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@MyKitchenTable - May 13, 2021

@MyKitchenTable: Thursday, May 13, 2021

Dear Friend:

“Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Nothing. Not a career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity.” -Audrey Hepburn.

Wise words to always keep in mind. This year, as we were plunged into a relentless pandemic, the lion’s share of our efforts had to be on COVID. In this past year, and to this day, millions of Americans continue to suffer from horrible diseases. As you’ll recall, I recently met with President Biden and a bipartisan group of colleagues with the goal of, as the President said, “Ending cancer as we know it.” Along those lines, I met this afternoon with my 21st Century Cures cosponsor Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) to jumpstart efforts on a major “Cures 2.0” bill. Much more to come in the future.
This past weekend, hackers attacked and subsequently shutdown the Colonial Pipeline – the largest pipeline system for refined oil products in the United States. At 5,500 miles long, it can carry 3 million barrels of fuel each day between Texas and New York, up and down the East Coast. The pipeline is responsible for nearly half of the East Coast’s supply of fuel.

This cyberattack exposure our vulnerabilities and underscored the very urgent need to strengthen our energy infrastructure and protect the systems that help power our way of life, something I’ve been focused on for many years now. Because of the shutdown, there is a shortage of gas causing long lines and a jump in the increase average price of gas. At $3.02, it is the first time the price of gas topped $3 in six years. Colonial Pipeline announced it was restarting operations on Wednesday around 5 PM, but it could take several days or weeks to get back to normal. We had a bipartisan briefing with the Department of Energy and to get more answers and details about how this happened, what we need to do to prevent it from happening again, and talk about our nation’s fuel supply.

ImageTo the right is an image that showed the percentage of gas stations on the East Coast that were out of gas. According to the GasBuddy App, as of Thursday morning, nearly 75% of gas stations in North Carolina were out of gasoline, and 50% in Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina. You can read more HERE.

In response, in the Energy and Commerce Committee, my colleague Rep. Bobby Rush and I introduced the bipartisan Pipeline and LNG Facility Cybersecurity Preparedness Act to help the Department of Energy respond effectively to physical and cyber threats to our nation’s pipeline and LNG facilities. Our national security and economic vitality rely on the efficient transport of crucial energy supplies nationwide. Any prolonged delay in fuel delivery can hike gas prices as we’ve seen, impact business operations, raise energy costs for American families, and invite adversaries to exploit these vulnerabilities. We need to work together now to prevent similar attacks from occurring in the future. You can read more HERE.

On COVID, the news continues to get better – slowly but surely. Nationally, the 7 day positivity rate has fallen to 3.6%, the lowest its been this entire pandemic. That is certainly encouraging, and you can see more HERE. In Michigan our seven day average of new cases per day is now around 2,100, and our positivity rate is now at 8%. You can see the latest stats in MLIVE HERE. The facts and figures are moving in the right direction – we need more and more folks to continue to get the COVID-19 vaccine if we want to put this pandemic behind us once and for all.  In case you missed it, yesterday, the CDC formally adopted a recommendation from a panel of experts that Pfizer’s vaccine can be used in children ages 12 to 15, which you can read more about HERE.

Lastly, the CDC announced today they were easing indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully-vaccinated people. They reported there might be a handful of instances folks will still need to wear masks indoors for the time being, including in crowded indoor spaces and public transportation. But this is encouraging and yet another reason to get the vaccine. You can read more HERE.

Next week, the House is expected to vote on creating a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The commission would have subpoena powers that would need to be agreed to by both Republicans and Democrats on the commission. You can watch body cam footage from one of the officers – Michael Fanone – who was attacked on January 6 HERE. I have met with a number of Capitol police officers since the attack, including Benton Harbor’s own Deon Atkins, and it is time for us to get all of the facts about the January 6 insurrection.

All the best,

Fred Upton

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