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Goals for State-Federal Relations, 2000-2001:
AFI Energy and Transportation Committee

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AFI Energy and Transportation Committee

Goals for State Federal Action

Staff Contacts


Alternative Fuels and Alternatively Fueled Vehicles
(Joint policy with AFI Environment Committee)


 Electric Industry Restructuring

Environmental Impact of Electric Industry Restructuring
(Joint policy with AFI Environment Committee)

Fuel Transportation and Storage Safety

Hazardous Materials Transportation

Infrastructure Finance
(Joint policy with AFI Federal Budget and Taxation Committee)

Intelligent Transportation Systems

Motor Carrier Regulation

National Energy
(Joint policy with AFI Environment Committee)

Oil Overcharge Settlement Funds

Oil Spill Prevention, Response and Cleanup
(Joint policy with AFI Environment Committee)

Radioactive Waste Management
(Joint policy with AFI Environment Committee)

Rail Regulation

State Authority Over Driver's Licensing and Birth Certificates

State Primacy in the Regulation of Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Wastes

Surface Transportation

Transportation Safety




Alternative Fuels and Alternatively Fueled Vehicles

(Joint policy with the AFI Energy and Transportation Committee)

The National Conference of State Legislatures urges the federal government to encourage an increase in the research, development and promotion of alternative domestic fuels and alternatively fueled vehicles, including their commercial production and use, and to devote federal funds to evaluate the environmental and economic impacts of alternative fuels and alternatively fueled vehicles. Alternative fuels and alternatively fueled vehicles can reduce the level of toxic and other emissions from vehicular use, reduce our dependence on imported oil, improve our national security, help to balance our trade deficit and help cities, counties and local governments comply with the Clean Air Act Amendments and other legislative mandates. This research, development and promotion of alternative fuels and alternatively fueled vehicles should have as its primary purposes assuring that the use of these fuels result in fewer air pollutants, the reduction of U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and significant reductions in CO2, other greenhouse gases and other emissions.

The Clean Air Act Amendments attempts to address the issue of air quality by requiring states and regional authorities to develop comprehensive plans to control air pollution. A significant number of metropolitan areas in the United States have been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as not meeting health based standards for carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, ozone and sulfur oxides, particulates and other pollutants. According to the EPA, much of the pollution in these nonattainment areas can be directly traced to mobile source emissions. By themselves, traditional methods apparently are no longer capable of effectively ameliorating the increasingly negative impact of these emissions. As a result, NCSL recommends the exploration and evaluation of all forms of alternative domestic fuels and alternatively fueled vehicles in order to reduce the incidence of toxic air emissions. NCSL recommends caution in the promotion of alternative fuels where traditional fuels are to be replaced with alternative fuels that could result in other pollution problems.

NCSL supports the Clean Air Act Amendments' definition for Clean Alternative Fuels: "including methanol, ethanol, or other alcohols (including any mixture thereof containing 85 percent or more by volume of such alcohol with gasoline or other fuels), reformulated gasoline, diesel, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, and hydrogen or power source (including electricity) used in a clean-fuel vehicle..."

NCSL is concerned that the further development of alternative domestic fuels, alternatively fueled vehicles and conservation devices will depend, at least in the near future, upon the continued availability of tax credits designed to encourage investment in these technologies.

While tax credits and exemptions are important to the creation of an alternative fuels market, NCSL recognizes their negative fiscal impact on the overall federal budget, as well as inequities in the Highway Trust Fund. NCSL urges Congress to encourage alternative fuels use through production and development of new vehicles with alternative fuels capability and vehicle conversion incentives in lieu of alternative fuels tax exemptions. Federal tax credits available to alternative fuel production facilities should be extended for a limited time. Congress is urged to phase out the tax credits for the research and development of alternative domestic fuels and alternatively fueled vehicles when the technology or changing policies relating to petroleum-based fuels makes the product competitive in the market place. In an effort to mitigate the state-specific impact of these and other federal policy changes, states should retain taxing authority to ensure that alternative fuels are competitively priced.

