Kilmer Presses Trump Administration Officials on Why Budget Proposal Cuts Manufacturing and Coastal Protection Initiatives that Help Olympic Peninsula

Washington, D.C. – Today, during a House Appropriations Committee hearing, Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) pressed Trump Administration officials for answers as to why programs that create jobs and protect rural communities are cut in their proposed budget. Kilmer asked the Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, why a program that provided a key investment to help Port Angeles’s Composite Recycling Technology Center open was slated for elimination. He also sought an explanation for the zeroing out of an initiative that helps rural communities on the coast counter rising sea levels and tsunami threats.  

The Port Angeles composite center won federal grants through the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration and recently received the 2017 Washington Manufacturing Award from Seattle Business Magazine.     

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross appeared before the Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies.

To watch the full exchange between Kilmer and Secretary Wilbur Ross go to 1:33:56 of a recording of the hearing here

Kilmer pointed out the importance of the Administration to the Port Angeles project, and others like it.

Kilmer said: “Before I came to Congress I worked in economic development professionally and worked often with the only agency at the federal level whose sole purpose is economic development and that’s the Economic Development Administration. I represent a district that has a lot of areas that are really struggling. My hometown of Port Angeles is one of those distressed communities. And with the help of the EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies Program we started up a composite recycling center in that town with an investment of $500,000 which is a drop in the bucket for the federal government.  The recycling center is going to establish a new industry and bring much needed jobs into an area that needs it. I am perplexed that the Department would choose to eliminate one of the federal government’s strongest supporters of job creation. I know that the rationale is stated as it being duplicative. I would love to understand what programs EDA is duplicative of and what’s the rationale for eliminating it.”

Ross affirmed the program’s success but called for local programs to fill the gap left by cutting the administration.

Ross: “I’m proud of the investments that the EDA has made. Their record over the last 52 years has been an exemplary record. Both in terms of the help they have provided to distressed regions and of the way the investments have turned out. I think it’s been a very well run program. Because they were locally driven strategies and needs it’s succeeded as well as it did and those investments did spur local innovation, entrepreneurship, save jobs, and leverage private investments. The good news about the decision is that there will be a continuity of the administration of the grants. Because there is a large portfolio. There is going to be a several year period during which those will be administered.”

Kilmer: “So who is going to fill the gap afterwards?”

Ross: “I don’t have an easy answer for that. There are other programs at the state level and the local level in a variety of communities that perhaps could fill some of that gap.”

Kilmer responded: “Communities like the one where I grew up in are looking for the federal government to be a partner in those efforts.” 

The Port Angeles Composite Recycling Center has been in operation for over five months. It’s the only facility in existence that takes carbon fiber composite scrap from landfills and turns it into consumer products. The facility also contains Peninsula College’s Advanced Manufacturing-Composite Technology Program.  

Kilmer also noted the importance of the Coastal Zone Management Program and the Regional Coastal Resilience Grants.

Kilmer: Other areas that are looking to be partners are coastal communities. I represent the coast of Washington state and I know you have a long background in business and can appreciate return on investment. The Coastal Zone Management Program and the Regional Coastal Resilience Grants are good examples of return on investment. By the most modest standard they say there’s more than 3-to-1 return on investment. I represent a district that is already dealing with the impacts of more severe storms with sea level rise, with coastal hazards including potential tsunami, so I have to say the elimination of these programs would be very pound foolish. I can’t even say it’s penny wise.

Our own chairman from Texas, there are 27 refineries representing 29 percent of the nation’s refining capacity in Texas, some of them are on the coast.  A lot of them are.  Countless ports.  We have a lot of defense installations that are on the coast.  Forty percent of the US population lives in coastal areas. These programs actually help make our communities safer, they help us protect critical infrastructure.  They help us shore up national security assets.  So can you explain to me and our subcommittee why you believe NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management and Coastal Resilience Programs should be eliminated? Because I have to be honest, the justification that I find in the budget I just don’t find compelling at all.”

Ross agreed with the importance of protecting coastal communities.

Ross: “Well again to get to the Administration’s priority goals which were rebuilding the military and making critical investments in the national security, there had to be an identification of savings that could be made in order to keep the nation on a responsible fiscal basis, and unfortunately that requires some very difficult decisions to be made. I certainly agree with you that there is nothing inherently wrong with coastal zone management.”