Rep. Greg Walden: Update on jobs, Obama budget, energy

by Rep. Greg Walden

U.S. Forest Service bureaucracy hurts central Oregon economy

I know you’ll be frustrated when you hear this story, just like I was.

When you watch a car commercial on TV, you may notice that they’re normally filmed in locations with visually stunning backdrops. Well, Mercedes-Benz wanted to film just such a commercial in the Deschutes National Forest, on a stretch of public roads closed during the winter due to snowfall. The Oregon State Snowmobile Association (basically the only group using that area to recreate this time of year) volunteered to help groom the snow.

Local tourism groups were excited-what an opportunity to showcase the beauty of central Oregon! Not to mention the local hotels, who stood to gain a nice midweek shot in the arm from about 55 crew members that would descend on the area to shoot the commercial. The direct economic impact to central Oregon was estimated at about $150,000, and perhaps more. Besides, when folks come to the region to visit for the first time, most are blown away. They want to come back, and bring their friends and families next time. The precedent would be worth it alone, sending the message that central Oregon is open to this kind of business.

Only the other precedent may have been set. The production team quickly gained the necessary permits from Deschutes County. But when they approached the U.S. Forest Service in January, they were met with a frustrating and unresponsive bureaucracy.

Finally, the location scout, nearing the end of his patience with the bureaucracy, walked into my office in Bend on Friday, Feb. 10. That’s the first I learned of the issue. Mercedes needed to shoot the commercial the following Wednesday, he said, but for weeks he had been unable to obtain the necessary permit from the Forest Service.

I organized a meeting the next day, on Saturday, in my office. The Forest Service, the production team, and local businesses were all represented. We tried to break the logjam.

Two days later, the Forest Service still refused to issue the permit. The clock ran out. Mercedes notified the region that they had to resort to plan B, to a location in California where they have better relationships to shoot these kinds of commercials on public lands.

What a bitter disappointment.  You can read the Bulletin’s take on the issue here on my Facebook page. There are many very, very frustrated folks in central Oregon today, and they have every right to be. The U.S. Forest Service owes us all explanations, and I intend to get them.

Hundreds of thousands of new jobs

Congress just approved the biggest jobs bill you’ll never hear about.

Last week, Congress put the finishing touches on a bipartisan agreement that extends the middle class tax cut. That got most of the headlines. What didn’t was that it also included the framework I designed to free up vast swaths of wireless broadband (or “spectrum”) for innovation that would produce $15 billion in revenue for taxpayers and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

As the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, I’ve spent the better part of the last year writing the Jumpstarting Opportunities with Broadband Spectrum Act-the JOBS Act.

There is a nearly insatiable appetite for wireless broadband in the market today, for both personal and professional use. Telecommunications is the most vibrant and innovative sector in American today. And spectrum is the fuel it runs on. Lately, the gas gauge has been getting a little low.

When you take out your smartphone to tweet a message or check out what’s new on your wall or stream a viral video on YouTube, you need wireless broadband-or spectrum-to make it happen.

To meet the public’s growing demand for broadband devices and services, and to support the next generation of high-tech investment and innovation, the plan I constructed clears the path for the long-awaited auction of additional spectrum.

Spectrum auctions will bring in revenues, spur innovation and investment, and promote significant new job creation. Companies like Google and Facebook and the next generation of innovators we haven’t heard about all rely on a vibrant supply of wireless broadband to create the products and services that will keep America’s technology industry competitive for years to come.

Along with the spectrum auctions, the plan will help to finally build the nationwide interoperable broadband public safety network that was a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. America’s first responders deserve a communications network that will be reliable in the moments we rely on them most.

At its heart, though, this is a jobs plan. According to recent studies, investment in next-generation wireless broadband could produce an estimated 300,000 jobs or more.

We are in the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression. This is exactly the kind of work we should be doing in the nation’s capital-legislation that creates jobs and revenue for the taxpayers.

The Obama budget-more of the same, more debt, more doubt

With his stimulus program, President Obama promised unemployment would remain below 8 percent. A new CBO report projects that 8 percent unemployment will remain into 2014.

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

That’s why I was disappointed when President Obama released his budget for the next fiscal year. It’s more of the same strategies that haven’t worked (and even made things worse) over the last few years.

Does it make sense to have a fourth straight year of deficits eclipsing $1 trillion? You could never run a small business or a family budget like this.

It’s not that Washington has a revenue problem-it has a spending problem. This image is from the Heritage Foundation, but the data comes from the Congressional Budget Office.

Last year, the House passed a budget that would have reduced deficits by $4.2 trillion over the next decade compared to the President’s proposal, repealed the government takeover of healthcare, and saved Medicare and Social Security for future generations while protecting those at or near retirement.

We sent it over to the Senate…where it sat…and sat…and sat some more. In fact, the Senate hasn’t passed a budget in more than 1,000 days.

Ask yourself this: could you the finances for your family or small business without putting together a budget?

Expanding American Energy Production and Creating American Jobs

You may recall in the last newsletter I lamented the President’s decision to pass on the Keystone XL pipeline and the tens of thousands of American jobs it would create. Yet he claimed he wanted an “all-of-the-above” energy solution.

Well, last week the House decided to help him out and pass legislation that would actually help put the country on that path. It’s called the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act, and it would promote the development of the Keystone pipeline, responsible energy production in ANWR, expanded offshore energy production, and development of U.S. oil shale.

Here are more specifics on the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act:

Expand Offshore Energy Production

  • Creates over 1.2 million long-term American jobs by opening areas with the most energy resources to new offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic.
  • Resumes offshore lease sales in Virginia, the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska that were delayed or canceled by the Obama Administration.
  • Establishes a fair and equitable revenue sharing program with coastal states.

Open ANWR to Energy Production

  • Opens less than three percent of ANWR’s 19 million acres to responsible energy development, creating tens of thousands of American jobs.
  • The North Slope of ANWR, where energy production would occur, was specifically set aside in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter and Congress for energy development.
  • USGS estimates show ANWR contains approximately 10.4 billion barrels of oil and at peak production could supply the U.S. with up to 1.45 million barrels of oil per day.
  • Protects the environment by requiring an Environmental Impact Statement to be completed and allows the Secretary to close portions of the Coastal Plain, on a seasonal basis, to drilling activities for protection of wildlife.

Promote Development of U.S. Oil Shale

  • Sets clear rules for the development of U.S. oil shale resources and promotes shale technology research and development.
  • The Obama Administration recently withdrew over one million acres in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to oil shale development.
  • Robust oil shale development could create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
  • The USGS estimates show the region may hold more than 1.5 trillion barrels of oil – six times Saudi Arabia’s proven resources.

Require Approval of Keystone XL Pipeline

  • This Energy & Commerce Committee provision would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve the Keystone XL pipeline within 30 days.
  • The Keystone XL pipeline will create more than 20,000 American jobs and displace less stable energy imports with millions of barrels of safe and secure North American oil.