Construction industry groups are hopeful the House’s swift passage of a multiyear authorization for wastewater funding bodes well for final congressional approval this year. The measure, which the House approved on March 5 by a 317-101 vote, would authorize $19.4 billion for wastewater infrastructure over the next five years. Of the total, $13.8 billion would go for Clean Water state revolving funds (SRFs), the principal financing source for wastewater projects. Funding would start at $2.4 billion in fiscal 2010, rise to $2.7 billion in 2011, then climb $100 million a year after that, to $3 billion in 2014. Clean Water
Short-term stopgap spending bills have become commonplace on Capitol Hill, making planning difficult for those who manage federal construction programs and companies that pursue those projects. But government and industry officials now know how much funding they will have to deal with through the end of fiscal 2009, thanks to a newly enacted $410-billion omnibus spending bill. With critics highlighting the package’s estimated $7.7 billion in earmarked funds for specific projects, House Democrats have put in place new requirements on earmarking. The legislation, which President Obama signed on March 11, merges the nine uncompleted 2009 appropriations bills and funds most
Although there has been action in the House on a four-year Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, it is likely that Congress instead will approve another in a series of extensions when the current stopgap FAA measure lapses on March 31. Source: Airports Council International-North America House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) says it appears a six-month extension is needed to give the Senate time to work on the bill, says transportation panel spokesman Jim Berard. Such a bill would keep FAA running and its Airport Improvement Program construction grants flowing through Sept. 30, when fiscal 2009 ends.
The White House will have to keep searching for a deputy secretary for the Dept. of Transportation. Jane Garvey, the Federal Aviation Administration chief and acting head of the Federal Highway Administration during the Clinton presidency, was seen as the top choice for the No. 2 DOT post. But Garvey has declined the appointment, says a spokesperson at JPMorgan, which Garvey joined last year.
President Obama has asked the Office of Management and Budget to develop by Sept. 30 more stringent procurement guidelines to limit the use of sole-source and cost-plus contracts on federal projects. In a March 4 memo, Obama said use of sole-source and cost-plus contracts increased dramatically between 2001 and 2008. He contended that reliance on those contracts led to cost overruns and wasteful spending on federal projects during the Bush presidency, particularly in Iraq. The memo also says federal agencies should use sole-source contracts only in limited circumstances and rely more on fixed-price contracts. The White House estimates the changes
President Obama has asked federal agencies to reconsider an eleventh-hour Bush administration rule that allows agencies, in some cases, to let construction projects move forward without consulting scientists about the projects’ impact on endangered species. In a March 3 memo, Obama requested that agencies go back to the previous policy until the Bush administration rule can be reviewed. At issue is a regulation that the Interior and Commerce departments issued on Dec. 11. It gave agencies broader authority to clear projects without checking with federal scientists about how the projects would affect wildlife. The agencies said the change would make
Contractors are not pinning their hopes on the Obama administration’s stimulus efforts to completely pull them from an economic riptide that threatens not only profitability, but solvency. But they do see the $787-billion stimulus package’s $130 billion of construction spending as a life preserver that will allow them to at least tread water over the next year or two. Photo: John J. Kosowatz / ENR Shear outlined NAVFAC efforts. “It is absolutely necessary for our industry...but this is not an infrastructure panacea,” said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive of the Associated General Contractors of America, to hundreds of attendees at AGC’s
After a nearly two-month delay, Hilda Solis, a former U.S. Representative from California, has been confirmed as Secretary of Labor. The Feb. 24 Senate vote was 80-17. Solis says that her top priorities will include promoting "green-collar" jobs, helping get Americans back to work, ensuring that workers are "paid what they deserve...and have safe and healthy workplaces," and providing employment assistance to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. She also will oversee the development of a rule implementing President Obama’s executive order reversing a Bush administration directive that requires employers to notify workers of their right not to join
Federal funding for surface transportation projects should migrate from a petroleum-fuel-based tax to a mileage-based user fee by 2020, says a 15-member commission appointed by Congress in 2007. The bipartisan group released its final report on Feb. 25 with suggestions for overhauling the Highway Trust Fund, due for its six-year reauthorization later this year. Photo: The DOT LaHood says no fuel tax hike. The National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission includes financial experts, lawyers, politicians and industry leaders. Geoffrey Yarema, a member and a partner with Nossaman LLP, Los Angeles, a law firm specializing in infrastructure, says the group’s conclusions
In just its first month, the Obama administration is moving to reverse Bush administration Clean Air Act policies. One action deals with a rule governing mercury emissions, an important piece of the Bush team’s program. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had struck down the mercury rule and the Bush administration appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in early February, new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that EPA would not pursue the Bush administration appeal and said the agency instead would draft a new mercury regulation. The high court followed