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Mr. BOUSTANY. Madam Chair, this is a fiscally responsible bill. It cuts $2.9 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and it is $4.1 billion below the President's request. That is an impressive achievement working in this very difficult fiscal environment that we are in today.
What I really find impressive about the bill and the work that's been done by the subcommittee chairman and the chairman and the Appropriations Committee is the fact that this bill sets some very good priorities. In fact, there is $2 billion for navigation projects and studies to advance American competitiveness in our ability to export, which is critical for growth in the U.S. economy.
It includes $1 billion of appropriation from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. This is a record level. This is $200 million more than what we saw in fiscal year 2013, something that is absolutely critical, because we know that our Federal ports, our harbors, are essential if we are going to be able to ship goods overseas. Getting the dredging funds is absolutely necessary because we lose economic efficiency. In fact, on the Mississippi River, every time we lose a foot of draft it is about $1 million per ship, per day, in lost economic activity.
If we are going to get this economy growing, create value, create jobs, we have to export. To export, we have to have the waterways that allow us to do that. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, nearly 1,000 Federal ports and harbors have not been adequately maintained due to inadequate budgetary allocations over time.
This bill now takes a strong step forward to correct that. I want to thank Chairman Rogers for this encouraging step forward for bringing attention to the fact that America's infrastructure--its ports, its locks, its dams, its inland waterways--are old and have not received the appropriate investment and have often been ignored. It has cost us time, it has cost us money, it has cost us economic growth, and it has cost us jobs.
Clearly, if we are expanding these trade agreements, looking at the Pacific with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, looking at a transatlantic agreement, we have to have our ports, our harbors, our waterways working at maximum efficiency if we are going to grow this economy.
Also, I want to compliment the chairman of the subcommittee and full committee as well for including language from my colleague, Congressman Rodney Alexander. This is language included in the bill requiring the Department of Energy to report on its plans to address the backlog of natural gas export applications, liquefied natural gas export applications, and to encourage the timely completion of this approval process.
Given the fact that so many of these applicants have been waiting for well over a year to get a decision from the Department of Energy, it is just unacceptable to have this kind of a backlog at a time when this is going to help us expand trade, help improve our trade deficit, it will help create jobs, it will help us with--actually, interestingly, help stabilize the price of natural gas so we will see more drilling, and help our energy security in the long-run.
So expediting this process, getting the Department of Energy to be held to account on the backlog of these permits is critically important because these companies have invested millions of dollars in this permitting process. To be sitting in limbo is just simply unacceptable.
I am very, very happy that Congressman Alexander's language has been included in this base bill, and I want to thank the chairman for doing this.
I yield back the balance of my time.
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