Press Releases

Shuster Opening Statement from House-Senate Conference Meeting on Water Resources Legislation

Washington, DC, November 20, 2013 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446 | comments
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Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA)

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
House-Senate Conference Meeting on Water Resources Legislation

November 20, 2013

Opening Statement
(Remarks as Prepared)

I’m proud to be here today as we kick off this Conference on one of my highest priorities as Chairman: moving forward with water resources development legislation.  I would like to start by applauding Senator Boxer, Senator Vitter, and my Senate colleagues for their success in moving a bill with overwhelming support in the Senate.

Both the House and the Senate bills were developed in a bipartisan fashion.  The support they received is a testament to the importance of improving our nation’s infrastructure and what we can accomplish when we work together.

In the House we have worked together in a bipartisan way on this bill since day one.  We developed this bill with input from Members and stakeholders in listening sessions, roundtables, and hearings.  I want to thank my partners: Ranking Member Nick Rahall, Water Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs, and Water Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Bishop.  I also want to thank all the Members of the Committee, and all the staff, for their hard work and desire to work together on this important infrastructure and reform legislation.  The House bill was unanimously reported out of Committee, and was passed by the full House 417-3.

Congress has not enacted a WRDA since 2007. We can’t afford to delay.  This legislation is about strengthening our infrastructure so we can remain competitive.  It’s about economic growth.  It’s about jobs.

Without improvement, our water transportation system becomes more obsolete every day, and we become less competitive.  If we can’t compete, we lose jobs to those who can.

Many people have asked me how they should refer to this conference – is it “WRRDA” or is it “WRDA?”  They are pronounced the same, and at some point I’m sure Senator Boxer and I will have a discussion about figuring that out.  The names of our bills may be a little different, but the important thing is that we all care about reform.

In the House, WRRDA is the most policy and reform-focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades. This was one of our highest priorities.  Our new name reflects landmark reforms – the extra R in our bill stands for “reform.”  We also sought to have the most fiscally responsible WRRDA bill in history.

Our bill cuts red tape, reforms the bureaucracy, and accelerates project delivery.  It sets hard deadlines on the time and cost of studies.  It also consolidates or eliminates duplicative or unnecessary studies and requires concurrent reviews.  And our bill streamlines environmental reviews.  These are all top priorities and I know we have much common ground.

The House WRRDA deauthorizes $12 billion of old, inactive projects that were authorized prior to the current law, and fully offsets new authorizations.  It also sunsets new authorizations to prevent future backlogs.

And our bill establishes a new, transparent process for future bills to review and prioritize water resources development activities – with strong Congressional oversight, and without Congress handing over its authority to the executive branch.

We have been recognized by leading outside watchdog groups for having a bill with no earmarks and for keeping congressional oversight without ceding authority to the Corps.  I am extremely proud of this accomplishment

This bill improves our ability to compete by authorizing needed investments in America’s ports.  Our bill supports our under-served and emerging ports to also help them become more competitive.  And WRRDA reforms and preserves the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to better ensure that the fees collected from users of these systems are utilized for their intended purpose.

We also maximize flexibility and opportunities for non-federal sponsors, including opportunities for public private partnerships.

There are areas in our bills where we differ.  I know there are provisions in the Senate bill that have opposition in the House, and I’m sure there are House provisions opposed by the Senate.  But I am confident at the end of the day we can resolve our differences and achieve a successful conference report.

At its heart, this conference is about ensuring that we don’t lose sight of the importance of a strong infrastructure.  I look forward to working together to support our water transportation network – to keep America competitive, provide a foundation for job growth, and foster a more robust economy.

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