The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, June 24, passed an amendment that would block President Donald Trump’s Executive Order in April to the Department of Transportation to fast-track the allowance of liquid natural gas (LNG) to be transported by rail.
“In its never-ending quest to put profit ahead of people, the Trump administration is now trying to bypass long-standing requirements for transportation of LNG by putting it into 100-car trains that roll through densely-populated areas at upwards of 50 miles per hour,” said U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D – Ore.), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, who introduced the amendment. “This plan is beyond absurd. Should even one tank car get punctured, the results could be devastating. My amendment blocks this brazen attempt by the administration. I urge the Senate to follow suit and stop a massive catastrophe before it’s too late.”
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) moved ahead earlier this month with a plan to authorize six trains, of 100 or more rail tank cars, to move LNG for export through densely populated areas. DeFazio’s amendment would block this special permit as well, which currently is open for comment until July 8.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and other committee leaders yesterday introduced the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (PRRIA), which would address infrastructure needs, transparency and other issues for Amtrak.
“By compelling Amtrak to operate more like a true business, cutting red tape, and opening the door to more private sector resources, we can make some long overdue improvements to passenger rail transportation in the United States,” Shuster said in a press release.
U.S. governors and mayors are pushing Congress to quickly reauthorize long-term legislation to fund transportation projects across the country, fearing that any lapse in funding could disrupt existing projects and hurt local economies.
Testifying at a Tuesday hearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, representatives of states, cities and the transportation industry urged lawmakers to act before the current funding law expires at the end of September.
WASHINGTON – The Republican chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Rep. John Mica of Florida, added to his anti-labor reputation July 19 by inserting language in an aviation bill aimed at pressuring Senate Democrats to overturn a National Mediation Board decision allowing more democratic representation elections among airline and rail workers.
Not to be lost here is that were the UTU tentative national rail agreement rejected, and the outcome turned over to third parties, Mica would take the lead in deciding the outcome – and it is likely he would push for a congressionally imposed settlement quite unfavorable to workers.
Mica’s latest assault on labor is in the form of legislative language to halt essential air service subsidies to states of three labor-friendly Senate Democrats — Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).
Rockefeller told the Associated Press that the Mica action was in retaliation for Senate Democrats refusing to accept an anti-labor provision in a Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill.
Mica, who is pushing to eliminate Amtrak, slash transit funding and prevent Transportation Security Administration workers from joining a union, has been on a tear to overturn an NMB ruling that brings airline and railroad representation elections in tune with all other democratic elections.
The NMB last year ended a 75-year practice that counted those not voting in rep elections as having voted against union representation. Instead, rep elections are now determined by a majority those actually voting.
No other democratic elections count those not voting as having cast negative ballots. The NMB merely brought airline and railroad rep elections under the same rules affecting all other elections in America. Indeed, if congressional elections followed the old NMB procedure, which Mica wishes to restore, many House and Senate lawmakers would not have been elected.
Mica is piqued that the changed NMB rep-election rule could make it easier for unions to organize airline and railroad workers.
Although the Republican controlled House voted to overturn the new NMB rep-election rule as part of a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Senate has refused to go along.
The result has been a stalemate and a series of extensions to keep the FAA operating. In the latest extension effort, Mica inserted language eliminating essential air service to the states of the Reid, Rockefeller and Baucus, who are among the most staunch opponents of overturning the NMB ruling through legislation.
It is a game of chicken, because if the latest extension is not passed, thousands of FAA employees would be furloughed, although the nation’s air traffic control system would continue operating. The Senate has showed no sign of capitulating to Mica.
(The following article, written by Ken Orski, editor and publisher of Innovation Briefs, is reproduced with permission of Mr. Orski.)
WASHINGTON — Congressional action on transportation this year, including the shape of the next surface transportation bill, will be inevitably influenced by the changed political geography of the 112th Congress.
Not only will the level of funding for transportation be dictated by new, fiscally conservative House appropriators, but the program priorities will be influenced by a new House majority that largely hails from small-town and suburban America.
None of the new GOP majority on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee represents big city transit-oriented districts. A majority come from the heartland. The closest to a major urbanized areas that any of the Republican members come from, are Oklahoma City and Charleston, S.C.
Thus, the committee will likely focus on traditional concerns of keeping roads and bridges in a state of good repair — and try to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund by bringing expenditures in line with expected gas tax receipts. That means a budget of approximately $40 billion to $41 billion annually.
Within these budget limits, transit will maintain its customary standing — although it may receive somewhat less emphasis, given the changed composition of the T&I Committee.
Also likely to be curtailed will be support for high-speed rail, given its cool reception in Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Florida and other Republican-dominated state legislatures.
Discretionary “executive earmarks,” such as the TIGER grants, will most likely be severely cut back if not entirely eliminated. They have not been popular with Republican lawmakers.
Chairman Mica’s resolve to make passage of a multi-year authorization a top priority increases the likelihood that a transportation bill will be brought to the House floor and approved during the first session of the 112th Congress. The Senate is likely go along.
While the next authorization will almost surely be more modest in size and less “transformational” than many in the transportation community would like to see, it will at least restore the federal surface transportation program to a stable and predictable multi-year footing.
WASHINGTON — The outgoing chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee – Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), who was defeated in the Nov. 2 elections – fears increased polarization along party lines when the new Congress is seated in January.
In an interview published by cnn.com, Oberstar, who was known to exert great effort to reach bipartisan agreement, said:
“I think there will be a significant loss of ability to moderate and mediate and bring consensus together … what the election brought into the Republican Party are persons who are committed to the more extreme conservatism, and on the Democratic side those who are more hard-core liberals … governance is best when you govern from the center and reach out to bring the views of both sides to a compromise.”
Oberstar was not speaking about the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee leadership, where most transportation legislation affecting UTU airline, bus and rail members originates.
In fact, there was considerable bipartisan agreement among the T&I committee’s leadership under Oberstar’s chairmanship; and, previously, the chairmanship of now retired Republican Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania, when Oberstar was the ranking Democrat on the committee.
The new chairman of the T&I Committee will be nine-term House member John Mica (R-Fla.), who was the ranking Republican when Oberstar was chairman.
The ranking Democrat in the 2011-2012 Congress will be Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), a 17-term veteran who is respected for his efforts at seeking bipartisan consensus.
Oberstar, who will depart Congress Dec. 31, has served in the House for 18 two-year terms.
WASHINGTON — Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), a long-time friend of the UTU, will be the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee when the new Congress is seated in 2011.
With the defeat Nov. 2 of Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), who had been chairman of the committee and would have become the ranking Democrat when Republicans take control, Rahall will be exercising his seniority to become the lead Democrat on the T&I committee.
The move was confirmed Nov. 9 by the publication, POLITICO, which cited, as its source, a spokesperson for Rahall.
Most air, bus and rail transportation legislation before the House of Representatives is first considered by the T&I Committee.
The Republican expected to chair the T&I Committee is Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.).
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is expected to chair the committee