Congressman Bobby Rush

Representing the 1st District of Illinois

Rush Challenges Dakota Access Pipeline Officials on Alleged Violations of Tribal Lands; And Calls on Access to Pipeline Jobs and Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Minorities

Feb 15, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) issued the following statement during an Energy Subcommittee Hearing on “Modernizing Energy and Electricity Delivery Systems: Challenges and Opportunities to Promote Infrastructure Improvement and Expansion”, where he serves as Ranking Member. The Congressman noted that the federal government must embark on a path of upgrading the nation’s energy infrastructure that it is done “in a way that is responsible, environmentally-conscious, and takes into account the rights and interests of impacted communities.”

Reading from a letter from the National Urban League, Rep. Rush questioned the first panel on the level of employment, business and entrepreneurial opportunities for African Americans and other minorities. “My office received a letter from the National Urban League, which in part noted the importance of job training and workforce development programs as an essential component of any comprehensive infrastructure proposal,” he said. “Specifically, the letter discussed the necessity for including technical training, pre-apprenticeships, internships and job placement opportunities for African Americans and other minority communities as a way to ensure that all Americans are able to fully benefit in the tremendous opportunities before us.”

Legislators heard testimony from Ganesh Bell, chief digital officer of GE Power; Dr. Michael Howard, president and CEO of Electric Power Research Institute; Lonnie Stephenson, international president of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Steven G. Hauser, CEO of GridWise Alliance; Chad Harrison, Councilman-at-large of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Rex Ferry, owner of Valley Electrical Consolidated; Kim Kann, a private landowner from Lancaster County, PA; Terry O’Sullivan, general president of Laborers International Union of North America; and Joey Mahmoud, project director of Dakota Access Pipeline.

“I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing today on the challenges and opportunities associated with improving our nation’s energy infrastructure,” said Rush.

“Mr. Chairman, this is a timely hearing and it is my hope that we can follow up on the bipartisan agreement that was initiated last session as part of the comprehensive energy bill that ultimately fell through.

“As part of those discussions, Mr. Chairman, there are two provisions in particular that I hope we can bring to fruition this time around, specifically, the pipeline safety replacement program that would provide assistance to low income communities that I have been promoting.

“Additionally, I hope that we can come together and agree to invest in modernizing the nation’s aging electrical grid infrastructure, as Ranking Member Pallone has been advocating for.

“Mr. Chairman, it is also important that as we embark on this path of upgrading our nation’s energy infrastructure that we do so in a way that is responsible, environmentally-conscious, and takes into account the rights and interests of impacted communities.

“Even as we speak, Mr. Chairman, we are seeing the impact of shoddily built infrastructure in the tragedy playing out in California, where almost 200 thousand residents have been evacuated due to leaks in an emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam.

“Sadly, Mr. Chairman, this entire episode could have been avoided if builders and regulators had taken heed to the warnings of environmental groups who had forewarned of the risk of catastrophic flooding more than a decade ago, but who were unfortunately ignored.

“Indeed Mr. Chairman, it is important to remember that while some may consider commonsense safety and environmental regulations to be overly burdensome or tedious, these protections may one day be the difference in saving one’s property, livelihood, or even life.

“Another important aspect of today’s hearing will hopefully provide instruction in attempting to strike the right balance between modernizing and upgrading the nation’s energy infrastructure, like we so desperately need, while also taking into account the rights of landowners, Native Americans, and other communities that might be adversely impacted by these types of projects.

“Mr. Chairman, nowhere is this struggle more pronounced than in the battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline, as we will hear from our second panel of witnesses.

“As policymakers, we all understand the need for additional infrastructure to ensure that critical fuels and resources are carried to the places where they are needed in order to meet our nation’s energy demands.

“However, as Representatives of the people we must also ensure that the rights and interests of Native Americans, property-owners, and less affluent communities are also protected.

“Mr. Chairman, Congress should help provide thoughtful and responsible guidance for instituting a fair and balanced process for moving forward with large-scale energy projects that respect the rights of all communities and does not place expedience or maximum profit above the rights of landowners or the communities these projects traverse.

“So Mr. Chairman, I welcome all of today’s witnesses and I look forward to a rigorous debate on these important and sometimes difficult issues…”