The Subcommittee oversees the federal programs and policies related to the regulation and safety of the nation’s railroads and the safety of pipelines and transporting hazardous materials.
Cutting Waste at Amtrak: Amtrak, the federally-funded, Soviet style intercity passenger rail service, has a lengthy history of mismanagement and wasting taxpayers’ money.
Amtrak receives more than $1.5 billion in federal funding every year, and each ticket sold is subsidized an average of $49.25 by the taxpayers. Routine poor performance, inefficiency and waste at Amtrak demand that the United States turn to more private sector competition to help dramatically reduce the costs of operating passenger rail service.
The Committee's ongoing oversight of Amtrak includes hearings on Amtrak food and beverage service losses, Amtrak waste and inability to compete in commuter rail contract competitions, and the total $40 billion cost to taxpayers in subsidizing Amtrak over the years and comparing these exorbitant subsidy levels to those in other modes of passenger transportation. (more information)
Pipeline Safety Law: The safe, efficient transportation of natural gas, petroleum products, and other hazardous materials through our nation’s 2.6 million mile network of pipelines is critical to the economy. U.S. pipelines are recognized as both the safest and the most economical way of distributing these products. In order to further strengthen pipeline transportation safety, fill gaps in existing law where necessary, and focus on directly responding to recent pipeline incidents with balanced and reasonable policies, Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster and Full Committee Chairman John L. Mica introduced H.R. 2845, the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011.
This legislation ensures the regulatory certainty in pipeline transportation necessary to allow businesses to make critical investments and create American jobs.
On January 3, 2012, the President signed the legislation into law. Click here for additional information.
High-speed and Intercity Passenger Rail: The Obama Administration's high-speed rail program was funded by the President's massive stimulus in 2009, but the Administration squandered billions of dollars and any chance of developing true high-speed rail anywhere in the United States. The Administration scattered the $8 billion in stimulus money to numerous slow-speed projects. In fact, Amtrak hijacked 76 of the 78 initial stimulus projects, none of which were truly high-speed rail projects. The governors of Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida all rejected major projects that would not have resulted in high-speed service. The only project the Administration chose with any high-speed potential was in California, but the cost of that project has skyrocketed. When the Transportation Committee approved the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act in February 2012, it voted to prevent further federal funds from going to this controversial and troubled project.
The region of the country where high-speed rail makes the most sense and could succeed with private sector participation is in the Northeast Corridor (NEC). On June 15, 2011, Chairman Mica and Chairman Shuster outlined a plan to bring competition to high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail in the NEC and the United States. By offering the private sector the opportunity to bring its resources and expertise to the table, we can lower costs, create jobs, increase efficiency, and improve passenger rail service nationwide. After 40 years of costly and wasteful Soviet-style operations under Amtrak, it is time to create competition in passenger rail.(more information)
Freight Rail: The United States has the best freight rail network in the world. With 140,000 miles of track and almost two trillion ton-miles of freight carried annually, freight rail is a jobs generator and a vital component of the nation’s economy. In fact, 43 percent of the freight carried each year in the U.S. goes by train, and demand is projected to grow 88 percent in the next 25 years. To meet this growth in demand, rail capacity must grow. The Committee will oppose re-regulation of the industry that would stifle its continued growth and success.
Railroad Labor Issues: A healthy, vibrant railroad industry is vital to the American economy. To ensure the industry stays healthy, it is important that labor disputes not devolve to the point of stopping work through a labor strike or management lockout. The Railway Labor Act governs labor relations in the railroad and airline industries and establishes a process to avoid industry shutdown.
During the Fall of 2011, the Committee monitored a long-running national freight rail labor dispute that had reached a time-sensitive stage. 70 percent of rail employees had been negotiating with U.S. freight railroads over pay and health benefits, and were unable to come to agreement through mediation. Under the Railway Labor Act, a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) was established on October 6, 2011 to investigate and issue a report and recommendations to the President on the dispute. The PEB report was issued November 6, and the opportunity for a rail labor strike loomed on December 6, 2011. To avert a rail labor strike, Chairman John L. Mica and Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster introduced H.J. Res. 91 to resolve the outstanding disputes by implementing the PEB recommendations. Fortunately, prior to taking any necessary action on the joint resolution the remaining unions reached tentative agreements to settle their disputes or, in the case of one union, continue negotiating until February 8, 2011. On February 2, 2012, the railroads reached a tentative agreement with the final holdout union, avoiding a crippling work stoppage. The Committee remains committed to ensuring the economic health of this important industry. (more information)
Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Loan Program: In an effort to do more with less in improving the nation’s infrastructure, it is critical that we improve the effectiveness of existing programs and resources. The Committee is working to remove impediments to using this vastly underutilized loan program that assists railroads in reinvesting in their infrastructure.
Hazardous Materials Safety: Ensuring the safe transportation of hazardous materials while allowing them to move freely in commerce without undue bureaucratic interference is critical to the economy. Transportation of these goods – which include a variety of everyday items like the batteries in consumer electronics, chemicals used to make drinking water safe, and the fuel we put in our cars – is already remarkably safe. In fact, there are four times as many deaths in the U.S. caused by lightning strikes than hazmat accidents. The Committee opposes the unnecessary over-regulation of hazmat that would threaten U.S. jobs while attaining no measurable safety benefit.
Passenger Rail and Transit Comparison: There are a variety of passenger rail and transit technologies, with different characteristics and applications. Click here for a basic comparison of various passenger rail and transit technologies, including light rail, commuter rail, heavy rail, passenger rail, high-speed rail and others.
Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials
B-376 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515