Conference Report on H.R. 22, Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015by Representative Jeff Denham
Posted on 2015-12-03
DENHAM. Mr. Speaker, first of all, I appreciate the opportunity
to have been a conferee on this important piece of legislation.
This piece of legislation was a bipartisan effort between not only Republicans and Democrats in the House, but as a conferee who has been working between the House and the Senate, we have now culminated a number of different issues that, for years, we have had hearings on. Specifically, in the subcommittee that I chair--Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials--we are dealing with passenger rail in this bill, with rail safety, and with hazardous material.
Under the hazmat title of this bill, it contains many important provisions on crude-by-rail safety: First, we require all new tank cars carrying flammable liquids to actually have a thermal blanket and top fittings protection, which is something that the DOT failed to include in its rule; We also ensure that railroads provide States and local emergency responders with information on crude-by-rail shipments within their States. In my community, this is a huge issue for our first responders, who want to know exactly what is traveling through our community; We also include a provision that fixes a loophole that would have allowed more than 35,000 legacy DOT-111--these old tank cars--to actually remain in service.
The rail title follows closely the PRRIA bill of 2015--the passenger rail reauthorization--which we passed out of this House in March of this year: In the bill, we reform Amtrak to actually run more like a business, ensuring that Northeast corridor profits get reinvested into the corridor and make Amtrak more accountable to the States; In the wake of the Philadelphia crash, we make a number of safety improvements, including having cameras in the locomotives. I will remind you that the purpose of this video footage is to assist crash investigators, which is something that would be important in Philadelphia. Let's make sure that this does not punish or retaliate against the employees.
Separately, this bill includes reforms that I have long championed and have based on legislation that I have authored in committee, the NEPA Reciprocity Act. We need to eliminate the duplicative environmental reviews. It will save us millions of dollars and years in project delivery time while still ensuring that appropriate steps are taken to mitigate the environmental impact. In California, we have the California Environmental Quality Act. We want to make sure that we have a strong environmental policy. Let's just not waste years in duplication to get these projects done. Let's do them quickly. Let's do them efficiently. Let's save millions of dollars in the process.
The bill also provides a much-needed boost in funding to fix our crumbling bridges in our communities. In my community, I continuously talk about the Seventh Street Bridge in Modesto. It is ridiculous that we have any bridges that are below satisfactory, but in this case, this bridge is rated 2 out of 100.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.