water supply concerns. In California, there has been a tremendous public investment to encourage and incentivize homeowners to replace their utilities with models that require less water.

I really do not know why we are discussing this issue again. We talked about it in the nineties. We talked about it in the last decade, and here we are this evening talking about it again. Manufacturers have been complying with this provision for, again, a decade. The question is: Why are we talking about it today? I am aware of an enforcement action recently, but against plumbing manufacturers who have put multiple compliant showerheads onto one fixture, obviously trying to sidestep the law when you have three efficient showerheads attached to one.

With water shortages across the country, with an energy crisis in most of the Mountain and Western States, I would ask my colleagues to oppose the gentleman's amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Madam Chairman, I do not live in a desert. I mentioned in my earlier remarks that my congressional district, in fact, borders the largest body of freshwater on the planet Earth. I find water very precious myself, and I try to explain to my constituents every day we should not take it for granted.

I find the debates that we have engaged in here very interesting tonight. A bit earlier today, we had an amendment to suppress the wage rates in this country. We have about 13 million people who don't work today, but the gentleman suggests the way that we solve our water crisis in this country is pricing. His solution is: Let's increase the price of water. Let's increase the price of water for those 13 million people who aren't working. Let's increase the price of water. Let's use pricing for water to conserve it for those people who may not be making a living wage because people want to destroy Davis-Bacon in this country.

Maybe we ought to think about the people who are just getting by, just grubbing to get the money to pay their water bills. Pricing means something to them. In this case, if regulation that had been in place for more than a decade will help those people of least means pay their water bills, I say that's a good thing and a very sound reason to oppose the gentleman's amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Madam Chair, I will not oppose the gentleman's amendment, but I do have some concerns.

First, I would like to say that I hope that we will not begin to legislate every rule coming out of the Department of Energy on this particular bill, though I understand the frustration that the Department of Energy is capable of causing from time to time. However, in this instance, I do understand that the Department is responding to the concerns expressed by the gentleman from Nebraska, and it is anticipated that a resolution is expected soon.

On that basis, I do not oppose the amendment as a gentle reminder for the Department to address this issue expeditiously.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Section 526 is, I believe, a commonsense provision that stops Federal agencies from wasting taxpayer dollars on new alternative fuels that are dirtier and more polluting than fuels we use today.

Section 526 simply bars agencies from entering into contracts to purchase alternative and unconventional fuels that emit more carbon pollution than conventional fuels on a life-cycle basis. Section 526 doesn't prevent the sale of dirty fuels, nor does it prevent the Federal agencies from buying these fuels if they need to.

Instead, it simply prevents the Federal Government from propping up the makers of dirty fuels with long-term contracts. Government policy, given the problems we face as far as our energy policy, should help drive the development of alternative fuels that cut pollution in carbon emission, not increase it.

The effect of this provision has been that it has spurred development of advanced biofuels. These fuels are being successfully tested and proven today on U.S. Navy planes at supersonic speeds. It is a testament to this country's ingenuity.

Opponents of this section claim that it creates problems for Federal agencies, and that is simply not the case. For example, the Department of Defense supports section 526, recognizing that tomorrow's soldiers, sailors, air personnel, and marines are going to need a greater range of energy sources.

Last July, the Department of Defense stated very clearly, and I quote:

The provision has not hindered the Department from purchasing the fuel we need today, worldwide, to support military missions. But it also sets an important baseline in developing the fuels we need for the future.

DOD has also said that repealing section 526 could ``complicate the Department's efforts to provide better energy options to our warfighters and take advantage of the promising developments in home-grown biofuels.''

If DOD, the government's largest fuel purchaser, believes that section 526 is workable and helpful, that should be true for other agencies as well. In fact, the agencies we're addressing today have not expressed any concerns that I am aware of about section 526 nor have they asked for this provision.

I believe this amendment could also damage the developing biofuels sector at the worst possible time for our economy. It can send a very negative signal to America's advanced biofuel industry and could result in adverse impacts to U.S. job creation, world development efforts, and the export of world-leading technology.

Developing and bringing advanced low-carbon biofuels to scale is a critical step in reducing the Nation's dependence on oil. In this section, section 526, is a key part of this process. For these reasons, I would certainly be opposed to the gentleman's amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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