Port of Houston
The Port of Houston is the largest foreign tonnage port and the largest petrochemical port in the country. In fact, it moves the second largest amount of cargo in the country with 8.5% of our nation’s cargo moving through our port. The commerce that occurs at our port is critical to our nation’s energy and chemical sectors and to our country’s ability to trade and move goods throughout our country.
I am a major supporter of increasing our nation’s exports and am happy to see that Houston has become the #1 exporting region in the country, surpassing New York in 2012. Many of our nation’s fastest growing exports, such as petroleum, gas, and chemicals, are centered in Houston and are a major reason for Houston’s strong economic growth in recent years.
In Congress, I have taken an active role in support inshoring – the process of businesses returning operations and production from overseas back to the United States. It is vital that our government support policies that will continue this trend and recreate good, middle class jobs here at home.
Equally important for job creation in Houston and throughout our country is making sure that our companies and workers are competing on a fair playing field with foreign competitors. For too long, communities throughout America have witnessed jobs moved overseas to developing countries that have lower wages and limited to no labor and environmental standards. We cannot allow foreign companies to evade our trade laws by selling government-subsidized or dumped products on our shores. These unfair trade practices are very damaging to our companies, and I have been a forceful advocate in seeing that the agencies that oversee these laws are vigorously enforced.
Dredging and Harbor Maintenance
In November 2014, the Port of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel turned 100 years old. Since the early days of paddle boats on the Buffalo Bayou to international cargo ships and oil tankers, the Port and Ship Channel served as arteries of commerce. Today, we need to focus on preparing the Port and Ship Channel for the 21st century. In 2014, the major funding activities that affect the Port of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel received some positive news. In 2016, the Fiscal Year 2016 budget included approximately $32.6 million for operation and maintenance. Over the years, we have seen a slight increase in federal funding. Unfortunately, the backlog of projects at the Port of Houston requires more than $80 million in funding. Moving forward, some important changes in the law should alleviate some of that shortfall.
First, the President signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, also known as WRRDA. The legislation reformed the disbursement of tax dollars collected on imported goods. Each year, the federally imposed Harbor Maintenance Tax collects approximately $1.6 billion and places that money in a trust fund for later use. This money is collected to maintain our ports and ship channels throughout the nation. The maintenance activities including dredging and widening; this is critical for maintaining the depth and width of the channel and port for very large cargo ships and tankers. Currently, the trust fund possesses a surplus of approximately $7 billion. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act modernized the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, so that port and ship channel maintenance will receive 100% of fees collected by 2025. The Port of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel will benefit enormously because of the massive amount of revenue generated by imports. Normally, a majority of revenue collected would go into the trust fund and would be dispersed according to need. Now, the Port will receive in maintenance fees an amount similar to the revenue the Port generates. I applaud my colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for creating a very common sense solution to an extremely important problem. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure the reforms are properly implemented.
Second, in July 2014, I successfully co-led an effort to increase the funding levels for dredging and maintenance account within the Army Corps of Engineers budget. The Army Corps of Engineers is primarily responsible for the activities discussed above. I was able to work with my colleague, Representative Janice Hahn (D-CA), and co-chair of the PORTS Caucus to increase the budget by $57 million. The money will ensure the budget reflects the changes implemented by the Water Resources Reform and Development Act.
Finally, in March 2015, I worked with my colleagues on the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee to secure language that would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address the Bayport Flare issue that threatens safety and ship traffic in the Ship Channel.
As the United States continues to recover from the global recession of 2007-2009, our national economy has benefitted immensely from exported goods. As a Member of Congress that represents a major port, I know, firsthand, that the Port of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel are enormous economic engines for growth. We need to ensure we are investing for the future and putting money into vital infrastructure projects. Not only are these direct American jobs, but the economic benefits are exponential and include tax revenue for our towns and localities. I will continue to fight for federal dollars for our Port and Ship Channel to make sure the next 100 years are more prosperous than the last 100 years.
Ensuring the security of our nation’s ports is a top priority in Congress. Here in Houston, we rely on the safety and security of our port and the facility operators directly surrounding the port live this every single day. We must ensure the security and safety of the people who work or live near the port. Whether the threat is from nature or it is manmade, preparedness is the key to maintaining our security and safety. I am pleased to work with all of the stake holders in the Houston Ship Channel Security District to strengthen our Port.
Forming the Houston Ship Channel Security District was a major accomplishment that increases the area’s emergency preparedness and disaster response capabilities. This important partnership takes advantage of the long tradition of cooperation among companies and governmental entities working in the ship channel area.
The U.S. Coast Guard is the lead agency in protecting the waterways and regulating the security of vessels and maritime facilities. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the lead agency in cargo security and screening cargo for potential hazards. I have consistently advocated for ensuring that these agencies have the resources they need to effectively complete their missions. The Port of Houston also routinely receives funding through the federal port security grant program and other homeland security funds that are important to provide them the resources they need to secure our port.
Chemical security is very important to all of us in Houston since we are home to the largest collection of chemical plants in the country. I have been one of the most active advocates in Congress on the need for a permanent reauthorization of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. This would give the Department of Homeland Security the guidance necessary for our federal, state, and local officials on how best to protect our chemical facilities while working with facility owners, operators, and workers in order for this industry to continue to innovate and remain one of the chief drivers for economic growth for our district. I have also been very vocal in making sure that workers can use their TWIC cards to enter chemical facilities and not be required to obtain a second security ID.
More on Port of Houston
WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank (“Ex-Im Bank”) of the United States. The vote comes four months after the Ex-Im Bank’s charter expired on June 30. The failure to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank has resulted in lost business and job losses for American employers and the national economy. Today’s vote came as a result of a discharge petition signed by 218 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives to require the full House to consider legislation to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank through 2019. Rep.
WASHINGTON – Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a mark-up of H.R. 702, which would lift the nearly 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports. Several amendments were adopted in Committee, including Rep. Gene Green’s (D-TX) Savings Provision. The provision would grant authority to the President of the United States to halt exports in cases where it is not in our nation’s best interest or poses a risk to national or economic security.
Join Congressman Green for Town Hall meeting to discuss policies and issues important to the District.
GRAPEVINE – On Monday, Rep. Gene Green (D-TX-29) attended the National Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association (VPPPA) Safety & Health Conference in Grapevine, Texas. He received an award for his Congressional leadership on workplace safety and the Voluntary Protection Program Act, and spoke to participants.
Join Congressman Green for Town Hall meeting to discuss policies and issues important to the District.
WASHINGTON – On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final version of its Clean Power Plan to regulate and lower greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The final rule would require plants to put out an average of 32 percent less carbon dioxide by 2030 than they had in the year 2005. Congressman Gene Green released the following statement in response:
WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, Texas Representatives Gene Green (D-TX-29) and Brian Babin (R-TX-36) introduced the Waterway Safety Improvement Act to enhance navigation and safety in our nation’s ports, including the Port of Houston. This legislation addresses longtime concerns on the Port of Houston waterways with clarifying language and by granting discretionary authority to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)—the entity in charge of Port maintenance.
WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Architecture of Abundance energy package was voted favorably out of the Energy and Power Subcommittee by a voice vote.
The bill contains several provisions that Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) previously introduced or co-sponsored as stand-alone legislation, including; Section 1102, the Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts, and Section 2101, the Energy and Manufacturing Workforce Development title.
WASHINGTON – On Thursday, Representatives Gene Green (D-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX), Brian Babin (R-TX) introduced H.R. 2923, the Maritime and Energy Workforce Technical Training Enhancement Act, which would create two new grant programs through the Department of Energy (DOE) to help train workers in the maritime and energy sectors.