NCSL believes that the development, promotion and use of alternative fuels derived from domestic sources and alternatively fueled vehicles is consistent with the primary goals of a national energy policy that calls for the most efficient use of energy, a comprehensive energy conservation strategy and the development and promotion of alternative renewable energy sources.

In areas required under CAAA to utilize reformulated oxygenated fuels, selection of alternative fuel additives should be left to state discretion where costs, safety, and economic and environmental impact can be considered.

NCSL supports the goals of the Federal Fleet Conversion Task Force to develop a comprehensive and coordinated public and private plan for accelerating the introduction and use of AFV's.

With regards to fuel additives, NCSL recommends the following:

  • Prior to approval of fuel additives, U.S. EPA should examine public health benefits and cross-media implications.
  • Any fuel requirements should be in the form of performance-based goals. No specific chemicals or other additives should be prescribed in order to maximize state flexibility to achieve the goals.
  • Any fuel requirement should be based on anticipated air quality benefits.

July 2000



Aviation is a key component of a balanced transportation system and is vitally linked to regional growth and economic development efforts. The development and preservation of a balanced system of airports, which is responsive to the needs of all sectors of the nation, is the mutual responsibility of federal, state and local governments.


Current aviation sources have not provided the necessary funding to meet identified capital development needs, particularly at small airports. This underinvestment in our nation's aviation system has negative safety, capacity, and economic repercussions. The following recommendations regarding aviation financing are to be viewed as a comprehensive package and not as individual parts to be implemented piecemeal.

  • The Airport and Airways Trust Fund, financed by existing dedicated user taxes and charges, should be retained and utilized as the primary method of funding federal-aid aviation projects. As a means of ensuring full expenditure, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) supports the removal of the Trust Fund from the federal unified budget. NCSL supports a mechanism to guarantee that all revenue dedicated to the Trust Fund is spent each year for its intended purpose. Aviation programs financed by Trust Fund revenue should be classified as "mandatory" spending and operate as a "pay-as-you-go" program. The current spending caps and categorization imposed on domestic discretionary programs are causing arbitrary funding reductions in important state aviation programs.
  • Recognizing the safety, security, economic, and other broad public benefits of the services provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, NCSL supports a continuation of a General Fund contribution, due to military and federal usage or airport facilities and services.
  • Federal aviation taxes are acceptably structured to equitably distribute the financial burden on all users. All aviation user fees should be directed to the Airport and Airways Trust Fund and should accrue to the benefit of aviation users. Any federal aviation fees collected from airline ticket taxes that are diverted to non-aviation purposes should be rededicated or repealed. NCSL supports federal grant assurance provisions barring diversion of airport revenue to non-airport purposes.
  • The Airport Improvement Program (AIP) is the linchpin of airport financial planning and must be funded adequately on a reliable basis in order to meet the substantial capital needs of the nation's airports and airways. NCSL believes that the AIP must be fully funded at a minimum level of $2 billion annually on a multi-year basis to help support needed safety, security, capacity and noise projects. A multi-year authorization would provide a stable and predictable federal funding source for airport capital development and eliminate the current uncertainty and start-and-stop nature of airport development and construction. Maximum flexibility in the prioritization and administration of funds should be provided to the states. Statutory or regulatory barriers to state and locally-granted revenues should be removed.
  • State Apportionment funds should be increased to fund essential planning activities. Funding should be available to states from the Trust Fund for aviation-related transportation planning activities
  • NCSL supports efforts to further reduce aircraft noise and a continued set-aside of AIP funds for noise abatement projects.
  • NCSL opposes federal efforts to limit state and local fee structures. NCSL supports the continuation of Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) as a supplementary revenue source to finance airport needs. Proceeds generated from PFCs should be permitted for financing projects which preserve or enhance safety, security, capacity, and noise mitigation.
  • Federal tax laws should continue to exempt airport municipal bonds from federal taxation.
  • NCSL supports the use of innovative financing methods, such as state infrastructure banks and revolving loans, whenever possible to allow states to meet the funding needs of smaller airports. The creation of such programs to address state needs outside the existing program framework should be treated as a viable option for supplementing current funding levels.

