March 23, 2023

Manchin Questions Transportation Secretary on Funding for Rural Areas, Hydrogen Energy Infrastructure, Railway Safety, National Pilot Shortage

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, questioned Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on securing federal funding for rural areas, the importance of investing in hydrogen energy infrastructure, strengthening railway safety and supporting the Letting Experienced Pilots Fly Act.
On securing federal funding for rural areas:

“20% of Americans live in rural areas, about 66 million people. I guarantee rural areas get less than that percentage of federal funding,” Senator Manchin said in part. “We’re trying to make sure rural areas get their appropriate share, and we’re working on a piece of sweeping legislation that ensures that 20% of funding goes to rural areas when we disperse money. Anything that you can do, including bringing your staff up to speed on this issue, would be very, very helpful.”
On the importance of investing in hydrogen energy infrastructure:

“With alternative fuel sources, there’s more than EV charging stations…I’m concerned about the horsepower that it takes to meet our demands,” Senator Manchin continued. “It’s going to be hydrogen as we transition. I hope that you’re looking at that aggressively, because EVs will not carry the big, heavy loads that we need…We had a hydrogen fueling station in West Virginia back in the 90s, but it didn’t get the support it needed. We’ve never matured that industry, but we’re determined to get it done this time…We have a lot of pipelines in existence right now, and some of the pipelines can be retrofitted as we transition into producing more hydrogen…Without having to go through all of the environmental considerations, why can’t we repurpose the existing pipelines as we transition to other fuels?”
On adopting ECP brake technology to strengthen railway safety:
“When we had the wreck in West Virginia, the (electronically controlled pneumatic, or ECP) brakes were put on the sideline,” Senator Manchin continued. “The technology exists and has been successfully field tested, and we think it would be very, very helpful in preventing some of these horrific train accidents. I would like for you all to commit to having the Federal Railroad Administration revisit the ECP brakes.”
On supporting the Letting Experienced Pilots Fly Act to address the national pilot shortage:

“The pilot shortage affects rural areas most of all, because we’re the first routes to get cut. As a pilot myself, way above the 67 age, we’re still able to fly. I hope that you will consider the 65 to 67 age increase, because it would be very helpful in meeting the challenges we have all over America, but especially in rural America…I have a bill with Senator Graham that we’re going to pursue and I hope you take a good look at it.”

A video of Senator Manchin’s questioning can be found here.