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12/19/11   U.S. Representative Greg Walden's Oregon Congressional Connection

Job-killing regulations
including forests, grazing, farm dust

Dear Jacqui,

I for one am glad the House is back in session this week working toward an agreement with the Senate on tax reductions, unemployment extension and reforms, and making sure seniors can see physicians under Medicare. Why the Senate thought it was just fine to concoct a two-month Band-Aid and come back in February to face the same difficult decisions we will now face this week, is beyond me. When you have a mess in front of you, you should clean it upÖnot step over it.

We need to stay at it until we get our work done. The House had sent the Senate a plan to create jobs, take care of those seeking work, help the middle class with tax relief (without raiding the Social Security fund) and make sure doctors donít see their Medicare reimbursements cut by 27 percent (due to a flawed formula created in 1996 and never fixed). Thatís the House plan that won bipartisan support a week ago that solved these problems for a year or longer.

And thatís what the Senate rejected in exchange for a two-month punt. Given the problems America faces, this is especially no time for punting. As a small business owner for more than two decades, I just have this gut reaction when big problems get ignored and rhetoric is substituted for solutions.

Enough is enough. Itís time to solve problems in Washington and get the job done.

The Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act

One of the provisions in the House-passed measure referenced above is legislation I sponsored that would create hundreds of thousands of American jobs, produce $16 billion in new revenue to the Treasury, provide an interoperable, public safety broadband network and unleash new technology and innovation. And it might make your wireless broadband phone and pad work better. Itís called the JOBS Act, short for Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum.

Itís time to unleash the full potential of Americaís most innovative job-creating sector: wireless telecommunications. Congress has an obligation to give Americaís wireless industry the tools it needs to do what it does best: innovate and create the kinds of jobs that will keep Americaís economy competitive in the 21st century.

As chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Iíve made writing this legislation and freeing up more spectrum for wireless broadband a top priority this year. And after multiple hearings and discussions, the subcommittee approved the JOBS Act.

  • The JOBS Act of 2011 authorizes incentive auctions of spectrum, including that used by some television stations. That spectrum in turn would get purchased by wireless carriers and expand the capacity of their networks to meet the enormous demands caused by the plethora of new communications devices we all use.
     
  • The JOBS Act of 2011 would fulfill the last major edict from the 9-11 Commission by building out an interoperable network for our police and firefighters to make sure they can communicate effectively and reliably during disasters.
     
  • And when all is said and done the Congressional Budget Office says the JOBS Act would produce about $16 billion in proceeds to the U.S. Treasury.

So this week, weíll try again to get the Senate to accept this common-sense legislation as part of the bigger package. Our police and firefighters have waited long enough. Our wireless broadband needs are growing dramatically. The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission estimates we could create 700,000 jobs. And we could raise a net $16 billion.

Itís time to act on the JOBS Act.

Eastern Oregon Wins A Reprieve; Local Citizens Will Decide Umatilla Depot Future

Buried deep inside the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that Congress approved last week is a small but very important provision that allows the Umatilla Chemical Depot to close under conditions that Umatilla and Morrow counties had long prepared for, ensuring that economic development and other uses for the land can move forward as planned.

The breakthrough overrules a decision made by a Pentagon official in May. The official concluded that because the destruction of weapons would go on past the expiration of the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) law, the depot would instead be closed under different protocols that would have upset years of careful balance by various community stakeholders.

The people of Umatilla and Morrow counties have spent more than 20 years and invested more than $1 million in taxpayer money to plan for the future of the Umatilla Chemical Depotís 20,000-acre facility. Working together, local community leaders developed a plan that is fair to all sides. When we heard that the decision of a Pentagon lawyer would upend all that work, Ióalong with Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkleyóworked in a bipartisan way with defense and appropriations leaders in Congress to insert language in the NDAA that ensure the Umatilla depot is closed as long planned.

A few words, properly placed, can make a big difference. Common sense actually prevailed! And in Washington, D.C., no less!

Good News on Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Projects and Jobs

When Congress approved the package of spending bills for the remainder of the 2012 fiscal year, included was funding that should ensure two major forest improvement projects will get off the ground and create several hundred jobs.

The Malheur/Southern Blues Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration project is the top ranked proposal in the country. It includes 690,723 planning and analysis acres and 271,980 acres ready for treatment. This is estimated to create 154 new jobs and a 70 percent increase in restoration-related employment.

