By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday said it will question U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at a Sept. 20 oversight hearing.
The committee said the hearing will cover the lack of a confirmed head of the Federal Aviation Administration, implementation of a 2021 $1 trillion infrastructure law, supply chain and energy issues as well as electric vehicle infrastructure policies.
The White House has nominated a former deputy FAA administrator, Michael Whitaker, to head the agency but no hearing has been scheduled. The FAA has been without a Senate-confirmed administrator since April 2022.
Congress is likely this month to pass a short-term extension of the FAA’s authority to operate beyond Sept. 30. A bill that would raise the mandatory commercial pilot retirement age to 67 from 65 and make other aviation reforms has stalled due to disagreements on whether to revise pilot training rules.
Another House panel last week said it was investigating the Transportation Department’s response to a series of aviation and rail safety issues.
Republicans on the House Oversight Committee in a letter to Buttigieg said the committee was investigating the department’s response to near-miss aviation incidents and train derailments. USDOT declined to comment.
The letter cited unresolved safety recommendations made by the department’s Office of Inspector General.
“These safety failures have eroded the public’s confidence in air and rail safety and necessitates thorough investigation,” the lawmakers wrote.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating seven near-miss runway events since January. Buttigieg in March said numerous aviation close calls were “deeply troubling and deserve our immediate attention.”
The issue of rail safety has drawn renewed attention since the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, Ohio, that caught fire and released more than 1 million gallons of hazardous materials and pollutants.
The Senate Commerce Committee in May approved rail safety legislation tightening rules on trains carrying flammable substances. The measure has not been taken up by the House or full Senate.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Mark Porter)