State Block Grant Program

As this program has been shown to eliminate waste and duplication, increase efficiency, and cut federal costs, the state block grant program should be extended and expanded so that all states are eligible to participate. NCSL believes that the program should be structured to allow states the maximum flexibility in the administration of grants.


NCSL supports a coordinated national plan of development as long as state plans for investment are included. As part of the development of the National Airspace System Architecture, the FAA should make every effort to consider state input.. The economies of many parts of the country are dependent on the modernization of the nation's aviation system. Federal policies should support state efforts to address capacity problems through expansion. NCSL supports the increased use of former and current military airports to provide immediate capacity relief for the aviation system.


NCSL supports efforts to increase airport capacity and competition within the airline industry. However, NCSL remains concerned over the preservation of state authority over certain airline actions and practices.

  • An examination should be made of other provisions of law that pertain to the ability of the state to regulate or enforce safety standards and practice.
  • NCSL continues to support air travel equity for all travelers regardless of any physical handicap. The regulation of this matter is necessary to ensure nondiscriminatory treatment of qualified disabled individuals consistent with safe transportation of all passengers on air carriers.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation should undertake a study of the high density rule to reevaluate the slot allocation process at hub airports. Such an examination should assess airline capacity, competition, fares and service at affected airports.
  • Federal preemption of state regulatory authority over air carriers should not be extended to include the surface transportation component of an air carrier's operations.

Federal-Aid Program

  • The Essential Air Service (EAS) program was reauthorized to continue assistance in the transition to a deregulated environment by providing incentives for carriers to provide air service to small and medium-sized communities. NCSL believes this commitment should be honored and adequate funds should be appropriated to meet the authorized EAS subsidies. Where EAS is terminated, proper notification to the affected community should be required.
  • Federal support for research and development of facilities and equipment should be increased to meet the demands of the next century's air travelers. Reforms in the FAA technology procurement process should be considered.
  • While NCSL opposes any and all federal mandates and preemption, federal funding should be made available to offset the costs of current federal mandates imposed on airports relative to security and the environment.

July 1999


Electric Industry Restructuring

A number of states already allow retail consumers to choose among competing electricity providers. Every other state is considering some type of reform to its electric industry, and Congress is also considering action to overhaul existing laws governing the structure of the electric industry. While there are a few aspects of restructuring that would best be served by a national or regional focus, NCSL believes that the majority of issues associated with restructuring should be within the purview of the states.

 Any action taken by Congress to restructure the electric industry should enable states to restructure without imposing a mandate on states to do so and without establishing a date certain for competition.

  • NCSL considers federal preemption of state regulation of the electric industry to be wholly inappropriate and unacceptable and opposes federal standards to govern state electric utility regulation or retail ratemaking by state commissions. State jurisdiction should not be eroded.

  • Any action taken by Congress to restructure the electric industry should grandfather any state actions to establish retail competition, without setting temporary limits on grandfathering actions.

  • State and local authority, which facilitates regional or statewide aggregation, must not be precluded.

  • State and local governments must maintain their authority governing rights-of-ways, franchises, zoning and revenues.

Federal Restructuring Process:

  • Appropriate state officials should be fully consulted regarding the development of federal policy regulating the electric industry.

  • Federal electric industry restructuring should be in a manner consistent with state electric industry regulation.

  • The roles of state regulators and FERC regarding transmission of electricity require careful collaboration of all affected entities so that policies are not at cross-purposes. Federal authority over wholesale pricing and new access must harmonize with state authority over retail pricing, planning and siting.

The Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA):

  • State authority must not be eroded nor should any state authority be transferred to FERC if PUCHA is unconditionally repealed, conditionally repealed or if the SEC authority under PUCHA is expanded.

The Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA):

  • NCSL urges that changes in or to PURPA guarantee that it is within the individual state public utility commission's purview to determine the specific methodology employed for calculating "avoided cost." Considering the state-specific conditions of power generation capability, the determination of competitive prices for purchased power from PURPA-qualified qualified facilities (QF's) must remain a state right and responsibility. The purchase price for QF power must be based on the utility's service needs as determined in ratemaking proceedings before the state or local regulatory authority. New QF purchase requirements under PURPA should terminate where customers have retail choice of generation suppliers.

