Hatch Outlines Importance of Reducing Burdensome Environmental Red Tape in Highway Bill

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In a speech on the Senate floor this morning, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the House-Senate highway bill conference committee, outlined the importance of streamlining environmental red tape that imposes burdensome and costly regulations on state and local governments – diverting much-needed funds from transportation projects, and urged his colleagues to support easing these mandates.

“Currently governments at the federal, state, and local level spend considerable resources complying with federal regulations designed to protect the environment.  Given that many of these regulations have accumulated over time, I am confident that we can scrape many of these barnacles off the ship of state without harming the environment,” Hatch said.  “President Obama has talked in the past about the importance of funding shovel-ready jobs.  Well, all we are asking is that when a job is shovel-ready, it move forward without undue and unnecessary environmental reviews.”

Hatch also said that the Senate version of the highway bill does nothing to put the Highway Trust Fund that funds the nation’s transportation system on a path to solvency:  “The Highway Trust Fund, which funds many transportation programs, currently has more money coming out of it than is going into it.  While there are many who want to deal with bloated and unfocused spending by raising taxes, I disagree.  If revenues do not meet outlays, then we should not be punishing the American taxpayer.  Rather, we should be reevaluating spending priorities.”

Hatch opposed the Senate highway bill because it did not do enough to fix the Highway Trust Fund’s insolvency and for the tax increases contained in the bill.  As a member of the House-Senate conference committee, tasked with reconciling the two versions of the legislation, Hatch is hopeful that a more realistic middle-ground can be found.

Below is Hatch’s full floor speech:

Mr. President, I would like to take a few moments to address another matter of importance.

A conference committee is currently meeting with the goal of producing a transportation bill.В  As I said at the public meeting that was held last month, ensuring that local communities have a strong voice in the transportation decision-making process is a priority of mine.В  There are many ways this can be achieved, but one particularly effective method is through the implementation of environmental streamlining.

Negotiations are still ongoing, so I do not want to go into too much detail.В  Yet, environmental streamlining is something that will benefit my own state of Utah, and every other state that is currently forced to comply with redundant and oppressive red tape when engaging in transportation projects with the federal government.

The Highway Trust Fund, which funds many transportation programs, currently has more money coming out of it than is going into it.В  While there are many who want to deal with bloated and unfocused spending by raising taxes, I disagree.В  If revenues do not meet outlays, then we should not be punishing the American taxpayer.В  Rather, we should be reevaluating spending priorities.

In addition to examining what Congress spends money on, we need to ensure that money being spent is being spent efficiently.В  Currently governments at the federal, state, and local level spend considerable resources complying with federal regulations designed to protect the environment.В  Given that many of these regulations have accumulated over time, I am confident that we can scrape many of these barnacles off the ship of state without harming the environment.

Both the Senate and the House recognize the truth of what I am saying, and both bills currently in conference reflect this sentiment.В  Both contain provisions designed to streamline, or simplify, the environmental reviews with which transportation projects must comply.В  In particular, I am appreciative of the effort shown by Chairman Mica of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for his role in highlighting the importance of environmental streamlining within the conference committee.В  I hope the rest of my fellow Senate conferees are carefully reviewing his suggested language.В  I know all of us want to do everything we can to expedite project delivery times while minimizing redundant costs, and Chairman Mica is clearly eager to engage on this topic.

President Obama has talked in the past about the importance of funding shovel-ready jobs.В  Well, all we are asking is that when a job is shovel-ready, it move forward without undue and unnecessary environmental reviews.

I just want to close with an appeal rooted in my role as Ranking Member of the Finance Committee.В  The Highway Trust Fund is currently on a path to insolvency, and the Senate bill does not change that.В  By working with our colleagues in the House we can make sure taxpayer money is not wasted on redundant and unnecessary compliance and regulation.

Despite current policy, being green in the environmental sense does not mean we have to sacrifice being green in a budgetary sense.В  I yield the floor.

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