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U.S. CONGRESSMAN BILL JOHNSON Proudly Representing Eastern and Southeastern Ohio

Opinion Pieces

Time to address infrastructure

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Parkersburg, December 15, 2016 | comments
With a historic election behind us, it’s time to put aside the partisan rhetoric and move forward on rebuilding America. Among the first issues Congress and President-elect Trump should address is our aging national infrastructure. Quick action is needed to rebuild and expand roads, bridges, pipelines and other systems that will help secure a prosperous American future.
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Parkersburg News and Sentinel
By Bill Johnson
Published December 15, 2016

With a historic election behind us, it’s time to put aside the partisan rhetoric and move forward on rebuilding America. Among the first issues Congress and President-elect Trump should address is our aging national infrastructure. Quick action is needed to rebuild and expand roads, bridges, pipelines and other systems that will help secure a prosperous American future.

Many critical components of our infrastructure system that keep our economy running and competitive require investments to bring them up to 21st century standards.

Most of us in Eastern and Southeastern Ohio drive to work on a daily basis; I spend countless hours driving up and down the Ohio River myself. Just last year, Congress passed a highway bill with widespread bipartisan support that authorized more than $300 billion in infrastructure spending over five years to maintain our highways.

This bipartisan bill ended the cycle of short-term reauthorizations, and finally provided local governments with some funding assurance. However, I still have serious concerns about long-term funding provisions for these important upgrades.  But, I remain committed to finding creative solutions that support a world class transportation system that moves our economy forward.

One major obstacle that must be addressed is the burdensome regulatory process for approval of these vitally important projects. Government red tape costs billions of dollars, and can delay needed upgrades for years. These dollars would be better spent on American-made concrete, steel, and equipment needed to enhance our infrastructure — and the good-paying jobs these projects bring.

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Like the worn-out roads and bridges that carry drivers and commerce across America, our energy infrastructure requires expansion and improvement. Ohio has played a major role in the shale gas and oil revolution that has moved America toward greater energy security. Many counties I represent are experiencing an “energy renaissance” that is positively impacting every sector of their economy.

An expansion of energy transmission systems is more important today than ever before. Such an ambitious endeavor could be as transformational as President Eisenhower’s interstate system that helped generate enormous economic growth in the decades following World War II.

We can stoke the fires of American exceptionalism around a national vision of energy independence and security. But right now, we are at a crossroads. During bitterly cold winters, a lack of pipelines has kept much needed natural gas from reaching the markets, and President Obama’s war on coal kept coal in the ground – which led to electricity price spikes that hurt families and businesses alike. The federal government is standing in the way of various pipeline applications, and broader energy development. Risks of energy scarcity like this simply cannot be tolerated by the world’s greatest economy.

While we are building up our infrastructure, we can’t forget about the communities where these resources are coming from. I’ve been pushing for legislation that would return 20 percent of revenues from drill sites on federally-owned land (such as the Wayne National Forest) to the counties whose governments provide services there. My legislation would require that this revenue be used to support infrastructure and education initiatives within that specific county. It makes perfect sense — the areas that are providing the resource should share in the benefits.

It’s time for both political parties to come together and pass legislation to reform outdated energy permitting and regulatory processes, and modernize agencies that too often stand in the way of investment. It is time to build toward an American future that takes advantage of our own natural resources and breaks down these barriers to progress. It’s time to rebuild America’s — and Ohio’s — transportation and energy infrastructure with American workers.

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