Funding from the highway reauthorization bill combined with the short-term funding from the economic stimulus package would provide a hefty shot in the arm for transportation funding — a necessity for managers considering the U.S. DOT's projection that maintaining current congestion levels and physical conditions on roads and bridges requires an additional $19 billion annually.
As the new presidential administration and Congress debate the amount of funding for transportation, several bills are expected to get a fresh look during the 111th Congress. Many have one thing in common: environmental regulations.
The legacy of the failed Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 (S 3036) is expected to linger during the new Congress and beyond. In October the House Energy & Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), and the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, chaired by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), released a “discussion draft” of climate change legislation.
The Lieberman-Warner bill would have regulated carbon dioxide by capping emissions and allowing emitters to trade carbon allowances. Under the bill, the U.S. EPA would have established a federal greenhouse gas registry of gases produced and consumed by certain facilities and would set the quantities of emission allowances, which would decline each year from 2012 to 2050.
It would have established a cap-and-trade auction with carbon credits based on those allowances — not a good thing for the transportation industry because the cost of the credits would be factored into projects, according to Nick Goldstein, assistant general counsel and director of regulatory affairs for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
Congressmen say the House will take the lead on climate change during the next Congressional session, and the Dingell-Boucher cap-and-trade bill may be at the top of the list — although it likely would generate heated debate that could stall its enactment through the end of the 111th Congress in January 2011.
Also at the top of the list is expected to be the reintroduction of the Clean Water Restoration Act (HR 2421/S 1870), which would expand the EPA's jurisdiction to roadsides. Although previous bills stalled during the 110th Congress (HR 2421) never made it out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and its companion bill in the Senate stalled in the Environment and Public Works Committee), there is expected to be a new push when Congress reconvenes this month.
It would amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to replace the term “navigable waters” with the term “waters of the United States,” defined to include lakes, rivers, wetlands, sloughs, and even roadside drainage ditches and temporary basins at construction sites. The EPA would govern all activities affecting those waters, including road construction.
Senate Democrats supported the previous Clean Water Restoration Act, but a nearly 60% Democratic majority may speed its passage this time around, especially considering that President Obama has said that wetlands preservation would be a priority in his administration.
Keep an eye on regulations at the state level as well. More states are expected to follow in the footsteps of California, where regulations took effect in June requiring mandatory retrofits to reduce emissions from off-road diesel-powered vehicles.