  • Existing state law and state regulatory authority should not be negatively affected by PURPA repeal.

Public Benefits/Environment:

  • States should maintain the authority to require public benefits programs on a nondiscriminatory basis, including those that support reliable and universal service, energy efficiency, renewable technologies, research and development, and low-income assistance. Existing federally sponsored public benefits programs should be maintained in a restructured market.

  • Electric industry restructuring should be consistent with any federal environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act.

  • In regards to fuel usage, the electricity sector is characterized by tremendous diversity, regionally, and state-to-state. Factors relating to fuel usage include energy efficiency, economic competitiveness, environmental impacts and technological adaptability. Implementation of Federal legislation that fails to recognize market mechanisms inevitably penalizes one region or state or another. Mandate programs, which have led to energy market distortions in the past, are counter to the concept of restructuring, which encourages the efficiencies of market competition. States are in the best position to evaluate market force considerations. Congressional legislation should not limit, through the use of mandates or otherwise, state flexibility in addressing market mechanisms in electric restructuring plans.

  • NCSL believes that non-traditional energy production should be encouraged. The federal government must maintain and increase its commitment to cost effective energy conservation and efficiency while maintaining adequate and reliable energy. Power providers, equipment and appliance manufacturers, and consumers should be given legislative and regulatory incentives to promote these goals.

Consumer Protection and Education:

  • The safety, reliability, quality, and sustainability of services should be maintained or improved.

  • All consumers should have access to adequate, safe, reliable, and efficient energy services at fair and reasonable prices, as a result of competition.

  • States should retain the authority, with the assistance of the federal government as needed, to protect consumers from anticompetitive behavior, undue discrimination, poor service, market power abuses, and unfair service practices.

  • States should maintain the authority to establish or require comprehensive consumer education and outreach programs to minimize public confusion and provide information so consumers are able to make informed choices and participate effectively in a restructured market.

Stranded Costs:

  • States should continue to have clear authority to determine costs that are stranded or made unrecoverable by retail competition and to provide for the recovery of those costs, if at all, as the state deems necessary or appropriate.

Public Power/Rural Power:

  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury should promptly take administrative action to permanently preserve the tax-exempt status of existing debt associated with the transmission systems of public power utilities that choose to participate in Independent System Operators.

  • Any federal legislation should maintain or improve the ability of rural consumers of electricity to obtain adequate, affordable and reliable service.

  • States should maintain authority in regards to the treatment of rural electric cooperatives and public power districts in a competitive environment.


  • No provision in any federal electric industry restructuring should result in the loss of state and local tax revenue.

Power Marketing Administrations:

  • The National Conference of State Legislatures supports cost-based pricing and other current federal power marketing policies that have governed the sale of electric power from federal hydro projects for decades. NCSL believes the federal hydropower program has served the nation and American consumers well and urges Congress and the Administration to preserve those policies in the interest of millions of urban and rural consumers who rely on that power.

July 1999


Environmental Impact of Electric Industry Restructuring

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) believes that deregulation of electricity production should not result in an increase in air pollution. NCSL supports provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) that require achievement of scientifically-based air quality standards and prohibit significant deterioration. Congress also enacted provisions to limit pollution sources in one state from causing an adverse impact on air quality in neighboring states. Any legislation authorizing electric utility deregulation should respect these CAA provisions and Congress should also:

Work on a cooperative basis with state and local officials on electric industry restructuring to ensure the concerns of all interested parties are addressed;

Continue to monitor emissions from electricity producers before and after completion of electric industry restructuring to determine whether emissions cause or contribute to ambient air quality exceedances beyond state and federal permitted levels;

Encourage electricity producers to invest in clean emission reduction technologies to reduce air pollution;

Assure that federal agencies respect and support states' efforts to address interstate air quality issues through interstate cooperation such as visibility transport commissions or the Ozone Transport Assessment Group;

Assure that, in addition to addressing emissions from the electric utility industry and to the maximum extent feasible, states and EPA address emissions from federal sources affecting interstate transport of pollutants;

Preserve the existing role of states as the primary policy makers for environmental and electric industry regulation; and

Assure that state authority to develop and implement restructuring plans is not preempted.

