Senate appropriators are waiting for a Consumer Product Safety Commission report on tests of health effects of drywall imported from China. “We will meet that deadline,” says CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson. Residents in 19 states say they believe health symptoms or metal corrosion are related to the wallboard. Appropriators directed CPSC to use its 2009 funds for the tests. The CPSC report is expected in early July.
Faced with some of the worst shortfalls on record, state budgets nationwide may not see full recovery until 2011, a new report says. The biannual “Fiscal Survey of States,” released on June 4, shows states’ total spending is expected to dip by 2.2% in fiscal 2009 and 2.5% in fiscal 2010. “These are some of the worst numbers we’ve ever seen,” says Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, which released the survey with the National Governors Association. Thirty states are expected to end fiscal 2009 with budget shortfalls, and another 35 could be in
On the heels of a House panel’s passage of a comprehensive global-warming bill, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was close to approving a wide-ranging energy bill of its own at ENR press time. The Senate committee package, introduced by panel Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), is similar to the one the House Energy and Commerce Committee cleared on May 21, but there are some key differences. Bingaman’s bill would require 15% of U.S. electricity to come from renewable sources by 2021. The House committee bill has a 20% standard. The Senate committee measure would give the Federal Energy Regulatory
President Obama wants to accelerate the pace of the economic- stimulus plan. The White House says it hopes to save or create as many as 600,000 jobs through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act during the summer. The plans, outlined in a June 8 Cabinet meeting, include speeding up some of the construction projects funded in the ARRA measure. Among those projects are improvements at 90 veterans medical centers in 38 states, 200 new waste and drinking-water systems in rural states and new or accelerated work at 20 Superfund sites. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on June 5 that
The White House announced on May 26 that the Labor Dept. will release $500 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act aid to train workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The funds will be distributed to a variety of unions, state workforce agencies, community organizations and educational institutions through a competitive grants program. The money will be targeted to low-income communities. Of the total, $50 million will go to workers dislocated by the auto industry’s restructuring. The competition for grants, administered by the Employment and Training Administration, begins in June, with applications due beginning in late summer.
Applications soon should start streaming in to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation for $1.5 billion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act discretionary grants for a wide range of infrastructure projects. DOT on May 18 published detailed criteria it will use to select winners of what it dubs Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. “I would expect a high level of interest” in the new grants, says Jack Basso, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ director for program, finance and management. Cathy Connor, Parsons Brinckerhoff senior vice president for government affairs, adds, “I think the demand will be
The Senate has approved Regina McCarthy, President Obama’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency’s office of air and radiation. She was confirmed on June 2, after Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) lifted a “hold” on her nomination. The former Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection chief will be responsible for developing new rules for powerplant emissions of sulfur, mercury and nitrogen oxide.
The Highway Trust Fund will need an infusion of $5 billion to $7 billion by August to avoid a slowdown in spending, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and the panel’s top Republican, James Inhofe (Okla.), are warning. Citing Obama administration and Dept. of Transportation estimates, the senators said on June 2 that $8 billion to $10 billion more will be needed in 2010 to maintain the current highway program level, which is $40.7 billion. To fix the 2009 problem, Inhofe raised the idea of using the interest on the trust-fund balance. Interest is pegged at
More top federal posts are being filled. The Senate on May 21 confirmed Maryland Dept. of Transportation Secretary John Porcari as deputy U.S.DOT secretary; Senate appropriations staffer Peter Rogoff as Federal Transit Administration chief; and Michael Connor, a Senate energy committee aide, to lead the Bureau of Reclamation. Long-time Dept. of Energy official Ines Triay was approved on May 20 as DOE assistant secretary for environmental management.
President Obama has made his first selection for the U.S. Supreme Court in federal appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Observers now are studying decisions she handed down in more than 25 years on the federal bench, seeking evidence about her views on key issues. Michael Kennedy, the Associated General Contractors’ general counsel, says Sotomayor’s construction-related decisions “track relatively closely” with those of Justice David Souter, whom she is being nominated to replace. Thus, Kennedy sees “little to indicate at this point that her confirmation would significantly alter the court’s disposition toward the construction industry.” Labor unions and environmental groups like Obama’s