Statement by CARE FL Chairman Brent Hanlon RE: U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Hearing
Posted on June 22, 2017
Statement by: Brent Hanlon, Chairman of
Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida
RE: U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Hearing
Martin County, FL – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials met to examine issues related to intercity passenger rail service in the U.S. The Subcommittee heard testimony from the Federal Rail Administration and rail executives including Mike Reininger, a leader of the All Aboard Florida project. As a Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Florida Congressman Brain Mast, representing the Treasure Coast Region, participated in the hearing to express the concerns of his constituents related to the All Aboard Florida/Brightline project.
Following the conclusion of the hearing CARE FL Chairman Brent Hanlon released the following statement:
“For the past three years Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE) has worked to shed light on the All Aboard Florida (AAF) project and how it threatens the health and safety of our communities. We have also tried to reveal the facts about AAF’s insatiable need for public subsidies of its business plans.
“AAF has claimed that it is a private enterprise. But the evidence does not support this claim. AAF has, to date, been unable to raise private capital to finance its rail project without the benefit of public—as in, government—subsidies. Today we start the latest adventure of disclosing AAF’s latest attempt to seek government subsidies—this time by seeking a multi-billion-dollar loan subsidized by the US taxpayers.
“At every twist and turn the company has sought handouts and subsidies from government. Their desire for subsidies is insatiable, unquenchable and inexhaustible.
“AAF’s quest began with an application for a more than $1.1 billion RRIF loan in 2013. They then applied for $1.75 billion in Private Activity Bonds (PABs) in 2014 prompting a US District Court to find that the PABs would cost taxpayers up to $600 million in the first 10 years. To add insult to injury, AAF is also demanding that county governments—Florida taxpayers—pay for crossing and safety equipment maintenance in perpetuity. The list goes on and on.
“Most recently, to moot an unfavorable Federal Court ruling, AAF and its executives decided to withdraw their application for the PABs and are now back to pursuing a RRIF loan. The new RRIF loan poses many new risks to the taxpayers because there are no guarantees that AAF will be able to repay the loan. If that happens, taxpayers will be left holding the bag for potentially billions of dollars.
“Experts have concluded AAF cannot demonstrate how this project will be financially feasible. A 2015 economic impact report commissioned by CARE by a former White House economist found they could not obtain the revenue to pay off the debt they would incur unless they charged high ticket prices that are unlikely to yield the riders they claim will be attracted to their venture. The findings of the PhD Ivy League professor fundamentally question ridership and the project’s overall success.
“Mr. Reininger used his testimony today in a vain attempt to rewrite history by blaming bureaucracy for the lack of a Record of Decision (ROD) in AAF’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, and suggesting a two-year timeline moving forward. But let’s look at the record of AAF and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s manipulation of this subject. In 2014, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement was issued for the AAF project. In the first week of August 2015, a Final Environmental Impact Statement was issued to facilitate the PABs that AAF failed to sell in four attempts. Both USDOT and AAF fought in court for two years, and in August 2016, the Court ruled NEPA applied to the project. Despite that, USDOT has still never issued the ROD—with AAF’s full support. Why? Because USDOT and AAF don’t want it issued since it would give the impacted Florida communities a legal opportunity to challenge the NEPA conclusions.
“We will continue to hold AAF accountable and call attention to their actions. We would not be where we are today without the support of many federal state and local elected leaders. We particularly want to thank Cong. Mast for attending the hearing and for asking some very important questions.”
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CARE FL is a coalition created by a group of concerned community leaders, organizations and neighbors in South Florida and the Treasure Coast. Our group continues to grow. We share a common goal: Protecting the safety, welfare and way of life for the families, businesses and retirees who live in and around our communities. To learn more about CARE FL’s concerns, visit www.saveourfl.com and like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @CARE_FL.