‘Getting a handle on spending’Published 10:59pm Monday, January 9, 2012
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton said he believes that although the failure of the “super committee” on which he served last year is disappointing, there was “good news” in 2011.
“We are trying to actually get a handle on spending,” the St. Joseph Republican told Rotarians at the Riverfront Cafe in Niles Monday.
The 2011 fiscal year deficit was $200 billion less than in 2010, in large part because of tremendous cuts, Upton said.
The House is looking to spend less in 2012 than in 2011, nearly $100 billion less than what President Obama requested one year ago.
‘Hoping for a green light’
As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Upton is an original cosponsor of H.R. 1938, the North American-Made Energy Security Act, which would expedite a Presidential Permit for a 1,661-mile extension of the Keystone Pipeline System from Alberta, Canada to refineries in the United States.
Nearly 20 percent of the world’s oil comes from the Strait of Hormuz in Iran, which has threatened to close its Gulf entrance if its crude exports are blocked. The European Union has threatened to ban oil purchases from Iran over the country’s nuclear program. Iran’s threat to close the Strait of Hormuz is one reason for the soaring gas prices recently.
Upton said the Athabasca Oil Sands in Canada yield nearly 4 million barrels of oil per day. Canada has promised to send the U.S. one-fourth of that if the president approves an agreement. If not, the 1 million barrels of oil will be sent to China.
The oil will be refined in the U.S., and Upton said the project could produce at least 20,000 jobs — “jobs in our area as well.”
“For three years, this issue has been sitting on the president’s desk. We’re ready to go,” Upton said.
Obama has until Feb. 21 to tell Keystone whether the project is in the national interest.
“We’re sure hoping it’s a green light,” Upton said.
Upton also held a press conference at local Dock 63 in St. Joseph Monday to discuss his recent work on the dredging issue in southwest Michigan.
Due to severe shoaling, the St. Joseph harbor was closed to commercial traffic, which sent a number of ships away during December and replaced them with heavy trucks transporting cement and graveling from as far away as Muskegon. Upton worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, area dock owners and community leaders to obtain emergency funding to dredge the St. Joseph harbor.
“Our Great Lakes harbors are essential to jobs and economic growth in southwest Michigan,” Upton said. “Area harbors need to remain open to commercial traffic as countless jobs and businesses are dependent upon them. Without emergency assistance from the Corps, the economic consequences of a shutdown harbor could have been devastating. With winter fast approaching and salt needed for our local roads, it is imperative that ships can get into the now-open harbor to reduce the chances of higher municipal budgets to deal with snow removal. This situation further underscores why federal funds collected for harbor maintenance should be fully utilized for just that, harbor maintenance.”
Upton said transporting materials via ships offers “tremendous savings” versus trucking. He said seven ships carrying construction materials are scheduled to come in the next few weeks to deliver gravel and sand for projects in the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor area.