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Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 4348, Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SHUSTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I rise in support of the motion to instruct.

Passing a transportation bill is about jobs. It's about keeping America competitive in the world. So I, for one, am urging a ``yes'' vote on this motion to instruct. I believe it is critical to America that we pass a transportation bill.

I would like to correct a few facts that my good friend from Oregon just put forward. The gentleman to my recollection has been on the Ways and Means Committee for the past couple of years, 4 years I believe it has been, so I don't know how privy he was to what we did in the House Transportation Committee to try to be inclusive to our Democratic colleagues, to work with them. We worked with them as openly, if not more openly, than Chairman Oberstar when he chaired the committee. We did have a full committee hearing on it. In fact, we had 18 hours

of debate. And as I recall, when Chairman Oberstar chaired the committee, we had zero hours of debate in the full committee because a bill from the Democratic-controlled House didn't even make it to the full committee. So we worked hard and we talked with our colleagues. Unfortunately, being bipartisan is not just one party saying that they can't work with another party. It takes two of us to tango. We did in the last bill. I wasn't happy with much of Chairman Oberstar's bill, but to move a bill forward, we said okay, we're with you, we'll move the bill. Our Democratic colleagues chose to make it a partisan fight by not getting together with us.

But I applaud my friend from Minnesota with this motion to instruct. We need to move forward. What we have been negotiating in the Senate, really five provisions on our streamlining that are extremely important--eliminating duplication, where you have a State that's environmental review process is as strong or stronger than the Federal review process, that should take the place. It should substitute for the Federal review process. The number one example of that is California. California is far stricter on environmental reviews than the EPA is. So why don't we allow California to move forward rather than having to go through a NEPA review at the Federal level?

Hard deadlines; concurrent rather than consecutive reviews with hard deadlines. We've been talking with the Senate for the past couple of months about this, but they insist upon having safety valves. What does safety valves mean? That means that an agency can go to the Secretary of Transportation and ask for a waiver and say they need more time. That's not going to help to streamline this process because we know what will happen: it'll continue to prolong these review processes.

Funding thresholds for a NEPA review. If a project receives de minimis amounts of Federal funding, it should not be subject to a Federal NEPA review but should go through the same regulations as a State project. And we've already moved on this. We sent a counteroffer to the Senate moving on our position. So in good faith, that's what we've been doing in the House.

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Mr. SHUSTER. Categorical exclusions in rights of way. If you're going to replace a bridge in the same footprint, we shouldn't have to go through these endless, long environmental reviews. We should be able to build that quickly and efficiently. In fact, my colleague from Oregon, who is the ranking member on the Highway Subcommittee, has suggested that there is some common ground there. In fact, I quote him, he said, and it had to do with putting streetcars back on the streets:

We're going to have fewer cars on the road, why should we spend a lot of time and money studying it?

And I agree with him.

And finally, when there's a disaster, to eliminate or to reduce significantly these reviews they have to go through, just as in the case of I 35, as was mentioned earlier, to be able to build that bridge in a much more efficient, faster time to get it up and running.

I support the gentleman's motion to instruct, and I stand ready as a Republican on the conference committee to put a bill forward that we can pass here, and I would urge all of my colleagues in the House to support this motion to instruct.

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