Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor on the need to rebuild America’s aging infrastructure.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Last week, President Trump gave his State of the Union address.
“It was full of that same spirit of optimism and confidence that I’ve heard over the past year from people at home in Wyoming.
“I imagine it’s exactly the same thing that you’ve heard in your home state of Iowa as well.
“As the president said, ‘this is our new American moment. This is our new American moment.’
“And I agree.
“The American economy is back on the right track. It’s going to take a lot of hard work for us to stay on the right track.
“Some of that work involves building our country’s infrastructure.
“America’s roads, bridges, dams, highways, and ports – they’re critical to our nation’s success.
“Republicans know it. Democrats know it.
“The American Society of Civil Engineers gives America’s infrastructure a poor grade. One out of every five miles of highway pavement is in bad condition.
“And as chairman of the Environment and Public Works committee, I’m committed to improving this situation – by working with the president, and with members of both parties.
“We need a fix, and we need to fix a lot of our aging infrastructure.
“To do that, we need a robust, fiscally responsible infrastructure plan that makes it easier to start and to finish these projects more quickly.
“I was chairman of the Transportation Committee in the Wyoming State Senate.
“I saw how we could make projects less costly and more efficient if we could just speed up and streamlining the permit process and the approval process for the projects to get done.
“Madame President, we have a project back home to rebuild a highway interchange, it’s in the northern part of Sheridan County in Sheridan, Wyoming.
“It took 14 years to develop and get the approval and the planning and permitting for this interchange that needed to be built for safety purposes.
“The actual construction – less than two years. This is a safety project.
“And it’s important for trucks and cars that go through this part of our state, to do it in the safest way possible.
“Anything that we can do, as members of the EPW committee and members of the Senate, to make sure that we can finish projects like this one faster, it’s going to be better for our communities.
“It’s going to be better for people’s safety.
“According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, there are 59 different reviews and permits that an infrastructure project may need to get. 59 different reviews and permits.
“There are a dozen different agencies that can slow projects down along the way, and that’s just at the federal level.
“One of the steps that takes the longest amount of time is what they call an environmental impact statement.
“We all agree we need to make sure that big construction projects don’t damage the environment.
“The problem is that these reviews have taken on a life of their own.
“They now take an average of five years to complete. Five years.
“That’s just one type of review that the construction projects have to go through before workers can put a shovel in the ground.
“Regulations and red tape have become unreasonable, and they’ve become excessive.
“There was a study recently that looked at all these regulatory delays and the cost of the delays.
“It found that the cost of delaying the start of all of these public infrastructure projects in this country by six year delay is over $3 trillion.
“Not millions, not billions, 3.7 trillion dollars.
“Think of how much we could actually accomplish, how much we could save if we could cut out these delays just a little bit.
“That’s what’s possible.
“In 2011 the Obama administration picked 14 infrastructure projects for what they called ‘expedited review.’
“One of the projects was a bridge in New York.
“Well, for New York they managed to do the environmental impact statement in just 11 months.
“Why should it take 12 years in Wyoming? 11 months for New York.
“It’s five years normally, and less than a year with this expedited plan.
“This proves that Washington can do these reviews and can do this permitting faster when it wants to.
“The problem is that Washington usually doesn’t care if these projects get done any faster.
“President Trump understands this completely – and he’s shown that he intends to change the mindset in Washington.
“It’s interesting when you remember that George Washington was a surveyor long before he was our first president.
“I don’t think we’ve had a president since that who has President Trump’s experience in building things and dealing with all of the challenges that come with what we’ve seen from the times of Washington and Jefferson.
“President Trump understands that the shorter we can make the permit process, the better.
“These are projects that can save lives.
“They can provide economic opportunities in town halls and in communities all across the country. That’s what we’re hearing in town halls when we talk to people.
“When we cut the Washington regulations and red tape, we allow for more economic growth.
“That’s what Republicans have been doing for the past year.
“Because as soon as President Trump took office, Republicans in Congress began striking down unnecessary, burdensome regulations, costly regulations by the Obama administration.
“Republicans wiped 15 of these major rules off the books.
“A major rule is one that has the cost of time and money to comply with the rule or it adds up to $100 million or more.
“This is going to save Americans as much as $36 billion. Total saved so far: $36 billion.
“The Trump administration has been very active in cutting needless regulations as well.
“The president froze action on over 2,000 Obama administration rules that hadn’t taken effect yet.
“This is one of the first things that President Trump did. It’s what he is committed to do.
“He said that for every significant new regulation Washington writes, his administration would offset it by getting rid of two other rules. For every one new regulation, get rid of two.
“That’s how to make a real difference in Washington. And we’re seeing it with the Trump administration.
“That’s how to free the American people so they can get back to work.
“The economy has responded all across the country.
“New employment numbers came out last Friday.
“The American economy has created more than two million jobs since President Trump took office.
“The unemployment rate is down to 4.1 percent.
“Wages are up by almost 3 percent over the past year.
“The Associated Press had a headline on Friday that said: ‘U.S. added strong 200,000 jobs in January; pay up most in 8 years.’ 200,000 jobs in January and pay is up most in 8 years.
“The Los Angeles Times headline was: ‘U.S. economy creates 200,000 jobs in January; wages take off.’
“According to a Gallup poll last week, Americans’ satisfaction with the state of the economy improved by 12 percentage points over the past year.
“Madame President, that is a huge leap. A huge leap.
“President Trump is absolutely right: this is our new American moment.
“We must keep providing relief from Washington red tape for it to continue.
“Now we’ve done that with other regulations – we need to do it with the things that slow down infrastructure projects as well.
“That’s how we make sure that our economy continues to grow.
“Fixing and improving America’s aging infrastructure needs to be a bipartisan goal.
“We need to be able to do it faster, better, cheaper, and smarter.
“So Madame President, today I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do all that we can to make this happen.
“These aren’t Democratic projects, they’re not Republican projects.
“These are the projects that we need to continue to make our country stronger, safer, better, and more prosperous.”