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 – Today, Rep. Gene Green reintroduced his Buffalo Bayou National Heritage Area Act (H.R. 3185) to continue his efforts in having Houston’s own Buffalo Bayou designated as a National Heritage Area. If passed, H.R. 3185 would be the final step in designating the 25-mile stretch of the Houston Ship Channel as the first National Heritage Area in Texas.
Houston – Congressman Gene Green applauded the Department of Transportation’s announcement today of a $10 million grant to the Port of Houston to improve the Bayport Terminal.
“The Port of Houston is a port of national significance. It is the largest foreign tonnage port in the country and moves the second largest total amount of cargo in the country. This expansion is critical for the Port and our area to be prepared for the opportunities of the future.”
Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) announced new data that show the Houston metropolitan area became the top metropolitan area for exports in 2012. Houston had been in second place for metropolitan area with the greatest exports since 2006, narrowly trailing behind the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island metropolitan area.
Washington, DC – In response to the budget introduced by House Republicans, which cuts funding to vital domestic programs, jeopardizes Medicare, and eliminates the most beneficial elements of the Affordable Care Act, Congressman Green released the following statement:
Washington – Following President Obama’s State of the Union address on the evening of February 12, 2013, Congressman Gene Green (D-TX) issued the following statement in response: