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Marine Log

January 29, 2008

Text of Congressman Cummings' remarks

I am honored to join all of you at the 2008 Maritime and Port Security Conference and the 2008 Railway Security Forum and Exposition.
As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, and as a senior member of the Committee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, I was invited to speak to you today on "the importance of securing our ships, port, and rail infrastructure against a terrorist attack."
Obviously, protecting our transportation infrastructure from a terror attack is of critical importance to our nation and it is a responsibility that receives my complete attention as Subcommittee Chairman.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the movement of goods in our nation's maritime sector accounts for some $750 billion of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in large part because our ports are the gateways through which 80 percent of the volume of trade enters our nation.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Association of American Railroads, in 2004, nearly 98,000 miles of Class I freight railroad were operated in the United States and more than 162,000 people were employed by railroads. In that same year, North American railroads originated nearly 40 million carloads of freight carrying more than 40 percent of our domestic freight by total weight.
These numbers reveal how critical the maritime and rail modes are to moving our economy. They also highlight the scale of the challenges we face as we work to secure these modes.
Without doubt, great strides have been made in improving security throughout our nation's transportation network. That does not, mean, however, that there is not more to be done.
Let me also emphasize that we must always step back and reflect on the balance that we must achieve and maintain to ensure that as we tighten security, we do not strangle commerce and affect people's livelihoods.
Today, I want to review some of the advancements that have been made in security in the maritime and rail modes. I also want to highlight some of the challenges we must still meet to strengthen security in these modes noting of course that new threats are ever-emerging and it will require flexibility and foresight as we work to meet them. Finally, I want to touch on the points at which we must be so careful to ensure that balance is not lost.
The first piece of legislation passed by the House of Representatives in 2007 under the new leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi was H.R. 1, a bill to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
This bill incorporated a number of new provisions to drastically improve the security of both the maritime and rail modes.
I am sure everyone is familiar with the provisions in the bill requiring that every container entering the United States by sea be scanned at a foreign port for radiation and for density by 2012.
This requirement is not without controversy, particularly because of the effects that many fear it might have on commerce, so let me take a brief moment and explain a few key facts about the requirement, which I do not believe threatens the balance between security and trade of which I just spoke.
If 9/11 taught us anything, it is that we must begin to think of possible scenarios for attacks before the terrorists implement them and we must plan for the types of consequences that these attacks could bring upon our nation.
The 100% scanning requirement is an effort to prevent the terrible consequences of two possible scenarios: that U.S. intelligence has received a report that a weapon of mass destruction has been loaded into a container heading for the United States and keep in mind, 11 million containers enter the U.S. annually or that a weapon of mass destruction has already been detonated in the United States or in a container still at sea.
If either of these two scenarios were to occur, the U.S. government would shut down the importation of containers and we have seen from previous situations what even a limited delay in container traffic can do to our economy at it creates consequences that disrupt countless facets of U.S. industry.
The occurrence of one of these two scenarios would also likely lead to an unprecedented and immediate restructuring of the entire maritime security regime.
This is the terrible scenario that the 100% scanning requirement seeks to avoid and I think that the possibility of these scenarios makes the 100% scanning requirement essential.
I note that H.R. 1 does not require the opening of all containers only the use of scanning technology that we believe can be widely replicated and installed within the 5-year limit. Of course, if the deadline cannot be met, H.R. 1 does allow for extensions though it is my hope that the Department of Homeland Security will conduct the work necessary to meet this deadline in a timely fashion.
H.R. 1 also included important provisions to improve rail and transit security. For example, the bill authorizes additional personnel in TSA to conduct security inspections of surface transportation.
As I'm sure you all know, even after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, security in modes other than aviation have often remained the forgotten stepchildren. While I would never argue that we should spend less on aviation security, I have long argued that we must bring that same commitment to strengthening security to all of our other modes.
I note that total spending on aviation security now exceeds $20 billion. By comparison, since 9/11, a total of just over $1.5 billion has been appropriated for port security grants.
Certainly, after 9/11, it was necessary for us to secure the mode that the terrorists had used to attack us. But, as I said earlier, we must now think ahead and seek to counter a number of possible scenarios and many of these scenarios involve modes other than aviation.
In an effort to begin to close funding gaps, H.R. 1 authorizes $3.5 billion from fiscal year 2008 through 2011 for grants that can be used to improve security on public transportation systems, and it authorizes $2 billion for grants to be used to improve railroad security.
Importantly, within that $2 billion figure for rail security is $200 million authorized to fund safety improvements to rail tunnels in Washington, DC; New York City; and in my hometown of Baltimore.
I want to talk for a moment about the issue of rail tunnel safety and security because it's an issue that has been of critical importance to me and it raises several questions of balance. Let me begin, however, by applauding you for including a session on freight tunnel security in your program for this conference and I am very pleased to see that CSX is participating in that session.
In 2001, my district experienced the terrible Howard Street Tunnel fire. The Howard Street Tunnel is a key piece of infrastructure on the CSX line that runs through the heart of Baltimore, passing within 35 feet of the M&T Bank Stadium, where the Baltimore Ravens play.
The Howard Street Tunnel fire occurred when a tank car carrying a hazardous material derailed in the Tunnel on July 18, 2001. This tank car was subsequently punctured, leading to the ignition of a flammable liquid and creating a fire fed by materials from other derailed cars. The fire in turn led to a major water main break.
Fortunately, no one was killed in this terrible accident, but the total cost of responding to and cleaning up this accident was approximately $12 million.
Following this incident, I joined Chairman Jim Oberstar, the Chairman of the full Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, in requesting the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to undertake a study on railroad tunnel and bridge safety. This study was released on August 30th of last year.
In brief, the study found that Class I railroads own and maintain more than 61,000 bridges and more than 800 tunnels while Class II railroads own and maintain more than 15,000 bridges. These numbers clearly demonstrate how important the safety of these pieces of infrastructure is to the operation of our nation's rail network.
Unfortunately, they are pieces of infrastructure that have historically not received the federal attention one might expect they require from either a security or a safety standpoint.
While the situation has improved, the Federal Railroad Administration still has no comprehensive database of all the rail tunnels and bridges in the nation and has only five individuals tasked with inspecting these structures.
When it comes to rail tunnels and bridges as with so many of the pieces of infrastructure that comprise our national transportation systems safety and security go hand-in-hand. Any improvements made in one make and almost require improvements in the other.
Further, when it comes to these pieces of infrastructure, security and safety are achieved only through effective partnerships involving not only the railroads, but the Federal Railroad Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and local authorities particularly the first responders who will respond to any incidents that occur either on bridges or tunnels.
In the case of the Howard Street Tunnel fire, the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the accident found that Baltimore City first responders did not have adequate information on hazardous discharge procedures in the Tunnel or on ingress and egress pathways into and out of the Tunnel.
I offered an amendment to the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007, H.R. 2095, authored by Chairman Oberstar to respond directly to the NTSB's findings.
That amendment, which was adopted by the Transportation Committee and incorporated into the bill as Section 609, requires railroads to make available to local jurisdictions information on rail tunnel ingress and egress pathways and on the types of cargoes transported through long tunnels or tunnels through which more than 5 passengers trains per day or more than 500 carloads of toxic inhalation materials per year are moved.
In response to the GAO's findings, I worked with Chairman Oberstar on the manager's amendment to H.R. 2095, which imposes significant new safety requirements on railroads regarding the assessment of bridge weight bearing capacity and bridge inspection procedures.
Additionally, the amendment imposes new requirements on the review of bridge inspection data by the Federal Railroad Administration.
H.R. 2095, which is a critical supplement on the safety side of rail operations to the security improvements made in H.R. 1, awaits action now by the Senate and it is my hope that they will act quickly.
Before we leave this topic, I want to note that I believe the balance and partnership that is essential to ensuring rail security and safety requires that the railroads share an increasing amount of real-time data on the hazardous cargoes they carry with local jurisdictions.
At the urging of the entire Maryland Congressional delegation, CSX is now working with my state of Maryland to develop a memorandum of understanding under which the state will gain access to real-time data on the cargoes, including the hazardous cargoes, transported through our state.
I applaud CSX for their willingness to take this step with Maryland and with several other states. However, these agreements do not yet extend as I believe they should to the local level. I believe, for instance, that since Baltimore's first responders will be the first individuals to respond to a derailment in the City, they need direct access to real-time data. They do not need to encounter delays in the receipt of this information by having it filtered to them through the State.
Only in this way can we ensure that all of the members of the partnership I mentioned have what they need to effectively play their parts in keeping the rail networks safe and secure.
In addition to H.R. 1, we are moving ahead with other important security measures in both the maritime and rail modes.
In the maritime mode, for instance, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, known as the TWIC card, is being rolled-out after years of delay. As you may have seen, I convened a hearing on the TWIC implementation process in the Subcommittee just last week.
During that hearing, we received testimony from the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration, which are the federal agencies that share responsibility for managing the implementation of the TWIC program. We also heard from Lockheed Martin, the private sector contractor responsible for managing the roll-out of TWIC.
We learned that the population to be enrolled in TWIC far exceeds original estimates. We received updates on the Coast Guard's work on the rule that will govern the placement of card readers and we received an update on the process that the Coast Guard is going through to begin setting the dates by which landside facilities will have to begin using TWIC for its intended purpose of controlling access to secure areas.
We also discussed a number of issues that are hindering customer service at enrollment centers. Given that mariners must pay the full cost of the cards they are required to obtain, such glitches that interrupt work schedules and inconvenience people who do not have time for delay are unacceptable.
As many of you who follow my Subcommittee know, I am convinced that simply holding a hearing to discuss a matter is not an adequate step to truly address the matter. Hearings must be followed by vigilant oversight of promised actions and by on-going investigation of continuing developments.
Because TWIC is going to be a central feature of the maritime security regime from this point forward and because I believe part of the balance of which I have spoken includes ensuring that security regimes do not unduly inconvenience workers and businesses I have instructed TSA, the Coast Guard, and Lockheed Martin to report back to the Subcommittee within 75 days on their progress in resolving customer service issues and, particularly for the Coast Guard, completing pending rulemakings.
I am then going to send that report to five ports to enable them to comment on their experiences with the TWIC process from a business perspective. I am doing this because I believe that achieving balance also requires that we ensure that all stakeholders including government and the private sector work together to achieve what must be our common objectives.
Now, for all that we have done, there is much that remains undone.
Because it has been a particular concern of mine and of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, I want to highlight one of these issues and that is the issue of providing adequate security around liquefied natural gas terminals and, in fact, around all hazardous product terminals on the water.
A study released by the GAO in an unclassified form in December of last year found that we are moving forward with the development of LNG terminals before all measures are in place to ensure the adequate security and safety and there are those two words appearing together again of these terminals.
Just to set the context, let me note that daily ship-based imports of LNG now average about 1.7 billion cubic feet or the equivalent of two LNG tankers visiting a U.S. port every three days.
However, the Energy Information Administration estimates that imports of LNG will increase by more than 400% by 2015 a mere 7 years from now.
In 2006, there were about 200 registered LNG tankers. This number will increase to 400 by 2010 a mere two years from now. There are currently 5 LNG terminals in the United States that receive shipments of LNG. According to the GAO, eleven new on-shore LNG terminals have now been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and literally dozens more are in some stage of the permitting process.
Together, these numbers should indicate that LNG security should to be an important priority of our security efforts. Unfortunately, it has not been the priority it needs to be.
In some instances, the Coast Guard has required LNG terminals to hire local law enforcement to provide some of the security around LNG tankers while they are unloading. While I have the highest respect for our police and other first responders, frankly, they have been the first to admit in testimony to our Subcommittee at the two hearings we convened on LNG security that they do not have the resources and training to take on this type of responsibility.
These types of arrangements which in my opinion simply are not optimal are being made because the Coast Guard does not have the resources it needs to provide these security services while continuing all of its other vital missions.
This is most clearly confirmed in the waterway suitability assessment for the proposed Broadwater terminal in New York, in which the Coast Guard reported it would need 11 new boats to provide adequate security.
Despite the obvious red flags that this situation should raise, FERC was unable to explain what impact the lack of Coast Guard resources would have on a pending terminal application.
The GAO further confirmed the Coast Guard's resource limitations when they found that at several ports, a lack of resources has hindered Coast Guard units from meeting the Coast Guard's own requirements for security measures around LNG and other hazardous materials product tankers.
As a result, the GAO emphasized that the Coast Guard needs additional resources to meet security requirements. As Chairman of the Subcommittee that oversees the Coast Guard, I am committed to helping the Coast Guard get these resources and I note that the fiscal year 2008 appropriation for the Coast Guard was $7.469 billion an amount which exceeded the President's request.
However, the GAO noted that we also need a national plan that takes a comprehensive look at the Coast Guard's nationwide resource needs and identifies milestones and funding requirements to meet these needs. Further, the GAO recommends that we develop a national resource allocation plan to meet the security requirements created by the proposed expansion of LNG facilities and shipments.
These are recommendations that I fully support. However, as I argued earlier this year, we also need a national policy on terminal sitings.
Right now, we have a situation in which incentives have been created to promote both off-shore and on-shore sitings and to pursue a host of different objectives through these incentives.
And this bring us back to balance and the need for partnership. If we have decided to increase the number of terminal sitings, we need a national policy that addresses all of the issues particularly the security considerations that these sitings raise.
We should never be in a situation in which we are approving new projects without making adequate provision for the security of these projects. And that means in this case that we need to require all federal agencies involved in this process including FERC and the Coast Guard to work together to achieve would should be and again I use this phrase their common objectives.
Security cannot be an after-thought when new projects are being built not in the post 9/11 world. And we cannot have a situation in which the Coast Guard is passing off its responsibilities to agencies that are not prepared to meet them.
For that reason, I included in the 2007 Coast Guard Reauthorization Act, H.R. 2830, a provision that would prohibit the Coast Guard from approving a facility security plan for an LNG terminal until the service has certified that the Coast Guard sector in which the terminal is located has all of the assets it needs to provide security around the terminal and around LNG tankers serving the terminals when they are traveling in Coast Guard-imposed security zones.
I strongly believe that in the absence of national policies on LNG, this is a reasonable and frankly overdue requirement.
Ladies and gentlemen, with that, I am going to conclude my remarks today. I thank you all for coming and I thank each of your for all that you do as members of our national partnership to ensure both the security and the safety of maritime and rail operations in this nation.
I also thank you for all that you do to keep our country and our economy moving forward.
Please know that my door is always open because I believe everyone has a role to play in ensuring the security of our transportation infrastructure.
I also know that those who spend their lives in these industries often have the best insight into the kind of security improvements that are needed and into the arrangements that can best achieve the balance between security and commerce and among all stakeholder partners that is essential to the success of all security efforts.
Thank you again.

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