Chairman Rockefeller's Remarks on Today's Executive Session

December 17, 2009

JDR Head ShotWASHINGTON, D.C.—Good morning, I know members wish to speak on various bills, and I will be happy to give everyone an opportunity to speak after the bills have been adopted.

We will begin by considering the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2009.

I will make a longer statement about the bill in just a moment but I want say, this has been many years in the making and I am extremely proud to say we are marking it up today.

We will also consider S. 554, the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2009, sponsored by Senator Brown and Senator Hutchison.

This bill would require new safety devices on motorcoaches, more driver training and testing, increased safety oversight of bus companies, and rules for drivers using distracting devices, such as cell phones.

While today’s bill is a good start — and I will support it — I look forward to working with Senator Lautenberg to make additional safety improvements as the process moves forward.

S. 1562, the Arctic Ocean Research and Science Policy Review Act of 2009 will help develop a roadmap to improve our understanding of the Arctic Ocean.

This is very important to global climate and weather patterns, ocean circulation, fisheries, and the people who rely on its resources.

S. 1609, the Longline Catcher Processor Subsector Single Fishery Cooperative Act would authorize the establishment of a single fishery cooperative for the Pacific cod hook-and-line catcher processor commercial fishing fleet.

This legislation would empower commercial fishermen, make safety a priority and provide more financial certainty and stability for fishermen in the cooperative.

S. 2856, the International Fisheries Agreement Clarification Act would clarify certain provisions in the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) dealing with the management of US fisheries under international agreements.

I also want to say that I support this bill, and have included it on today’s agenda at Senator Snowe’s request, understanding that Committee staff will continue working to address minor technical concerns raised by NOAA.

S. 2852, the Renewable Energy Environmental Research Act of 2009 recognizes that we need sound atmospheric and oceanic information in order to increase renewable energy development and, most importantly, reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a tremendously critical role to play in providing this research and I commend Senators Begich and Snowe for introducing this bill.

We will also consider S. 2859, Senator Inouye’s Coral Reef Conservation Amendments Act of 2009.

Coral Reefs support thriving fisheries, tourism, and natural product industries; but pollution and overfishing are harming them.

Our world’s reefs are the bedrock of our Blue Economy and we must conserve and manage them carefully.

S. 583, The Building a Stronger America Act is also up for consideration. This bill recognizes the tremendous potential of our research parks to accelerate economic growth, promote competitiveness, and create jobs.

This is important legislation in my own state and I am pleased we are considering it here today.

Senator Pryor’s bill guarantees loans to support critical construction of research parks, I support it and the substitute amendment.

And last but certainly not least, HR 3819, the Commercial Space Launch Indemnification Extension. Since 1984, the federal government has provided commercial space launch providers with liability protection for catastrophic events. This has been extended four times, and the latest expires this month.

Normally I do not support indemnifying the private sector for liability, but I recognize that our commercial space industry needs this federal protection in order to compete with others around the globe.

Today’s legislation extends that liability protection for another three years into December 2012 and I expect we will reassess the market before that time to see if the commercial space industry is ready to assume full risk and responsibility.

The Committee will also consider a number of nominations today. We have a full plate:

• Julie Simone Brill to be a Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (PN 1180)

• Edith Ramirez to be a Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (PN 1181)

• David L. Strickland to be Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (PN 1249)

• Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale to be Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services, U.S. Department of Commerce (PN 1197)

• Michael A. Khouri to be a Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission (PN 1231)

• As well as Nominations for Promotion in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps (PN 1262)

• And Nominations for Promotion in the United States Coast Guard (PN 911, PN 1186 and PN 1263)

I will work with Senator Hutchison to make sure the Senate moves as quickly as possible on these important nominations.

So with all that, I now want to turn to Senator Hutchison for her opening remarks, and then call on other Members who would like to speak.

Thank you all very much. Senator Hutchison.