Wednesday, February 01, 2012

House GOP Introduces Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act

Jan 31: House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) and Members of the Committee unveiled the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R.7). A Committee release indicates that the initiative is a long overdue infrastructure bill that reforms transportation programs and promotes increased domestic energy production to create American jobs. The House Natural Resources Committee is holding a Full Committee markup on the energy portion of the Act today (February 1), [See WIMS 1/30/12, and article below]. Chairman Mica said, "This bill will put Americans back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and developing new sources of low cost energy. This legislation may be the most important jobs measure to pass Congress this year."

    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
House Marks Up Energy Part Of Energy Production & Infrastructure Bill - Feb 1: The House Committee on Natural Resources, Chaired by Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA), with Ranking Member Edward Markey (D-MA) held a full Committee markup of the energy portions of the American Energy Production & Infrastructure Jobs Bill (H.R.7, see related article above). The energy portion of the bill consists of three separate bills as follows:
  • 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"
    In an opening statement, Chairman Hastings said, "By removing government barriers to American energy production we can help fund road and bridge construction and repairs without raising taxes or relying on borrowed 'stimulus' spending. This is a vastly different approach from what we've seen from the Obama Administration and the previous Democrat-run Congress. This is a jobs plan without earmarks or stimulus spending. This plan allows access to American energy resources, which leads to the creation of new jobs, certainty for small businesses that depend on affordable energy, and the generation of new revenue that can be used to build road and infrastructure projects to create even more American jobs. Unlocking our energy resources starts a wave of economic benefits and job creation that will touch nearly every aspect of our lives and economy. . .
    "This plan will expand access to our energy resources that are currently being kept under lock and-key by the Obama Administration. This Republican pro-energy, job creation plan stands in stark contrast to the failed, job-destroying energy policies of the Obama Administration. Last week, President Obama tried in his State of the Union address to take credit for increased oil and natural gas production and claims to now support 'all-of-the-above' American energy. However, don't be fooled, President Obama's rhetoric is 180 degrees from his actions. . ."
     Ranking Member Markey issued a release the day before the markup entitled, "Exxon's $41 Billion Reasons to End Tax Breaks, Pay for Infrastructure Jobs." Representative Markey indicated that 2011 was a "very good year" for Exxon Mobil, as the oil giant posted a $41 billion profit for the period. He cited the new profit numbers as "yet another example of the misplaced priorities of House Republicans, and called for the repeal of oil company tax breaks instead of allowing new drilling off America's coasts and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to provide much-needed funding for infrastructure and transportation jobs."
    Rep. Markey said, "As if there weren't already enough reasons to end these tax breaks for oil companies, here are 41 billion more. Opening up America's coasts, Florida's beaches and the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to drilling won't come close to funding needed infrastructure projects, but closing 100 year-old tax breaks and loopholes protected by oil industry lobbyists will." He said the "Natural Resource Committee Republicans will consider three bills tomorrow to open up large swaths of America's coasts and the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to drilling, which they have touted as the 'revenue portion' of the House Republican transportation reauthorization bill."

    "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].

    Access a release from Chairman Mica (click here). Access a summary of the bill (click here). Access the full 846-page text of the bill (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.7 (click here). Access the markup website for opening statements, a video and a summary of the Committee's actions  following the conclusion of the Markup (click here). Access a release from Rep. Markey (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.3407 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.3408 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.3410 (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access legislative details for S.1813 (click here). [#Transport, #Energy]