The Senate and House cleared a pension bill that offers temporary help for single-employer and multi-employer funds and individual retirees hurt by the financial markets’ downturn. Final action came with Senate passage on Dec.11. Multi-employer plans are important in unionized construction. The bill gives underfunded multi-employer plans 13 years, up from 10 now, to implement improvement plans. It also lets multi-employer plans elect to freeze their category—healthy, endangered or seriously endangered—for one year, which would help plans that were healthy until the markets’ plunge. “It’s a great temporary fix and ...was very much needed,” says Dana Thompson, Sheet Metal and
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced December 17 that a settlement has been reached with Powers Fasteners, Inc., Brewster, N.Y., regarding the July 10, 2006 Interstate 90 tunnel plenum collapse that killed a 38-year-old local woman, Milena Del Valle. According to the agreement Powers will stop future sales of its fast-set epoxy and recall all previous sales. The firm will also pay a $16 million settlement: $15.5 million will go to a state transportation infrastructure fund and $500,000 to the City of Boston. According to Coakley the deal closes out most civil and criminal matters resulting from the tragedy. In
Timing is everything. With the nation buzzing about the economic stimulus package—considered extremely likely to include billions of dollars for infrastructure—the American Society of Civil Engineers brought 80-plus experts together for a critical infrastructure summit. The meeting was part of ASCE’s long-range planning effort, but attendees found themselves discussing the next few months as well as the decades to come. Blaine Leonard, ASCE president-elect and research program manager of Utah Dept. of Transportation, told attendees at the Dec. 8-10, Landsdowne, Va., session that their mission was to begin to identify how organizations that work with multifunded, multijurisdictional, long-term construction and
The U.S. Dept. of Energy’s “Super Energy Savings Performance Contracts” initiative is heading overseas. The State Dept. announced on Dec. 8 that it is joining with DOE to use its ESPC delivery mechanism for energy audits and implement systems upgrades at U.S. embassies worldwide. The Super ESPC vehicle is a public-private partnership that enables companies to conduct energy assessments and carry out upgrades at federal buildings with no initial cost to the agencies. Firms get regular payments that equal savings realized from the improvements until the contract’s full value is paid back. DOE has teamed with several agencies over the
The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have issued a new guidance document that they hope will clear up some of the considerable confusion over the scope of federal wetlands jurisdiction in light of the U.S. Supreme Court 2006 Rapanos decision. The revised guidance, released on Dec. 2, replaces a July 2007 version, which critics claimed created more fuzziness than clarity in defining which wetlands are subject to Clean Water Act permitting requirements. The high court’s ruling in Rapanos v. U.S. said that although federal jurisdiction does extend beyond strictly “navigable waters,” other areas in which jurisdiction
In a move that construction-machinery dealers are hailing as a victory, Caterpillar Inc. has dropped a federal lawsuit seeking to ban nonauthorized dealers from importing foreign-made, used Cat excavators into North America. Three remaining defendants, Hoss Equipment Co., Worldwide Machinery Inc. and World Tractor and Equipment Co., settled with the Peoria, Ill.-based manufacturer this past summer, one day before it was scheduled to go to trial, sources confirm. Under terms of the settlement, dealers must now address critical safety features such as operation manuals and seat belts within 45 days after importation. Dealers say they have already been doing so.
Momentum is building for an economic-stimulus package that includes substantial funding for infrastructure. With the recession straining many states’ budgets, governors and state legislators on Dec. 1 weighed in with a call for the incoming Obama administration and new Congress to include up to $136 billion for “ready-to-go” projects in a stimulus plan expected to be unveiled early in January. Photo: AP/Wideworld Rendell (L) leads governors’ push for funding. Governors, led by Pennsylvania’s Edward Rendell (D), made their pitch personally to President-elect Barack Obama at a Dec. 2 meeting in Philadelphia. Obama told the governors that “this administration does not
The debate over whether the Environmental Protection Agency should use cost-benefit analysis to help determine possible upgrades to existing powerplants has hit the Supreme Court. Oral arguments on Dec. 2 dealt with an appeal of a lower-court decision striking down a 2004 EPA rule allowing costs of upgrades to be weighed against environmental benefits. At issue are older powerplants that use once-through cooling systems, which draw millions of gallons of water to cool their facilities. Environmental groups want older plants to be retrofitted with closed-cycle cooling systems, which use cooling towers. Entergy Corp. argues that upgrade costs could approach $1.5
Amtrak has tapped Joseph H. Boardman, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration, as its new president and CEO, on a one-year appointment. Boardman, FRA administrator since 2005, began his new job on Nov. 26. Amtrak will look for a permanent CEO and Boardman could be a candidate for that post, says Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black. Boardman succeeds Alexander Kummant, who resigned the top Amtrak position on Nov. 14. Boardman, New York State Dept. of Transportation commissioner from 1997 to 2005, takes over at Amtrak shortly after enactment of a bill authorizing $5.3 billion over five years for the railroad’s
The Housing and Urban Development Dept. on Nov. 26 parceled out $2.1 billion in Community Development Block Grants to help 13 states and Puerto Rico rebuild from 2008 storms and other natural disasters. Texas gets $1.3 billion, Louisiana $438 million and Iowa $125 million. Some funds can go for infrastructure repairs. The allotment is part of $6.5 billion in CDBG disaster aid contained in a spending bill enacted on Oct. 1.
Workers’ compensation experience ratings are widely misused as a proxy for safety. This report explores how they can cost bidders contract wins, although some owners and contractors are waking up to the problem.