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For the Greater Houston Partnership

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
For the Greater Houston Partnership 
U.S. Chamber of Congress
Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Thank you, Brooke, for the introduction. And thank you Bob. Let me also take a moment to give a special shout out to PHMSA Administrator Skip Elliott, for his stellar leadership of PHMSA over the past several years.

Thanks to this Administration’s pro-growth tax and regulatory reform policies, our country’s economy is booming. More than 7 million jobs have been created nationwide since 2017.   The unemployment rate is at a nearly 50-year low. Wages for workers are rising for the first time in decades, and median household income is at its highest level ever.   GDP continues to grow at a healthy rate.

In addition, important new trade agreements have been signed by President Trump that will increase trade and create even more opportunities.  They include the Phase One Trade Agreement with China, and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

This is the backdrop for the growth in our country’s domestic energy sector, which has created jobs, made American workers and employers more competitive, and enhanced national security. And this year, for the first time in nearly half a century, our country is projected to become a net exporter of energy.  That’s a tremendous accomplishment made possible, among others, by the people in this room.   

As you may know, the U.S. Department of Transportation is guided by 3 priorities, which are:

  • Safety, which is always #1;
  • Rebuilding and refurbishing our country’s critical infrastructure to improve efficiency, economic competitiveness and quality of life; and,
  • Engaging with new technologies to address legitimate concerns about safety, security and privacy without hampering innovation.

It’s not an overstatement to say that our country’s energy infrastructure, energy security, economic future, and quality of life depend upon a safe and secure pipeline system. And an equally safe network is required for moving hazardous materials by all modes of surface transportation. The Department has been working hard to keep pace with our Country’s evolving trade and energy outlook.

PHMSA has played a critical role in ensuring the safety of our country’s 2.8 million-mile pipeline system and the 1.2 million shipments of hazardous materials that travel by air, rail, highway and waterway every day. This includes permitting and regulatory reform to make it easier to build energy transportation infrastructure. For example, the Department has been working hard on the President’s Executive Order – “Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth.”  This includes a long overdue update of existing regulations for LNG facilities, and new rules under development to allow LNG to be transported in approved rail cars.

In addition, the Department is implementing the President’s directive to keep economic growth strong by curtailing unnecessary regulations that do not impact safety. Since January 2017, the Department has taken 62 deregulatory actions, while publishing only 5 significant regulations. This is improving safety, easing the regulatory burden for our private sector partners, and saving billions for America’s taxpayers.

The Department is also providing grants to improve transportation infrastructure essential for international trade—including in Texas. On February 14, the Department announced the most recent round of Port Infrastructure Development Grant awards. Two of those went to ports in Texas. And $21.8 million was awarded for terminal expansion at the Bayport Container Terminal in the greater Houston area.

As you know so well, ports are critical to economic vitality and job creation. Approximately 72 percent of U.S.–international trade by weight – valued at close to $2 trillion – moves by water. Modernizing and improving our ports will pay dividends now and in the future.  Investing in ports is investing in prosperity.

Let me conclude by noting once again that our country is experiencing a rapid expansion of energy production and exports.  You play a key role in that milestone by ensuring the safe, efficient transportation and delivery of energy.  So thank you for everything you are doing to help our country become energy independent, and to make our country a net energy exporter.

The Department looks forward to continuing to work with Houston, and its partners, to ensure that our country remains energy independent.

Thank you.

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