Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., in his district in Mount Vernon, Wash. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call via Getty Images)
Here’s the second half of our interview with Rep. Rick Larsen, D- Wash., who is the senior Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure aviation subcommittee.
You said at Tuesday’s hearing on FAA reauthorization, “If we’re going to ‘go big’ in this bill… we must do so methodically, with a clear statement of the problem we are trying to solve.” So what is the problem you’re trying to solve?
The problem the aviation subcommittee will try to solve is not one problem. For NATCA it’s funding stability. For Airlines for America, representing the airlines, it’s the full implementation of NextGen so that they can start seeing the benefits to them. Those are two very different problems but some are suggesting that by doing a broader air traffic control reform Congress can solve these individual problems. I’m not certain about that.
And based on the hearing that we had, I continue to conclude that there’s no consensus among stakeholders on a broader air traffic control reform, because they did not all come up with the same answer to how you fix these problems.
As far as FAA funding certainty, having those of us who fly pay a dedicated user fee, as part of the cost of the airplane ticket, would be one way to provide that.
You’re already paying right now in the form of a passenger facility charge to help with funding for airports.
With regard to the use of the national airspace, yes, the people who fly benefit from that.
But I think we need to look at the national airspace like the national highway system in that everybody benefits from having it.
So it does make sense to have some general Treasury funding as part of that funding picture for the national airspace.
I do not see how we move to a user fee system in the United States because of the resistance from some groups.
And the idea that we have to move to a user fee system says that Congress is failing at funding aviation in this country. We didn’t use to have these funding problems. We have the funding problems now because of sequestration and because of government shutdowns.
As a country, we just need to decide if we want to have a national airspace, or if we want to partition it off to those who are most willing to spend the most to use it.
One non-FAA question: about the oil train issue. The last number that BNSF filed with the state was that 8 to 12 Bakken oil trains a week go through your district.
Whatever one might say about pipelines being built, it looks like this oil-by-rail traffic will continue, since you have five refineries in your state that are using this oil from North Dakota.
Are you confident that what the Obama administration is doing and the PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) rule that’s is in the works are making it as safe as possible to move oil by rail?
I don’t see the day right now where a pipeline is going to be built from North Dakota into Washington state to service the refineries and deliver Bakken oil.
Mile for mile, I think pipelines are safer, but moving things by rail is safe too….
I think that because of the increase of Bakken oil being delivered by rail, it makes perfect sense to move forward on a strong safety rule that deals with the tank car design, the frequency of rail line inspections, notification to first responders and to the communities, as well as several other issues.
I think the administration’s approach on this is the right approach; I’d like to see them move faster on it…
I think the resistance from some in the industry to push back against tougher tank car design is wrong-headed. We need tougher tank cars, there’s no argument otherwise.
[Editor's Note: Click here for Part One of the interview.]