February 24, 2000
Volume 5, Issue 8

Senator Campbell Proposes One-Year Moratorium on Diesel Fuel Tax

In an effort to help small trucking companies, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) proposed implementing a one-year moratorium on the diesel fuel tax. Senator Campbell's proposal is a reaction to the sudden price increase fin gas and diesel fuel. If adopted, the proposal would significantly reduce the amount of money coming into the Highway Trust Fund and, in turn, the amount of funding for highway construction.

OMB Reviewing Heavy-Duty Diesel Rule: The office of Management and Budget (OMB) is reviewing a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit the sulfur content in diesel fuel. In addition, EPA would require diesel engines to meet stringent nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions. For diesel fuel, EPA is setting attainment of the standard by 20006. For heavy-duty engines, EPA wants reduction of NOx and PM by 20007. A proposed rule is expected this spring until a final rule is issued by the end of the year.

FHWA Issues Revised Environmental Streamlining Plan: The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and other Federal agencies involved in environmental reviews for transportation projects have issued the latest draft of their action plan to implement the requirements of section 1309 of TEA-21. The latest draft contains 50 specific actions that the agencies can take to speed up the permitting process. The proposal is being reviewed by all agencies involved. AGC and several members of Congress are frustrated with the slow pace of the streamlining efforts and the inability of the agencies to reduce the review period. AGC has met with AASHTO and a small group of construction industry groups to develop a strategy to make the agencies actually adopt tangible streamlining measures. TEA-21 passed almost two years ago and DOT and the other Federal agencies are still developing action plans, not taking action.

Managed Care Conferees to Meet Next Week: The first official meeting of House-Senate conferees on managed care reform gets underway next week. An earlier meeting this month had been postponed due to Senator Kennedy's hospitalization for the flu. The target date for wrapping up the meetings is March 31st , but that schedule is an "ambitious" one says conferee Senator Tim Hutchinson (R-AR). Negotiations "could last all year if one wanted" stated Hutchinson, speaking before a room of business representatives concerned about a House-passed bill that expands liability and increases premiums. Sen. Hutchinson reaffirmed that he does not want to see a final bill that increases bureaucracy, costs or the number of uninsured. However, he did acknowledge that the Senate may move toward allowing a limited form of liability but only after an exhaustive appeals process and with a cap on damages. 

Senators Grill EPA Administrator on Proposed Cuts for State Revolving Funds (SRF): GOP senators told EPA Administrator Browner that the EPA's proposal to spend less on state revolving funds and more to control non-point source pollution is misguided. The EPA budget request for next year proposed a $550 million dollar reduction for the SRF programs. Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith (R-NH) said, "The Clean Water SRF is a proven program that has been critical in helping communities comply with the Clean Water Act." Additionally, Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) said the EPA is diluting the SRF program by proposing up to 19% of its funding be used for grants to fight non-point source pollution. Senator Voinovich said that with the aging sewage treatment facilities nationwide, clean water infrastructure needs are topping $200 billion dollars. EPA is not even considering replacement of these aging facilities. AGC opposes both the proposed cuts to the SRF and the proposed use of SRF Funds to fight non-point source pollution.

Still Time to Register for AGC's 81st Annual Convention March 8-12, 2000: To register on-line please click here

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The Associated
General Contractors
of America
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Jeffrey D. Shoaf
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Peter Loughlin
Construction Markets

Loren E. Sweatt
Procurement and

Phil Thoden
Tax & Fiscal Affairs

Patrick Wilson
Human Resources & Labor