Durbin says he’s trying to get aid for river towns
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday he is working with Sen. Barack Obama and the Illinois congressional delegation to bring federal disaster aid to Illinois before cities and towns along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers are flooded.
“We’re trying to get ahead of the problem as much as possible,” Durbin said. “We’ve had complete cooperation from the governor and state agencies.”
Durbin, D-Ill., met with local media Sunday outside his Springfield home to discuss the flooding threatening several Illinois counties and an upcoming hearing to strengthen a watchdog agency that regulates oil and commodity futures markets.
On the heels of visits to Quincy, Grafton and Lerna this past weekend, Durbin said Gov. Rod Blagojevich already has declared some Illinois counties state disaster areas and requested direct federal assistance to help communities affected by rising water levels. Durbin also has asked the federal and state emergency management agencies to pre-position resources before floodwaters arrive.
“If we can get the federal assistance, it will help a lot of the municipalities, towns and counties that are cleaning up the mess along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, as well as others,” Durbin said. “It will also be available to help some home owners if they’re in a tough position with damage, and businesses that may need loans or some financial assistance to get back in business.”
Durbin also plans to hold a hearing Tuesday in Washington with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, calling for more resources and authority for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, an agency that regulates markets that trade in oil futures.
During the past eight years, the number of trades in futures markets has increased by more than 600 percent, while the number of people working to the watchdog oversight agency has dwindled, Durbin said.
“People wonder why in the heck gasoline prices have become so high, and the oil companies point to the price of a barrel of crude oil,” the senator said. “A lot of people say, ‘why, why did it go up?’ Some people say it’s all because of speculation. Some of these traders can’t make enough money in the stock market, and they’re moving into speculation in the oil market.”
Such speculation drives up the price of crude oil, Durbin added.
“I know people are frustrated, and when I come back to Springfield gasoline prices are the number one issue that they talk about,” he said. “If we can bring the speculation down, I think we have a chance to bring a barrel of crude oil’s price down.”
Rhys Saunders can be reached at (217) 788-1521 or email@example.com.