Mica continued saying, "The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act is the largest transportation reform bill since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in 1956. This is a five-year bill that reforms our federal transportation programs, cuts the red tape and bureaucracy that delays projects across the country, gives states more flexibility to determine their most critical infrastructure needs, provides states with the long-term stability to undertake major improvements, and encourages private sector participation in helping to finance transportation projects."
Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman John Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) said, "The average federal highway project takes 15 years from concept to completion in the U.S. because of excessive regulations. This is far more than any other Nation. This bill will streamline the way we approach infrastructure projects by cutting red tape and reducing federal bureaucracy, all while creating millions of jobs for hard working Americans right here in the United States. These jobs will also greatly improve highway safety. Highway fatalities have steadily declined in recent years, and the funding provided in this bill will work to continue improving safety."
Chairman Mica also noted that the new legislation contains no earmarks. The previous long-term law authorizing federal surface transportation programs, known as SAFETEA-LU, contained over 6,300 earmarks. That law expired in September 2009. Since then, Congress has passed eight short-term extensions, six of which were approved when Democrats controlled both Congress and the White House. Mica said, "President Obama and the Democrats' policy of passing short-term extensions and the massive stimulus have not helped the economy." The Transportation Committee is scheduled to begin consideration of the transportation reauthorization portion of the bill on February 2, 2012. The Committee outlined a summary of the transportation reauthorization and reform provisions as follows:
Authorize approximately $260 billion over five years to fund federal highway, transit and safety programs, consistent with current funding levels Provide long-term stability for states to undertake major infrastructure projects
Contain no earmarks, compared to the previous transportation law which contained over 6,300 earmarks
Consolidate or eliminate nearly 70 federal programs
Eliminate mandates that states spend highway funding on non-highway activities
Allow states to set their own transportation priorities
Delegate more project approval authority to states
Condense deadlines for federal agency project approvals
Accelerate the approval process for projects in an existing right-of-way
Encourage states to partner with the private sector to finance and build projects
Streamline the project delivery process and reduces regulatory burdens for rail projects
Call for the funds collected for the improvement of the nation's harbors to be invested for that purpose
Ensure the safe, efficient transportation of hazardous materials in a manner that does not impose unnecessary burdens on the flow of commerce
- HR 3407 (Hastings), To direct the Secretary of the Interior to establish and implement a competitive oil and gas leasing program for the exploration, development, and production of the oil and gas resources of the Coastal Plain of Alaska, to ensure secure energy supplies for the continental Pacific Coast of the United States, lower prices, and reduce imports, and for other purposes. "Alaskan Energy for American Jobs Act"
- HR 3408 (Lamborn), To set clear rules for the development of United States oil shale resources, to promote shale technology research and development, and for other purposes. "Protecting Investment in Oil Shale the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy, and Resource Security Act" or "PIONEERS Act"
- HR 3410 (Stivers), To require the Secretary of the Interior to conduct certain offshore oil and gas lease sales, to provide fair and equitable revenue sharing for all coastal States, to formulate future offshore energy development plans in areas with the most potential, to generate revenue for American infrastructure, and for other purposes. "Energy Security and Transportation Jobs Act"
"Ending tax breaks for the largest oil companies could contribute $43 billion over the next 10 years to transportation funding or deficit reduction. Natural Resources Democrats have also introduced legislation that would recover $19 billion in additional funds from oil, mining and other companies by reforming outdated laws that allow for free extraction of minerals, oil and other resources from public lands. Meanwhile, even using the most optimistic projections, Republican drilling proposals as introduced would generate, at most, a little more than $5 billion over 10 years. The current funding shortfall to just keep our bridges, roads, airports and other existing transportation elements running is $12 billion for the next two years, and more than $75 billion over the next six years."
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) President Frances Beinecke issued a statement on the House bill saying, "The Republican leadership has the temerity to call this horrible package a jobs bill, but it's actually a measure that will make it impossible to pass a transportation bill -- the one true jobs bill Congress could pass this year. Instead of going the bipartisan route taken by the Senate, House Republican leaders have loaded the bill with environmental protection rollbacks, extreme measures that mandate oil drilling just about everywhere, and a permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The American people need a transportation bill; this bill will prevent them from getting one."
On January 25, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), called a letter signed by more than 1,000 organizations in support of legislation to rebuild the nation's transportation systems "historic in its breadth and width." According to a release, organizations, businesses, coalitions and other groups from all 50 states sent a letter to Senator Boxer and other Members of Congress urging quick action on a strong surface transportation bill before the current extension expires on March 31. The Senate has developed a bipartisan proposal, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21, S.1813), which would reauthorize surface transportation programs for two years at current funding levels [See WIMS 1/27/12].