House T&I Committee Approves Road Map for 118th Congress
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Oversight of the implementation of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure law is a leading priority for the transportation policy panel in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In its recently approved action plan for the 118th Congress, the GOP-led Transportation and Infrastructure Committee indicated funding authorized as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as well as certain policy directives, will be scrutinized over the next two years. Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) is leading those efforts.
“Stakeholders have raised concerns about the supply chain crisis and the negative effects inflation has in eroding IIJA’s funding increases. Therefore, the committee will continue to hold hearings on supply chain challenges, high inflation levels and other challenges to our nation’s transportation network,” according to the panel’s views and estimates document for fiscal 2024 that was approved Feb. 28. The document is meant to assist in the drafting of the budget. “The committee intends to offer legislation that will reduce regulatory burdens, invest in supply chain infrastructure and create good-paying jobs in the transportation workforce.”
Per the document, “To ensure the efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars, the committee will also conduct extensive oversight to monitor the distribution of IIJA funds to ensure DOT complies with the statutory requirements during its grant processes and through its competitive programs.”
Additionally, the panel intends to identify areas for potential cost savings in the federal government, review COVID-19 pandemic and relief efforts, prioritize aviation safety, update Coast Guard and maritime regulations and enhance pipeline safety programs.
Specific to rail operations, the panel indicated it would oversee and review “actions taken by the Federal Railroad Administration, freight railroads, Amtrak and the Surface Transportation Board.”
The Feb. 3 freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, prompted Graves and Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Troy Nehls (R-Texas) to request after-action reports from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Republican leaders are requesting the agency’s administrator provide “a document sufficient to describe EPA’s role in responding to the train derailment, including but not limited to, when EPA’s response role began, the anticipated timeline for response efforts, and the names and titles of EPA officials responsible for leading the response.” Graves and Nehls asked EPA Administrator Michael Regan to answer the committee by March 13.
On the other side of the Capitol, a bipartisan group of senators is sponsoring the Railway Safety Act of 2023. The legislation aims to prevent train derailments by boosting safety standards. The bill proposes new requirements and procedures for trains moving hazardous materials. Its consideration has yet to be scheduled in the chamber.
“These common-sense bipartisan safety measures will finally hold big railroad companies accountable, make our railroads and the towns along them safer, and prevent future tragedies so no community has to suffer like East Palestine again,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a co-sponsor, said March 1.
“Action to prevent future disasters is critical, but we must never lose sight of the needs of the Ohioans living in East Palestine and surrounding communities,” added Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio.).
The White House welcomed the bill.
“We encourage Republicans and Democrats to continue to work together to … advance these common-sense rail safety measures,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)
March 8, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce meets for a hearing titled, “Implementation and Oversight of the Aircraft, Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act.” Watch the hearing here.
March 8, 10 a.m.: The House Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee meets for a hearing on pipeline safety and the implementation of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020.
March 9, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee examines the safety standards of the nation’s freight rail operators. Witnesses include Alan Shaw, president and CEO of Norfolk Southern; Debra Shore, regional administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency; and Anne Vogel, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Watch the hearing here.
March 9, 10 a.m.: The House Aviation Subcommittee meets for a hearing to review operations at the Federal Aviation Administration.
Think of it as having been one click away.
At American Trucking Associations’ Moving & Storage Conference Annual Meeting last week, ATA leader Chris Spear took direct aim at a World War I-era tax he says presents an obstacle for the industry. Spear told attendees at the conference that he had recently urged federal lawmakers to revisit their efforts on the repeal of the long-standing excise tax on new trucks. He maintained that the tax has long since outlived its purpose.
“A century-old [tax], created in World War I, just after the Titanic sank, to fund World War I trench warfare — it’s the only of that era that still exists. And it’s costing $25,000 a tractor,” Spear said Feb. 27.
During the last session of Congress, policymakers of the House and Senate transportation and infrastructure panels unveiled measures that would have repealed the 12% tax on new trucks and trailers. However, the legislation stopped short of reaching the president’s desk due to lack of support.
President Joe Biden nominated Julie Su to serve as the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. Su serves as the Labor Deputy Secretary.
“It is my honor to nominate Julie Su to be our country’s next secretary of Labor. Julie has spent her life fighting to make sure that everyone has a fair shot, that no community is overlooked and that no worker is left behind,” Biden said Feb. 28. “Over several decades, Julie has led the largest state labor department in the nation, cracked down on wage theft, fought to protect trafficked workers, increased the minimum wage, created good-paying, high-quality jobs, and established and enforced workplace safety standards."
Another Biden nominee on the hot seat.
Subagency heads, unite!
Robin Hutchenson @FMCSA administrator: ' There is no dividing line for #safety in our modal work because #roads handle passengers & goods movement at the same time.' #transportation#highway#street#mobility@aashtospeaks@USDOT@GHSAHQ@NHTSAgovpic.twitter.com/jzYaZHQLBb — Sean Kilcarr (@AASHTOsean) March 2, 2023
The Last Word
America’s waterways serve as critical links in our nation’s supply chains.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on March 1Image
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