Washington, DC - Something refreshing is happening in our nation's capital, despite the usual partisan rancor and dysfunction that plagues Washington. Federalism is making a comeback. State and local leaders are being empowered by President Donald Trump to decide how best to rebuild America's aging infrastructure.
And from my perspective, as a former governor and the current secretary of energy, charged with overseeing the strength and security of our nation's energy infrastructure, it's an approach that is long overdue.
There's bipartisan agreement that America's aging infrastructure is in need of rebuilding and renewal.
But, for far too long, Washington's top-down mandates have misdirected funding and delayed construction projects that could have bolstered our economic growth.
President Trump's "Building a Stronger America" infrastructure initiative will empower partners at the state, local, tribal, and private levels to invest wisely. Particular emphasis will be placed on developing rural America, which has been left behind for far too long.
And rather than erecting regulatory barriers that needlessly get in the way of infrastructure projects, Washington will focus on removing them - streamlining permitting, fast-tracking construction, and strengthening America's workforce - while putting more power where it belongs, back in the hands of locals.
Washington should not be directing local decisions or controlling local purse strings. One look at our nation's crumbling bridges and roads illustrates quite clearly how well that approach has worked out in the past. But, infrastructure is more than just roads and bridges. And improving it will have broad-reaching benefits at home and abroad.
For those of us focused on energy, infrastructure is also the complex networks of pipes, rails, and wires that move the water, energy, and commodities upon which American families and the American economy rely. These networks carry the nation's lifeblood - the energy that fuels our cars, heats our homes, and powers our businesses - and it is in desperate need of an upgrade.
Infrastructure also includes our waterways, as well as our sea- and airports. If we are to remain competitive in global commerce and trade, these aging facilities that carry our goods and services abroad must be upgraded so they can handle our new and growing stream of exports.
Thanks in large part to the president's policies, one of our most important exports in the coming years will be energy. We have recently become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), but fully realizing the benefits of America's energy abundance will require investments in new pipelines, railways and ports.
For example, America now has two substantial LNG export facilities in operation. Sabine Pass, spanning the border between Texas and Louisiana, and Cove Point in Maryland are currently loading LNG tankers for the international market. Six more are under construction and are nearly ready for commercial operation. Once online, these facilities will enable the export of more than 10 billion cubic feet of LNG per day to our friends and allies around the world.
That's good news for them, but more importantly, it's good news for us as well.
Energy infrastructure projects like these mean more than just temporary construction jobs. Facilities like these represent opportunities for high-paying American careers - not just at the export facilities themselves, but up and down the supply chain. It means quality, long-term employment for drillers, pipe rollers, welders, and stevedores, as well as chemists, electricians, and engineers.
Past private infrastructure projects, like these export facilities, have languished for years under a burdensome and multi-layered federal permitting process, even though most infrastructure is not federally owned. The president's "One Federal Decision" proposal seeks to shorten permitting review to two years, or less, while continuing to protect our environment.
The president recognizes how essential a modern and vibrant infrastructure is to our economic growth. He also knows that Washington doesn't always know what's best. Rather, he trusts communities to set priorities based on their unique needs and goals. And, most importantly, he wants to get the federal government out of the way of rebuilding America.
I am confident that the president's plan to renew America's infrastructure will spur local investment and control, cut red tape and benefit the economy. And, I am committed to ensuring our nation's energy policy aligns with these efforts, so that we may make the most of America's energy abundance at home and abroad.
Rick Perry is the U.S. secretary of energy.