Working with Washington on economic, environmental challenges
On May 3, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent the citizens of Sanibel at the "Good Jobs, Green Jobs" National Conference. As a Director of the Florida Municipal League Board and Lee County Municipal Planing Organization, I was selected to serve as a delegate at this conference at no expense to our taxpayers.
While in Washington for the conference, I also had an opportunity to meet with members of Congress to discuss off-shore drilling and other environmental issues important to Sanibel.
The three-day environmental conference focused on transportation, improving energy efficiency and 21st century jobs. The conference joined hundreds of leaders from across the country to discus these issues with members of Congress.
The keynote speakers included Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu, the Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.
Other speakers I heard and met were Senator John Kerry, the Governors of Colorado Bill Ritter, Jr. and of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell. Our discussions were dedicated to the need for research and to educate legislators on the job-creating potential of environmentally sensitive initiatives.
The best speech I heard during the conference was presented by Carl Pope, Executive Chairman of the Sierra Club, especially in regards to his position on oil drilling.
In addition to the general sessions, I focused on attending several workshops on rail transportation. We should all be aware that:
• America’s need for freight transportation will increase dramatically in coming years.
• The U.S. Department of Transportation has projected that freight transportation demand will rise 92 percent from 2002 levels by 2035.
• American shippers and consumers have caught on to the tremendous benefits of moving freight by rail. They recognize that it is the most affordable, efficient, and environmentally responsible way to move goods.
That’s why the demand for rail service has grown substantially in recent years. 25 years ago, 20 percent of rail tracks were operated by railroads in bankruptcy. Now, because of balanced rail regulation, recent years have been among the most productive in railroad history, and their biggest challenge is preparing for a coming spike in demand.
• Without additional investment, 30 percent of America’s primary rail miles will be in overuse by 2035, according to the study. Overuse would cause severe congestion-causing gridlock throughout the U.S., and shifting freight back onto our highways.
• A cleaner environment (freight trains pollute one-third as much as trucks).
• More fuel efficiency (a freight train can move a ton of freight an average of 457 miles per gallon of diesel fuel, nearly four times as far as a truck).
• Less traffic on our nation’s highways (a single intermodal train can haul 280 truck trailers).
I do believe it is an environmental priority for Florida and our country to connect our communities by light rail to move passengers and freight.
While attending the conference, I also visited one-on-one with members of Florida’s Congressional Delegation — Bill Young of St. Petersburg, Connie Mack, and Corrine Brown of Jacksonville — to discuss the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and the City of Sanibel’s position opposing drilling for oil in Florida waters. I also met with the staff of seven other members of Congress.
It is always an honor and pleasure representing our fine citizens. However, now when we are facing such tremendous economic and environmental challenges, it is critical we work together at all levels of government to protect Sanibel, our State and our waters.