The #2 ranked project is also in eastern Oregon. The Lakeview Stewardship CFLR proposal includes 662,289 planning and analysis acres and 150,000 acres ready for treatment. This project is estimated to generate 88 jobs and nearly $3.4 million in income for the next decade.

And in Deschutes County, the CFLR funding for the project in Central Oregon means the collaborative effort there will continue.

This active management on a landscape basis comes as a result of bipartisan legislation I sponsored and helped pass several years ago. Itís nice to see this law play out in a positive, job-creating way on the ground in Oregon.

Improvements to Grazing Program Should Get Feds Help Needed to Improve Monitoring

Environmental groups have aggressively sued those with grazing permits across rural Oregon arguing (and winning) in some cases that the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are not complying with the law when it comes to monitoring and processing permits. In town hall meetings and other community gatherings across eastern Oregon Iíve heard the same concern from cattle ranchers. Often the rancherís permit is put in legal jeopardy not because of anything theyíve done, but because the issuing agency has not kept up on its work. Thatís not fair, and itís costing our ranchers a fortune in legal bills.

I took their concerns to my colleague from Idaho, Rep. Mike Simpson, who chairs the committee that oversees funding for the agencies. While cutting overall agency spending, he was able to make this a priority for additional funding. We also got additional funding for research on localized needs, such as projects on national forests related to grazing in riparian areas and research on forest restoration and thinning. This research is most helpful in supporting active management and multiple use of our federal lands.

A couple of other important provisions of note:

The legislation extended the ďtrailing livestockĒ provisions through 2013, giving the BLM an exemption from litigation and regulations until the Bureau can complete environmental review. This will ensure ranchers can trail livestock to their grazing allotments.

It maintains the prohibition on the Obama Administrationís wild lands order; fully funds the wild horse and burro program; requires grazing opponents to exhaust the administrative review process before litigating in federal courts; requires Interior, EPA, and Forest Service to make Equal Access to Justice fee information publicly available. Then taxpayers will know just how much weíre paying out, even when the agencies win a lawsuit.

Thank you to Rep. Simpson for a big, helping hand.

Overzealous Regulations Cost Jobs; House Moves to Regulation

According to the Small Business Administration, federal regulations cost the economy $1.75 trillion per year. Of the 4,225 regulations now in the pipeline, 224 are major rules with at least $100 million in economic impact. Seven of those new regulations are estimated tocost the economy more than $1 billion each.

From talk of regulating farm dust, to unachievable rules that could force closure of the cement plant in Baker County, to rules that could cost thousands of jobs in the pulp and paper plants, the federal rule-writers seem to be on steroids. And itís darn near impossible to hold any one accountable at the agencies.

All of that could get rebalanced if legislation Iíve backed and the House has now passed becomes law. The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act

(H.R. 10) would require Congress to take an up-or-down vote on agency regulations that have an economic impact of $100 million or more before they can be imposed on the American people and businesses. For too long, unelected federal officials and agencies have imposed huge costs on the economy and American people through burdensome regulations, and the people had no one to hold accountable. This is reasonable reform; and itís long overdue.

The House of Representatives also recently passed ó with my support ó the Regulatory Flexibility Act and the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would help address the problem of reckless federal regulations that burden businesses and kill jobs. Both of these bills take strong measures to fix the problem of regulations that overreach and impose excessive costs on Americaís job creators.

The Regulatory Flexibility Act would require federal agencies to analyze fully the impact a new regulation would have on small businesses before the agency adopts the regulation. The bill also strengthens requirements that agencies review and improve existing regulations to lower the burden on small business. H.R. 527 enhances the Small Business Administrationís ability to comment on and help shape major rules, assures uniform implementation of the law across all agencies and improves judicial review.

The Regulatory Accountability Act would amend the Administrative Procedure Act to include strong cost-benefit, transparency and accountability requirements. It would require agencies to assess the costs and benefits of regulatory alternatives. Unless interests of public health, safety or welfare require otherwise, agencies would have to adopt the least-costly alternative that achieves the regulatory objectives Congress has established. To decrease the influence of special interests, the bill would increase the transparency of the rulemaking process and give the public greater opportunities to comment and take part in the process.

The REINS Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and the Regulatory Accountability Act now head to the Senate for action.