On a proactive basis, the federal government should work with the states to prevent any increase in interstate and international transportation of air pollution that may result from increased electricity generation. However, in the event that there is such an increase in the transportation of air pollution, then the federal government should work with the states to:

Ensure that the source of such increased air pollutants takes measures to reverse any increase in emissions; and

Use existing Clean Air Act authorities to protect states and air quality control regions adversely affected by interstate and international transboundary migration of air pollution.

 July 1999


Fuel Transportation and Storage Safety

Gaseous and liquid fuels are transported by pipeline directly to consumers or to storage facilities. Responsibility for the safety of pipelines and storage facilities has been delegated by Congress to the U.S. Department of Transportation and to states. Therefore, the National Conference of State Legislatures supports the following:

  • States should have the right to concur in the siting of storage facilities and pipelines, and that roles should not be diminished.
  • States should have the right to set reasonable liability requirements on pipeline and storage facility owners and operators.
  • Any federal standard for the siting, design, construction, operation and maintenance of a storage facility, and standards affecting any state pipeline safety program, should be developed in full cooperation with state legislatures.
  • States should have the right to set additional or more stringent standards in the regulation of fuel transportation and storage, including additional or more stringent safety standards.
  • NCSL supports state initiatives to institute notification systems for the identification and protection of underground pipeline facilities. State adoption of national one-call notification programs should be voluntary and accompanied by adequate federal funding and technical assistance. Federal efforts to impose a national one-call system, enforced through highway funding sanctions, is an unwarranted national mandate.
  • Pipeline and facility standards should recognize and make appropriate regulatory distinctions between different types of gases according to their risks to human health and safety, potential for environmental harm, and the relationship of costs to the public benefit.
  • The federal government should take into consideration during the development of additional regulatory requirements, their impact on small businesses. These impacts include the remoteness of the facility, its share of the regional market, the scale of ownership and operation, the degree of competition, the average remaining useful life of the facilities, the relative size of required additional investments to meet the additional regulatory requirements, the availability of financing and insurance, and other pertinent factors.

July 1998


Hazardous Materials Transportation

The National Conference of State Legislatures supports the Hazardous Materials Transportation and Uniform Safety Act (HMTUSA) to clarify governmental regulatory roles and responsibilities; establish uniform standards for regulation; clarify the preemption determination procedure; provide Federal financial support for inspection, enforcement, training and response activities; guarantee state fiscal autonomy; and increase overall program coordination and data collection.

State-Federal Regulatory Authority

The efficient regulation of hazardous materials transportation should be accomplished through a clear delineation of regulatory authority and responsibility at each level or branch of government. The appropriate federal role should be to coordinate the national regulation of hazardous materials transportation, provide technical guidance, and ensure adequate financial support for all federal requirements to be administered or implemented by the states. In any area where the federal government preempts state authority, the federal government has a responsibility for fully funding related activities. The federal government should have authority to mediate disputes among states while states retain authority to mediate disputes among their political subdivisions.

Uniform Federal Standards

Uniform standards for technical requirements, routing and notification should be developed by the federal government, in consultation with states. Federal law must not preclude state regulations, which exceed the Federal requirements and provide for an equal or greater degree of safety. In the absence of federal regulation in any aspect of a uniform subject, states must retain authority to regulate. States may adopt federal regulations or state requirements, which are substantively the same as federal requirements. States should be allowed, through a waiver process, to establish standards that do not conform to the federal regulations.

Determination of Preemption

NCSL finds the preemption determination process to be an improvement over the preexisting "inconsistency ruling" process. The utilization of the "substantively the same as" standard in assessing state conformance with federal requirements should ensure that the effect of a state requirement does not vary in effect with the federal standard. At no point during the administrative preemption determination proceedings, should a state's option to seek judicial relief be denied.

