Earlier in May, the House passed disaster aid legislation with my support that would assist blueberry growers in the First District who were devastated by an unusually harsh freeze.
In 2017, Georgia was expected to produce around 90 million pounds of blueberries, but was drastically reduced to 30 million because of the record setting freeze combined with warm winter weather. Our legislation would provide the assistance needed to recover from the devastating losses. I fought to ensure this funding for this critical part of the First District’s agricultural community was included for months.
The legislation also includes funding for areas of our state hit by Hurricane Michael in 2018 and funding to help forest owners restore disaster damaged forests.
Last week, the Senate passed their own version of this legislation that includes the disaster relief the First District critically needs. Since then, unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi has not called members of the House back for a vote on the Senate’s legislation and some have blocked efforts to pass the legislation without needing all members of the House in Washington.
President Trump has already said the bill has his total approval. Georgians are suffering and we need to get this legislation to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law as soon as possible. I will continue to fight until we get this legislation across the finish line without further delays.
FULL FUNDING FOR SAVANNAH HARBOR DEEPENING
Earlier this year, I told you I was able to secure full capability funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) in President Trump’s budget request. The president’s request was the highest budget request for SHEP to date.
I’m happy to announce the U.S. House of Representatives is now following through by including the $130 million requested by President Trump in this year’s funding bill in the House.
This funding is critical to keep the project on time and on track. With a benefit to cost ratio of 7.3 to 1, completing this project is in the best interest of the entire nation and that has been recognized in the House of Representatives.
I will continue working until we get this project across the finish line.
FROM OUR NATION’S CAPITOL CCXIII
Friday, May 24: Yesterday afternoon I left Washington and flew to Paris, France to begin a 5 day visit to Europe to learn about vehicle electrification trends and policies in the European Union (EU) as well as railway and public transportation efforts. As a member of the Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee as well as the Select Committee on Climate Change, this subject matter falls under the jurisdiction of the committees I serve on. Auto emissions have surpassed industry emissions as the leading cause of pollution in the world. The EU was the world’s second-largest source of motor vehicles in 2018 as well as the third-largest market for passenger vehicle sales. The countries that we are visiting on this trip - France, Denmark, Sweden and Germany - all pursue transportation policy within a framework established by the EU including increasing competition, reducing oil dependency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving transportation linkages between EU member states.
After flying all night and with a 6-hour time difference, we arrive in Paris around 8:00 a.m. After a quick visit to our hotel, we head straight to the Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais (SNCF) or “French National Railway Corporation,” France’s state-owned railway. SNCF operates passenger and freight rail including 1,100 miles of high-speed lines and 9,000 miles of electrified line. After a briefing to explain the structure of SNCF and a tour of their headquarters, including the rail operations and emergency response center, we rode back to our hotel in an electric car through what was some of the worst automobile traffic one can imagine.
Saturday, May 25: We’re at the Paris Gare de Lyon train station this morning where we board one of the high-speed trains heading to the Gare de Dijon-Ville station in Dijon. France’s rail service has two categories of operations, operations on dedicated high-speed only lines and operations on mixed traffic, conventional lines.
The high-speed only lines are fenced to prevent trespassing by animals and people and there are no level crossings on the system. In addition, the over-bridges have sensors to detect objects that fall onto the track. The trains running on high-speed only lines routinely achieve speeds of up to 200 MPH. In almost three decades of high-speed operation, there has not been a single recorded passenger fatality due to accidents while running at high speed. Interestingly, the French refer to speeds up to 70 MPH as conventional, 70-130 MPH as highest-speed and 130-200 MPH as high-speed. Even at speeds of 200 MPH the ride on the high-speed only lines is like riding on air. In fact, because of the construction of the rail lines, the ride at 200 MPH on the high-speed lines is much smoother than at 70 MPH on the conventional lines. Once in Dijon, we have a tour of the Dijon customer service center before having a presentation by the Vice-Mayor of Dijon on their transit network. Afterwards, we have a tour of the Dijon City Transit Network including an electric tram ride, a visit to a newly constructed car parking garage on the perimeter of the city that encourages transit/pedestrian travel in the urban core of the city and electric/hybrid bus ride demonstrations. Like many European cities, Dijon has many bicyclists and encourages their usage through a bike-share program.
