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Mr. ROSS of Florida. Mr. Chairman, our country is
in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Much of the blame lies here in Washington where living beyond our means and micromanaging the economy is, to quote some in this town, ``just the way Washington works.''
Well, Mr. Chairman, Washington doesn't work. Any business that has tried to break ground and build something knows what I'm talking about: dozens of Federal agencies representing varied interests competing against each other while special interest groups wait in the wings to hold projects hostage for ransom.
Mr. Chairman, allow me to sum up what our permitting process should be.
Our Federal permitting and review processes must provide a transparent, consistent, and predictable path for both project sponsors and affected communities. They must ensure that agencies set and adhere to timelines and schedules for completion of reviews, set clear permitting performance goals, and track progress against those goals. They must encourage early collaboration among agencies, project sponsors, and affected stakeholders in order to incorporate and address their interests and minimize delays.
What I just read is verbatim from a March 2012 executive order by President Barack Obama, and I agree with the President 100 percent.
Mr. Chairman, we achieve these goals of the President in H.R. 4078, and it could not come soon enough for those looking for work. A March 2011 study conducted by the United States Chamber of Commerce identified some 351 projects that are being stymied by the current regulatory review process; 1.9 million jobs are on hold, $1.1 trillion economic impact to this country.
These jobs are not CEOs or jet-setters. These jobs are miners. They're machinists. They're blue collar workers. I know because I've watched this happen in my community where 200 jobs were lost because, after 7 years and 14 Federal, State, and local agencies went through a permitting process, a company then, 1 month later, was shut down in their project because some environmental group went to a very lenient judge and shut them down, moms and dads wondering where their mortgage payment and supper would come from. They wondered why an environmental activist group--that I can tell you does not represent the interest of my district--could put them out of work.
Make no mistake, Mr. Chairman, these projects are halted because businesses that will invest billions in a project cannot do so without some idea of certainty.
Some say this legislation will allow corporations to harm our clean air and clean water. I say to that: Nonsense. This part of my legislation merely says that all parties, from environmental groups to government agencies, must be at the table sharing concerns and offering remedies from the start. It says that the process has a time limit and that government must meet those time limits. It says that, if you don't get in at the beginning, you can't come in after years of hard work and remediation and use a sympathetic judge to shut it down.
This is not an academic exercise either. This same process was used in 2005 when the House voted 412-8 to impose the SAFETEA-LU program, which provided the same detailed streamlining procedures that have now reduced the permitting process under NEPA in transportation highway construction from 73 months to 37 months.
Mr. Chairman, the process is broken. This legislation presents solutions that are eminently sensible and immediately effective. For these reasons, I urge my colleagues to support this bill and give millions of our fellow citizens a hope for a better future.
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