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Public Statements

Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DeFAZIO. Well, today, the do-nothing Congress will slink out of town. It's going to be the earliest adjournment in an election year since 1960; but, you know, I guess the Nation has no problems and there's no work undone, so it's just time to go home and campaign. It's pretty extraordinary. We've enacted one-quarter the number of bills into law of Harry Truman's do-nothing Congress, 1947-48. So I guess this is the ``do-nothing-er'' Congress.

So here we are again today. We are going to consider today--the only work today will be four bills that have previously passed the House. Someone hasn't read their civics textbooks. If you pass a bill and send it to the Senate, it's there; they'll consider it or they won't consider it. If you pass it again and send it again, it doesn't make any difference. In fact, it's somewhat repetitive and wasteful of everybody's time when we could be doing postal reform to ensure the future of the post office. We could be doing a farm bill; there are a lot of people suffering a horrible drought. We could be dealing with the sequestration, which there's concern on both sides of the aisle on that. But we're not. We're considering four bills previously passed and one new one.

Well, I have a reasonable amendment to an unreasonable bill, which is now before us, which is the one new bill before us. My amendment would ask that within 6 months--that's not very long--the Department of Transportation and the EPA submit a report to Congress on fugitive coal dust. Now, it seems a couple of extraordinary letters have been sent out saying, my God, this will stop projects and exports that are going forward--undue delay. I'm not aware of anything that would be delayed by this. It says a study will be done; it doesn't delay any ongoing applications or projects at all. But what it would do is potentially avert a tremendous amount of litigation down the road. If we find that fugitive coal dust is not a problem--which the coal industry says--then that would relieve a lot of people in gateway ports and large cities in the West where coal dust is being proposed to transit through those cities, including cities in my district.

People are very concerned about this. They want to know, is it a problem. How far from the loading point does fugitive coal dust get emitted from the car? Are there ways to deal with the fugitive coal dust? Does the surfactant work? Is that a solution? Should the cars be covered? Is that a solution? What are the problems? What are the problems at its destination in terms of whether or not there would be coal dust at the port destinations? If the coal is stored outside, how is it transported onto the ship? Et cetera, et cetera. So if we had these answers, we could talk about the safe and clean transport and allay a lot of concerns that are ultimately going to lead to a lot of litigation unless we know.

Now, the industry says, oh, it's been studied. Well, no, it hasn't. In fact, one railroad has pursued action against the coal industry because fugitive coal dust has caused safety problems on the railroad. It gets into the ballast; it blocks the ballast from draining. The ballast destabilizes, the tracks destabilize, and trains can derail. Now, that seems to me like a problem that should be dealt with. And there may be some very, very simple ways to deal with it. Some say surfactants; some say covered cars. There are other potential solutions out there. Wouldn't it be good to know? Wouldn't it be good to know? That's all I'm saying. A 6-month study and a report to Congress won't delay anything at all. It just would give us some knowledge. And I would hope that we legislate around here with a little bit of knowledge and not just off the cuff.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DeFAZIO. Again, we will hear apocryphal denouncements from the other side of the aisle--this will cost millions of jobs and billions of dollars and stymie our exports. No, it's a study. It's a study that would take 6 months. It's a study that, if it agrees with the industry's conclusions, would assure the American public that there won't be problems with these trains transiting through their hometowns.

It's something we should know. It's something the government should look at. Apparently, there are some propriety studies that we aren't allowed to see that say there's no problem. Well, if that's true, then the railroads and the industry should let the American public see those propriety studies. Really, not too many people are willing to take someone at their word when it comes to an issue of public health.

So it's a very simple amendment. It won't delay anything; it will take 6 months. It will cost very little, and it will give us the information and knowledge we need to figure out how to safely transport coal.

And with that, I yield back the balance of my time.


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