Monday, November 14, 2011

In Congress

Congress rolls on, after its fashion, even when a blog pauses. Here is a summary of what our senators and representatives have been up to over the last few weeks.

Acronym Mongers Active in Legislature
The Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act (H.R. 3158) would set limitations for rules the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might implement to control spills at animal feeding operations. Another bill would constrain EPA (S. 1702) would limit the agency’s regulation of emissions from stationary internal combustion engines used for electric power generation or water pumping, though it doesn’t have a clever name.

The Resources and Economic Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast Act of 2011 (H.R. 3096) would create a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund to be funded from penalties from the Deepwater Horizon incident. The fund would support restoration efforts in the coastal states on the Gulf of Mexico. The bill would also create five centers for excellence for the study of effects of the spill and the restoration of the Gulf.

Agency Potentially Under the Ax

The EDA Elimination Act of 2011 (H.R. 3090) would repeal the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965, which created the Economic Development Agency. The bill has been referred to various committees.

American Jobs Act
The American Jobs Act of 2011 (H.R. 12) rolls together a lot proposals into an omnibus, dare it be spoken, stimulus bill. A significant portion of the bill deals with employment tax relief, other tax reform and supporting education jobs and facilities. Only part of the bill deals with the kind of infrastructure we normally cover at Infrastructure Watch.

-Transportation appropriations. The bill would appropriate $39 billion to air, rail, port and highway transportation programs. In most cases, normal matching requirements would be waived.

-Infrastructure Bank. The bill incorporates the BUILD Act, the main purpose being the creation of a national infrastructure bank.

-Redevelopment. The bill appropriates $15 billion to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to make grants for the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed properties.

A version of this bill was also introduced in the Senate (S. 1660). There are several other bills intended to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

The Jobs Through Growth Act (S. 1720) would, among other things, limit EPA’s rulemaking authority and ease the way for energy exploration in the continental shelf. The Rebuild America Jobs Act (S. 1769) would fund transportation projects and create an infrastructure bank, and increase taxes on people with incomes of $500,000 or more (I wish I had that kind of problem).

Appropriations acts, the only thing Congress really has to do every year, are making their way through the process.

-The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 (H.R. 2608) passed both houses.
-The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012 (S. 1596) was introduced to the Senate.

Bill Would Suspend Requirements for Highway Projects
Rep. Randy Forbes (VA) has introduced the 414 Plan Act of 2011 (H.R. 2924). The bill would suspend several federal requirements for federal-aid highway projects and highway safety construction. The suspension would last for five years. It would also repeal several laws relating to biking and pedestrian traffic.

Coal Combustion Product Regulation
The House of Representatives passed the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (H.R. 2273). This bill would put regulation of coal combustion products under Subpart D of the Solid Waste Disposal Act, essentially putting regulation in the hands of the states and heading off a potential determination from EPA that may have brought it under a federal regulatory program.

Congress Passes Bill to Extend Transportation Programs
Both houses have Congress have passed a bill (H.R. 2887) to extend several surface and air transportation programs through March 31, 2012. Long-term reauthorization is underway (S. 1786).

Related posts and articles
Congress of Deadlines
Congress to Take Up Transportation Bill, Infrastructure Bank
House Passes Transportation Bill

Energy Bill Has Unusual Name, Other Energy Proposals
In spite of its name, the Rebuild American Roads Act (H.R. 2983), would expedite plans for energy resource exploration and drilling in the continental shelf, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. The bills was introduced by Rep. Shelly Moore Capito (WV). The POWER Act (H.R. 2360) would make U.S. laws applicable on energy structures on the outer continental shelf.

The Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act of 2011 (H.R. 2842) would smooth the way for the development of hydropower generation projects in Reclamation water conveyances. The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2011 (S. 1775) would establish means to permit solar and wind energy projects on public lands and extend existing geothermal development programs.

Missouri River Priorities Contested
Rep. Sam Graves (MO) has introduced a bill (H.R. 2993) that would strike wildlife protection as priority for the Corps of Engineers’ Missouri River management plan and make flood control the top priority. S. 1795 would direct the Corps to address flood control specifically by increasing storage.

National Infrastructure Bank Bill
Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH) has introduced the National Infrastructure Bank Act of 2011 (S. 1550). The bank would be board-governed and make loans and loan guarantees of up to half the project cost to public sponsors of a variety of infrastructure projects. The bill would authorize appropriations of up to $5 billion annually through 2015 to capitalize the bank.

The American Jobs Act of 2011 (S. 1549) also includes an infrastructure bank proposal. That bill would establish the American Infrastructure Finance Authority to make loans and loan guarantees for transportation, water and energy infrastructure projects. This provision appears to be very similar to the BUILD Act.

A version of this bill was also introduced into the House of Representatives (H.R. 3259).

Related posts and articles
Calls for Infrastructure Bank Continue
Congress to Take Up Transportation Bill, Infrastructure Bank
President Proposes New Recovery Plan
President Sends Jobs Plan to Congress

Water Resources Infrastructure Bill Hits Senate
The Senate version of the Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act of 2011 (S. 1669) has been introduced. A similar bill was previously introduced in the House.

Related posts and articles
Water News: Water Resources Resilience Bill Introduced

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