Financial Support

Financial support to states to develop and maintain adequate training for enforcement and emergency response officials should reflect the levels authorized in HMTUSA.

NCSL is concerned that the current funding mechanism for federal grants to state training and emergency response activities is deficient. These concerns include insufficient Congressional appropriations; high administrative costs; and lack of collection enforcement. As a consequence, states should have the ability to levy and retain fines for transporters without federal registration credentials.

NCSL further supports states retaining a percentage of the proceeds resulting from successful state enforcement of the federal registration program.

Federal Registration and Permitting

Newly created federal registration and permit programs should be reviewed for consolidation and/or administration by better established state programs. NCSL finds the parallel federal programs questionable in enhancing overall safety in the transportation of hazardous materials; an unnecessary duplication of ongoing state programs; and an ever-present threat to the autonomy of state-administered programs.

State Fiscal and Regulatory Authority

State authority includes oversight of political subdivisions' compliance with federal standards, and the mediation of disputes between and among political subdivisions. States should retain the authority to impose supplementary requirements to the federal standards, if the requirement adds to public safety. States should be considered as full partners with the federal government in inspection activities. At the same time, if the state acts as an administrative arm of the federal government, the costs of implementation should be defrayed by the federal government. States have a primary interest in the designation of highway routes for hazardous materials transportation and should be consulted in the establishment of any highway routing standards. Finally, states' fiscal autonomy in the regulation of fees and penalties and the expenditures of such fees and penalties should not be restricted in any manner.

NCSL supports the recommendations of the Alliance for Uniform Hazmat Transportation Procedures to institute federal standards to facilitate uniformity in state permitting and registration requirements. These recommendations reflect extensive review and consideration of state and local programs, as well as industry and environmental concerns. The consensus recommendations accommodate, to the extent possible, specific public and private sector concerns. NCSL supports the work done and the program itself. NCSL urges the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide adequate incentives to states to participate in the program, but a state should not be forced into participation by either the Department or Congress.

The ability of states to incorporate administration of federal permit and registration requirements should also be examined for possible consolidation of dual government programs. Under current law, both state and federal programs are duly authorized.


NCSL supports increased federal programmatic coordination of regulatory, training and data collection activities.

July 1998


Infrastructure Finance

(Joint policy with AFI Federal Budget and Taxation Committee)

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) calls upon the federal government to increase funds available for meeting critical infrastructure needs. Currently the federal government's contributions to overall needs, relative to national interest, is inadequate. However, the federal government insists upon imposing NCSL opposes costly mandates on state and local governments and making receipt of federal funds contingent on compliance.

At a minimum, the federal government should fully fund the costs associated with federal mandates imposed as part of infrastructure finance. In the absence of such funding, federal mandates which increase the cost of state infrastructure finance should not be enacted and current mandates should be repealed.

Federal financing mechanisms employed to generate federal funds for infrastructure must contain exemptions for state and local governments, and must dedicate all proceeds to appropriate modal accounts. Should a federal tax be levied on users in a broad-based manner, revenue generated from currently dedicated tax sources must either be directed to traditional federal accounts or dedicated to purposes which benefit those taxpayers.

Federal policy seeks to link national environmental and energy goals with the federal-aid transportation programs. Federal transportation finance mechanisms should be designed so as not to contravene such federally mandated initiatives such as trip reduction, alternative fuels production and consumption, reduced dependency on foreign oil, and clean air attainment.

NCSL recognizes the unique needs found in the infrastructure community and endorses the following principles for any fees collected from or expended on this community:

