Transportation Bill Priorities: Energy Security, Cut Red Tape

by Rep. Doc Hastings

(Editors note: Rep. Hastings who represents Yakima and much of Central WA is Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and has been appointed to the conference committee hammering out differences between the House- and Senate-passed versions of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill -- the Highway Bill. AGC asked Rep. Hastings to share his priorities for his work on the conference committee.)width=161

The federal government’s slow cumbersome bureaucracy is consistently getting in the way of job creation and economic growth. Nowhere is this more evident than infrastructure and energy projects where burdensome red tape and duplicative federal programs hamstring the ability to approve projects and get Americans working. As a conferee to the Surface Transportation Bill I firmly believe that meaningful reforms need to be made to streamline government inefficiencies for infrastructure projects.

From the perspective of the Natural Resources Committee one of the most important ongoing challenges is to reduce overlapping duplicative and costly environmental paperwork and regulatory requirements. Streamlining environmental reviews will allow proposed projects to move forward in a smarter and more efficient manner. To be blunt: it’s cheaper and faster to build a road if the federal government stops requiring more miles of paperwork than the actual asphalt used to build the road. On this point the streamlining reforms prepared by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Mica are clearly superior to the Senate bill.

Similarly approving the Keystone Pipeline is an opportunity to address high gasoline prices put Americans to work and reduce America’s dependence on unfriendly Middle Eastern oil. While the President has repeatedly refused to act Congress must.

The House legislation would stop the Administration from blocking access to North American resources via the Keystone XL Pipeline. Instead of relying on energy sources half a world away America has opportunities to access energy from an ally and neighbor here in North America. Preventing that from happening the Obama Administration is stalling approval of the Keystone XL pipeline which would create 20000 new American jobs while enhancing our energy and national security by bringing 700000 barrels per day of Canadian oil to U.S. consumers. The Keystone XL pipeline would also allow us to access several hundred thousand barrels per day of oil in the newly-discovered Bakken formation in North Dakota.

Sadly just recently the Administration reached an unfortunate milestone marking the 150th day since it announced that no decision would be made on the pipeline. Because of this Administration’s political posturing over three years have passed since Transcanada initially completed its application to build the pipeline.

When it comes to American energy the President has a “listen to what I say not what I do” approach. His lofty rhetoric signals his support for American energy production but the anti-energy policies of his administration expose the real truth. With our economy jobs and national security at stake the American people need more than just empty words and promises. They need a real plan that will actually develop and expand access to our own American energy resources. With the Surface Transportation Bill we have an opportunity to make meaningful advances with our Nation’s energy security and improve inefficiencies that have long plagued infrastructure projects.