For a complete status update on House-passed jobs bills to empower small businesses, fix the tax code to help job creators, increase competitiveness for U.S. manufacturers, encourage entrepreneurship and growth, and maximize domestic energy production, go to http://walden.house.gov/jobsplan.

Preventing unnecessary regulation of dust on farms

Speaking of farm dust, the House passed the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act (H.R. 1633), a bill that Iíve cosponsored that would prohibit the EPA from proposing, implementing, or enforcing any new particulate matter (in laymanís termsÖ.dust) rules for one year.

The bill would provide some regulatory certainty for farmers, ranchers, and communities in rural Oregon where dust Ė whether from farms or gravel roads Ė is a very common and daily occurrence.

Farmers, ranchers and county leaders I hear from are concerned that EPA may tighten its regulation of dust to levels that would put many rural and agriculture areas at risk of violating the Clean Air Act...due to dust generated from farming activities and gravel roads.

Dry land wheat growers have told me that if the standards were to be tightened on farm dust, they would have to drag water misters behind their harvesters, trucks and tillage equipment to settle the dust. If we had that much water to use, our farmers wouldnít be farming dry-land wheat!

This bill now heads to the Senate.

Getting a handle on ethanol

I recently signed onto an effort to prevent the EPA from increasing the amount of allowable ethanol content in gasoline to 15 percent.

Last year, the EPA made a decision to allow 15 percent ethanol in gasoline (E15) for model year (MY) 2001 and newer vehicles prior to the completion of critical vehicle and engine testing.

Vehicles on the road today are only warranted to withstand up to 10 percent ethanol in gasoline (E10). Additionally, 14 automakers, responding to a Congressional inquiry early this year unanimously expressed concerns that E15 is likely to harm engines, void warranties and reduce fuel efficiency.

Even the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office agrees that E15 is not ready for prime time. A GAO report issued in June identified several challenges to the retail sale of mid-level ethanol blends, including health, safety, cost and environmental concerns.

Clearly, more thorough research and testing are necessary to ensure that E15 will not harm consumer investments. The desire to allow for more ethanol to enter the transportation fuel pool should not trump sound science. Congress has overwhelmingly supported the adoption of this measure in the past and we stand ready to do so once again.

Finally, a New National Guard Readiness Center for The Dalles!!

For nearly 15 years, weíve worked to upgrade the ďArmoryĒ in The Dalles. Time and again other priorities and funding issues for the National Guard have bumped the project off its timeline. But the House and Senate passed a funding plan for the government last week that includes the Oregon Guardís number one priority: construction of the new armory in The Dalles. The plan is to build the new armory on the Columbia Gorge Community College campus, making it not only a modern training facility for our men and women in uniform, but also available for shared classroom space for the community college, and as wonderful community meeting space. All that awaits is the Presidentís signature.

Leaders from the City of The Dalles, Wasco County, Columbia Gorge Community College, state legislators and veterans groups, among others, never gave up working in a positive way to get this job done.

Opening of the Stan and Jean Adams Community Center

State Rep. John Huffman and The Dalles Mayor Jim Wilcox were among local leaders on hand recently for the official opening of the Stan and Jean Adams Community Center at the Oregon Veteransí Home in The Dalles.

In the space of this new community center, Oregonís veterans will find a place to gather with friends and family, creating a deeper sense of community for those who reside there.

But in the namesake of the center, all Oregonians can find inspiration and deep pride in two amazing people who gave so much to make our country a better place: Stan and Jean Adams.

Stan Adams was a patriot and war hero who gallantly served America with honor and distinction. He was awarded the countryís highest military decoration ó the Medal of Honor ó for incredibly brave actions during intense fighting in Korea. You can read more about his heroism here.

His wife, Jean, served during World War II as a nurse in the Navy, providing care for service members in their time of need. In their later years, these two great Americans forged deep ties with the Oregon Veteransí Home. Stan lived here for five years during his battle with Alzheimerís disease, leaving behind a legacy of duty, honor, and commitment to country.

Jean always held a special place in her heart for the fine people who cared for her husband at the Oregon Veteransí Home. She donated his Medal of Honor for display at this special place, and left a substantial and generous contribution that in no small measure helped make the community center a reality.

Talk about a couple who gave us our freedom and now keep giving long after they are gone.

Best regards,
Greg Walden
U.S. Representative
Oregonís Second District

 

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