The faltering Highway Trust Fund has won a reprieve, with final congressional approval July 30 of a $7-billion infusion from the general fund. It is the second bailout for the fund in less than a year. But the relief only will keep the trust fund’s highway account solvent through Sept. 30 or perhaps a little beyond. After lawmakers return from their August break, they quickly must find still more money to shore up the fund past that date. Oberstar pushing a six-year bill. The short-term fix “will at least get us through the August recess and make sure that contractors
The Dept. of Energy has asked USEC Inc. to withdraw its application for a loan guarantee to build an advanced-technology uranium- enrichment plant at the site of a former enrichment facility in Piketon, Ohio. However, DOE will give USEC the chance to reapply at a later date. The agency says it plans to defer review of the application until a series of specific technology and financial milestones have been met. USEC says it is committed to developing the plant. DOE also says it will spend an additional $150 million to $200 million to accelerate cleanup at the former uranium-enrichment plant
While a small group of moderate Senate Democrats tries to broker a filibuster-proof compromise on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), political observers remain skeptical about the bill’s prospects. Business groups dislike the heavily lobbied measure, while organized labor strongly supports it and appears unwilling to budge on key principles. But business groups and unions alike agree the Obama administration has created a sea change on labor issues, and some of EFCA’s objectives could be accomplished by another means: a much more union-friendly National Labor Relations Board. The White House has sent three nominations to the Senate to fill vacant
The House has passed a spending bill that would cut the Dept. of Labor’s fiscal 2010 budget by 6% from the 2009 level, to $13.3 billion. But the measure does provide DOL with funds for a new green-jobs program and for more enforcement staff at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The DOL spending is part of a $733-billion 2010 appropriations package, approved on July 24, which also funds the Health and Human Services and Education Departments. DOL’s portion of the bill includes $50 million for green jobs training, a new initiative for the department. The measure also provides $1.5
David Michaels, former assistant energy secretary for environment, safety and health, is President Obama’s choice to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the White House announced on July 28. Michaels is an epidemiologist and professor at George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services. He held the Dept. of Energy environment safety and health post from 1998 to 2001.
The number of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act highway and transit projects out to bid, under contract and under way, as well as their dollar value, is climbing, but actual outlays still are low. As of June 30, 5,079 ARRA road and transit projects, worth $16.7 billion, were out to bid, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said on July 27. Project total rose 24% from the May 31 level. ARRA highway outlays were $414 million as of July 21, the Transportation Dept. reported. Of projects out to bid, 3,553 contracts were signed, totaling $10.6 billion on June 30, up
Debate over detailed solutions to close the gap in funding the nation’s water infrastructure needs has begun. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced legislation on July 15 to establish a Clean Water Trust Fund for repairing and upgrading the nation's drinking-water and wastewater treatment systems. Photo: The Office of Earl Bluemenaur Blumenauer starts debate on water trust fund. The bill aims to amass $10 billion in annual funding through a mix of taxes on bottled beverages, corporate profits, pharmaceuticals and products typically disposed of in wastewater. Almost half the funds would be distributed as grants and loans through the existing Clean
The House has approved a fiscal 2010 spending bill that would give a modest boost to the Corps of Engineers' construction account, but would trim funding for the Dept. of Energy defense environmental cleanup program. The 2010 energy and water programs appropriations measure, which the House passed on July 17, includes $2.1 billion for Corps construction, up $2 million from 2009, excluding emergency spending. It also recommends $5.4 billion for DOE’s cleanup account, which is a 5% cut from this year’s level. In the Senate, the energy-water bill that the Appropriations Committee approved on July 9 cuts the Corps construction
Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) has blocked floor action on the nomination of Robert Perciasepe to be the Environmental Protection Agency's deputy administrator. The Environment and Public Works Committee on July 15 cleared Perciasepe, a former top EPA water and air official, for the No. 2 post. But Voinovich put a hold on the nomination, citing concerns over EPA’s analysis of a climate bill the House passed in June.
The Senate commerce committee has approved a two-year Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, with a boost in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) construction aid but no broad hike in passenger facility charges (PFCs). The $34.5-billion bill, cleared by the panel on July 21, includes $8.1 billion for AIP. If the full Senate passes the bill, it would go to conference with a three year, $53.5-billion bill the House passed in May. Like the Senate panel’s bill, the House’s has $4 billion for AIP in 2010 and $4.1 billion in 2011. AIP’s 2009 appropriation is $3.5 billion. The House bill also raises the