Dec. 09–Communities across the country are seeking funding for infrastructure needs.
The good news for communities in the Permian Basin, and rural communities in general, is that funds may be easier to come by under the Trump administration.
“The administration is waking up to the impact of the Permian Basin” on the nation, Brigham McCown said after he addressed the Permian Basin Coalition Legislative Outlook and 2018 MOTRAN annual meeting.
“There’s a recognition the Permian Basin needs more infrastructure, not just for local communities but because what you’re doing here positively impacts the rest of the country,” said McCown, who served on the Trump presidential transition team and is chief executive officer of the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure.
Texas Transportation Commissioner Alvin New told the audience that Permian Basin traffic fatalities seem to rise along with the oil price. He said the three leading causes of fatalities in the Permian Basin from 2010 to 2017 were: faulty evasive action, driving under the influence and unsafe speed.
“We need to do a better job of communicating to people they need to think through their actions” behind the wheel, he said.
The Brownfield native and former mayor of San Angelo and former oilfield worker said he’s driven “these roads my whole life.” Because of that experience, he said that he better understands what’s happening in the Permian Basin.
“I am able to open a dialogue and communicate to the transportation commission what’s happening in the Permian Basin, the number of new trucks on the road, the number of new people in the area,” he said.
McCown said the administration is trying to make funding decisions based on needs and has flipped its focus to rural areas.
“Urban areas are doing OK, economically and with prosperity,” he said. “Other areas are not seeing as much prosperity or economic benefit and need a little more care.”
Both Democratic and Republican legislators agree on the nation’s need to improve, repair and expand its infrastructure, he said, but the question remains how to pay for those projects.
He said the Trump administration is hoping to leverage government spending into more investment in infrastructure. The administration has earmarked $100 billion in spending and $100 billion in loan guarantees with the idea of leveraging those funds with private sector funding, which could translate into almost $1 trillion in funds.
McCown said the administration is also looking at asking each state what their needs are and what projects they want to see accomplished.
Despite the change in control of Congress to the Democrats, John Stoody, vice president of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, said his organization remains focused on advocating for pipelines.
“Our big priority in 2019 will be reauthorization of the pipeline safety laws,” Stoody told the gathering.
He said the more than 50 members of the association hope to harness new technologies and know-how to improve pipeline safety, protect pipeline infrastructure from attacks, improve safety information sharing and modernize regulations.
Stoody said that pipeline operators already conduct proactive inspections with high-tech tools such as MRIs and smart pigs and perform preventive maintenance. They also have 24/7 monitoring to catch problems early to minimize impact and maintain rapid emergency response plans and training.
These details need to be stressed to the public, he said, and community engagement should be a priority.
“We help our members see the benefits of engagement,” Stoody said. “We emphasize reaching out to the community proactively, (with) transparency and sharing information and being available to answer questions.”
He concluded by quoting retiring Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who said even if the Democrats took control of the House, years of deregulation and lifting the ban on exporting domestic crude have left the energy industry in a strong position.
“The future is bright for the country,” Barton said. “We are in a good situation in terms of energy vis-a-vis the rest of the world.”
(c)2018 the Midland Reporter-Telegram (Midland, Texas)
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