Opening Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer
Full Committee Hearing: "Opportunities to Improve Energy Security and the Environment through Transportation Policy"
March 24, 2010
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)

Today's hearing will examine ways we can use the next surface transportation bill to improve our nation's energy security and the environment. The witnesses will discuss ways we can use transportation policies to promote energy security, as well as cleaner air and water.

Our nation spends a billion dollars a day to import oil. According to the Energy Information Administration, two thirds of all the oil consumed in this country is used for transportation. Making our transportation system more efficient and reducing oil consumption can help to make our country less dependent on countries that don't like us.

Our transportation system's reliance on fossil fuels also contributes significantly to air pollution that is harmful to public health and the environment.

Diesel exhaust contributes to asthma attacks, bronchitis and other respiratory illness, heart disease, permanent harm to the lungs of children and cancer. In fact, diesel exhaust contains more than 40 cancer-causing substances, according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

CARB reports that each year in California, diesel pollution contributes to school absences, emergency room visits and 3,500 premature deaths. Children, whose lungs are still developing, and the elderly who may have other serious health problems are the most at risk.

Diesel pollution is also concentrated near densely populated areas, such as ports, rails yards, and heavily traveled roadways -- which means that on average these emissions lead to higher exposure to dangerous pollution and more harm to human health.

Two of my main goals for the reauthorization of this legislation will be to improve goods movement and reduce air pollution from transportation. As we work to authorize the next surface transportation bill, which I am calling MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, we must find ways to reduce harmful emissions from transportation while speeding the movement of people and goods.

The current federal-aid highway program includes several programs that provide funding for projects that benefit the environment. I look forward to hearing from today's witnesses as we work to develop a transformative transportation bill that will help reduce pollution and make America more secure.