Secretary Ray LaHood
--Remarks as Prepared--
Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet
Suisun Bay, California
Friday October 12, 2012
Good morning. It’s great to be here at Suisun Bay.
I want to thank Congressman Miller and Congressman Thompson for joining us today and for supporting this clean-up effort.
President Obama is committed to an American transportation system that grows our economy while also reducing our fuel costs and our impact on the environment.
There is perhaps no greater symbol of the Obama Administration’s commitment to a cleaner maritime industry than the clean-up of Suisun Bay.
For years, obsolete vessels sat idle in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet while the government and environmental representatives tried to come to an agreement about the most appropriate way to remove them.
When President Obama took office in 2009, we set out to change that.
First, we resumed stalled negotiations. Then, we began removing vessels for the first time since 2007.
In March 2010, we reached an agreement with the California Regional Water Board and environmental groups to remove obsolete vessels at Suisun Bay by September 2017.
We set an ambitious goal of removing 28 of these ships in three years—the ones that presented the greatest risk to the environment.
Today, I’m thrilled to tell you we’ve surpassed that goal. We’ve removed 36 vessels so far, with three more slated to go by the end of the year.
In fact, we’re actually two years ahead of schedule.
Through hard work, collaboration, and effective action, we’ve tackled this problem.
And we’ve worked with our State partners, the Regional Water Board and environmental groups to get the job done.
This is a win-win situation for California and the nation.
We’ve put people to work recycling these ships and cleaning up the bay—and we’ve made improvements that will benefit generations to come.
Additionally, some of the money the government earns from recycling the ships goes to support our state maritime academies, including Cal Maritime in Vallejo (Va-lay-ho).
Yesterday, I visited Cal Maritime and I saw first-hand the critical education and training the academies provide for our future merchant mariners.
Today, I’m proud to announce that we’re giving the six state maritime academies an additional $2.2 million this year.
This money is a continuation of our strong commitment to the academies, and it builds on the $3.3 million that we awarded to the maritime academies last May.
This money will help us continue to train the next generation of merchant mariners.
As you know, the maritime industry is critical to our nation’s economy and security.
We need well-prepared and highly skilled merchant mariners to support a strong maritime industry. And our academies help us achieve that goal.
Across the board, our maritime investments represent the future of American transportation.
As our country’s population grows, shipping is the green ticket to a more environmentally friendly infrastructure.
President Obama knows this and that’s why we have–for the first time ever—put maritime on equal footing with other transportation modes when it comes to project funding.
We’ve given more than $350 million in TIGER grant to support 25 different maritime projects, all of which will help modernize our shipping industry.
We’ve also invested in a Marine Highway Program.
Using natural coastlines, lakes, and rivers, the Marine Highway Program will bridge major trade and population centers while reducing carbon emissions, fuel use and traffic congestion.
These investments also help us to expand trade and fulfill President Obama’s ambitious goal of doubling exports over five years.
The Obama Administration is committed to the environment, and we will continue to remove ships from the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet and two other National Defense Reserve Fleet sites in Texas and Virginia.
As we continue moving toward a cleaner, more sustainable transportation system, Suisun Bay will be a shining example of the progress we can make when we work together.