Live blog: US Senate Committee on Natural Resources State of the US Territories

10:09 am. Senator Joe Manchin-The territories and the freely associated states are important to the United States’ security. The challenges of the pandemic were compounded by other natural disasters. Senator Manchin takes note of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and the importance of infrastructure resilience.

10:14 am. Senator John Barrasso-The territories in the Pacific are a front line to Chinese aggression. Their security is important now more than ever. The territories in the Pacific are under threat by China. The Freely Associated States are integral to US security.

10:16 am. Governor Albert Bryan-The territory has been bouncing back from Covid-19. Debt burden is down, and revenues are up. Housing and infrastructure are strengthening along with tourism. The USVI has been treated like an afterthought. The USVI wants equal treatment; we are Americans. Under the law, the USVI has no equal representation. The USVI expects action on long existing needs. The Governor wants Congress to adjust the shortfall of the federal excise tax. This is revenue that needs to come into the territory. Inequitable treatment of healthcare in the territory has to be addressed. Aggressive regulators have shut down the territory’s refinery. Also, we would like to have a Caribbean energy grid.

10:24 am. Guam Governor Lourdes Leon Guerrero concerned about China’s growing military threat. Guam hosts military bases that bring risk. Guam recognizes that it will be a target of China’s military moves. The adverse impact of the compact on education calls for full reimbursement of costs of delivering education, infrastructure, and other programs. Guam also has a skilled labor shortage. To be economically diverse, Guam needs skilled labor which ca be mitigated by changes in immigration policy including the H-2B program.

10:30 am. American Samoa Governor Mauga-American Samoa is vulnerable to sea level rises. Seeking support in combatting climate change including building wharfs and sea walls, power system, other critical infrastructure. Samoa has security concerns due to threat of China. American Samoa is asking for $1.7 billion in aid to support infrastructure, health needs.

10:35 am. Governor Palacios-The Northern Mariana Islands is struggling from weather disasters, Covid-19, and a shrinking population. The threat of China compounds these issues. NMI has a fiscal disaster from the irresponsible fiscal behavior of the last administration. The workforce is stressed from a labor shortage compounded by population loss. The Northern Mariana Islands are on the frontline of threats to the US in the Pacific.

10:42 am. Governor Pierluisi-The government’s debt has been restructured. Government revenues are exceeding estimates. The commonwealth has an increase of 150,000 jobs since last year. Last two years has seen operational surpluses in the government’s budget. Utility scale renewable energy projects are underway. 2,000 rooftop solar panels per month being added. There are already 68,000 rooftop panels in the commonwealth. The majority of Puerto Ricans want statehood. Puerto Ricans should not be expected to continue with a lack of equal treatment.

Alton Drew

9 February 2023

Alton Drew

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