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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WELCH. Mr. Chairman, the northern border region, from Maine, to New Hampshire, to Vermont, to New York, is a particularly hard hit economic area. The Northern Border Regional Commission has been a tremendous asset to help folks across that region--by the way, inhabited by Republicans and Democrats--to start reviving their economy.

The Commission is modeled, by the way, after the Appalachian Regional Commission and provides Federal funds for critical economic and community development projects throughout the Northeast. These lead to new jobs and stronger communities.

Importantly, the Northern Border Regional Commission helps orient Federal appropriations toward State-prioritized projects. The State is very much a player in allocating where this money goes.

Through the collective vote of the Governors of these States, they coordinate with the Federal co-chair to rank the funding applications. This ensures accountability and effectiveness. It has worked.

In Vermont, for instance, the Commission has helped fund a number of projects: $226,000 for Lyndon State College to establish a new 4-year degree in hospitality and tourism management, one of the big drivers of our economy in the Northern Border Region; $250,000 to the Northern Community Investment Corporation for telecommunications infrastructure that rural areas have to have; and $250,000 to the Vermont Agency of Transportation to connect with the Washington Railroad network in Barton, Vermont.

The Commission is having a similarly positive effect across the Northeast: New York, New Hampshire, Maine, as well as Vermont. Our amendment recognizes the effective work the Commission is doing and the large need that remains unmet by restoring funding for the program to last year's level of $7.5 million.

We are trying to avoid a cut, and we are trying to maintain level funding. The increase in funding will go a long way in the communities across the northern border to help them revitalize their economy.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. WELCH. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.

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Mr. WELCH. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman. We have a lot of merchant nuclear plants that are now starting to get decommissioned. The first one that got decommissioned was in Vernon, Vermont. We have now got Pilgrim.

The communities there face enormous challenges. One, we lose a lot of good jobs. Number two, there is the question: How do you get that asset back in production? That is where the local community, like select boards, citizen groups, are enormously concerned, and rightly so. It is their community, and they want to get it back operational.

The purpose of this amendment is to try to get the NRC the resources it needs and, also, the process it needs for citizen community involvement to be accepted. They are in a new era.

Generally, the NRC has been about regulating the safety of the plant. Now we are moving into the era where they have to deal with the decommissioning of the plant.

Safety issues continue to be of paramount concern, but economic vitality in the future is an urgent concern. Our goal here is to make certain that those folks who are in the community and their elected representatives have the capacity for significant input.

We are very pleased that the NRC is starting a rulemaking process to try to open it up a bit. We want to encourage them to do so. This legislation is a big step towards that.

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