After a visit with the Vice-Mayor to the Duke Palace/City Hall in Central Dijon, we return to the train station and make the ride back to Paris. On the return trip I ride in the engine train with another Member of Congress and the conductor to see first-hand how this engineering marvel operates.
Sunday, May 26: Outside of family events, today is one of the most special days of my life. Today is Memorial Day in France and this morning we fly to Normandy to participate in the Memorial Day celebration at the Normandy-American Cemetery and Memorial.
Almost 75 years ago, on June 6, 1944, Allied forces launched Operation Overlord, the attack on Germany’s “Atlantic Wall” that was essential to the Allied victory in World War II. Considered one of the most brilliant military strategies of all time, the people of Normandy still remember the brave soldiers who fought and sacrificed so much to oust the weight of oppression in the area.
The cemetery site covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,380 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations in Normandy. The memorial contains the Walls of the Missing, on which is inscribed 1,557 names, as well the beautiful bronze statue “Spirit of American Youth.” The ceremony was one of the most meaningful I have ever experienced as military group after military group laid wreaths in front of the memorial. Also introduced was a 95-year-old veteran of the battle as well as a French soldier wearing a replica of the prisoner of war outfit he was forced to wear before he escaped German capture.
After touring the cemetery, we visited Omaha Beach, the largest of the Allied landing areas for the D-Day invasion and known as “Bloody Omaha,” where at least 2,400 soldiers lost their life on that fateful day.
Monday, May 27: I wake up in Berlin, Germany, this morning and our first meeting is with executives of Lufthansa and German Aviation Association Leadership to learn more about the European aviation situation before we head to a meeting with Berlin Transportation System (BVG) members to learn about their transit system, including on demand transit.
Next, we head to the German Parliament building, Bundestag, and meet with members of the Transport Committee of Parliament and discuss transportation issues impacting both of our countries. After a tour of the Bundestag, we head to the US Embassy for an executive briefing with the consulate and embassy staff. Next, we have a roundtable discussion with German mobility business leaders on mobility of the future with traditional companies and start-ups.
Tuesday, May 28: After flying this morning to Copenhagen, Denmark, we start our visits with a tour of Copenhill, a ski slope and recreational area built on top of a giant waste plant, Amager Bakke, that is producing energy while decreasing emissions at the same time. Because the topography of Denmark is very flat there is a lack of ski areas in the country and the hope is that Copenhill will become a national center for urban mountain sports. Next, we head to City Hall for a meeting with Lord Mayor Frank Jensen as he welcomes us and shares the city’s goal of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral capital. Afterwards, we visit State of Green, a public-private partnership that promotes Danish cleantech and helps spread Danish expertise in renewable energy, energy efficiency, etc.
After touring their interactive exhibits, we hit the streets of Copenhagen to witness what is undoubtedly the bicycle capital of the world. Over 52 percent of the people who work in Copenhagen ride their bicycle to work. I have never seen so many bicycles in my life. Bicycle lanes are everywhere and one dare not get in their way.
Wednesday, May 29: After an early morning flight to Stockholm, Sweden, this morning we go directly to eRoadArlanda, a project of the Swedish Transport Administration for the innovation and development of electrified roads. Sweden has a goal of having a fossil-free transportation infrastructure by 2030 and with road transportation expected to increase 59 percent by that time, they are looking to electrify roads in order to use existing infrastructure to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.
Recognizing that electric cars are the wave of the future and battery capacity is limited, this project creates eHighways, a part of the road that has a conductive charging pad that stretches along a lane so that cars can recharge as they drive. Next, we head to Barkarby, a planned community that incorporates autonomous buses for their residents, before heading to the Swedish Parliament where we meet with the Parliamentary Transportation Committee to compare transportation issues in our countries. Afterwards, we visit Volvo M, an independent project created and funded by the automaker, where they are developing a car sharing program for urban areas. By using an app on one’s phone you could locate a car nearby that you could use for a trip, day or weekend and then simply park it and leave it. Our final meeting of the day is with Andreas Norlen, Speaker of the Swedish Parliament and other members of Parliament.