  • Existing transportation trust fund accounts with growing balances must be spent down prior to the consideration of any increased user fees.
  • Trust funds which are at risk of insolvency should be protected from this status through the rededication of any diverted user fees.
  • Any new transportation user fee revenues should be dedicated and deposited in the appropriate transportation trust fund.
  • Transportation user fees which have been redirected to transportation trust funds should be made available expeditiously for flexible transportation decision-making at the state level.
  • The user fee nature of most transportation taxes should be based on the cost of mitigating both degradation of the transportation system and the quality of air. The contributions of mobile sources in these two areas result in costs which become the responsibility of states.
  • Any future increase in infrastructure user fees should first be targeted to meeting federal mandates, such as those required under the Clean Air Act Amendments and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Federal taxes assessed on fuel consumption should provide incentives for modes of transportation which effectively reduce mobile emissions, and to fuel which is determined to facilitate attainment of national air quality standards. Any current federal tax on alternative fuels should be applied to congestion mitigation provisions under any surface transportation authorization and the transportation-related provisions of the Clean Air Act Amendments.
  • Federal restrictions on state toll financing should be repealed.
  • Full credit for private sector contributions should be allowed in lieu of state match.
  • Current statutory provisions which automatically and arbitrarily reduce federal-aid surface transportation funds, should be eliminated.
  • State incurred costs of bond financing for infrastructure should be treated as an eligible reimbursed expense for purposes of federal aid.
  • Federal priority should be assigned to financing infrastructure where deterioration presents a high safety risk to citizens and property.
  • The concept of State Infrastructure Banks should be further explored as a possible means of leveraging and regenerating funding for infrastructure finance.

July 1998


Intelligent Transportation Systems

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recognizes that a vast domestic market and a new technology industry are moving American surface transportation into the information age to better serve customers.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are being developed to enhance travel demand management, public transportation operations, electronic payment, freight management, commercial vehicle operations, emergency management, and advanced vehicle control and safety. Deployment of viable ITS can increase safety for transportation users, improve mobility, reduce congestion, facilitate interstate commerce, generate jobs, provide environmental protection, conserve energy, and facilitate intermodalism.

NCSL endorses the U.S. Department of Transportation goal of deploying basic ITS for consumers of passenger and freight transportation across the nation by 2005. These services should be integrated, interoperable, intermodal and voluntary. NCSL recognizes that the private sector and the federal government should lead in the development and bringing to market of reliable and affordable ITS.

July 1999


Motor Carrier Regulation

The National Conference of State Legislatures is aware of the diversity of state requirements regulating the operation of motor carriers within the states. NCSL supports the choices state legislators make to promote responsible government oversight, provide for the public safety, and enhance opportunities for businesses operating throughout each state. NCSL supports efforts at incentive-based regulation of motor carriers, and opposes laws that sanction states for unproductive goals. Federal statutes expressly preserve state authority to regulate intrastate motor carrier operations. Continued state regulation of intrastate operations is necessary so that service is assured, rates are equitable and public safety is protected.

NCSL believes that the revision of existing procedures to reduce the unnecessary paperwork requirements imposed on motor carriers is a commendable goal. However, such revisions should not usurp state taxing authority nor the long-standing exercise of state constitutional police power to promote and preserve public safety.

While this responsibility is similar to all states, each state has designed its tax structure and registration requirements based upon unique public safety considerations reflecting its urban or rural character, highway configuration, traffic flow patterns, and overall revenue structure. These considerations that promote substantive registration and tax requirements adopted by the states should not be circumvented by federal law.

To address the concerns and to balance the needs of states to preserve their tax authority with the rapidly changing business environment for motor carriers, NCSL endorses cooperative working groups.

NCSL supports the voluntary collaboration by state and industry officials on ways to reduce unnecessary burdens on the motor carrier industry as preferable to any federally mandated standards of uniformity.


States must retain the unburdened authority to regulate intrastate commerce, even in the absence of federal regulation of analogous interstate commerce. Federal efforts to expand uniform national standards for regulation to intrastate commerce constitutes an unwarranted intrusion on state police powers.

State regulatory authority over intrastate commerce should be based on the existence of intrastate activity and not the existence of any interstate activity. The intrastate motor carrier operations of interstate carriers or "national intermodal carriers," such as express package services, are properly within the regulatory purview of the states.

NCSL believes that states should retain the responsibility to regulate motor carriers and that the formulation of any proposed uniform regulations should be based on recommendations from state officials. Any proposal promoting uniform regulations must provide state legislatures with sufficient time to fully assess any proposed changes in state law. NCSL supports state involvement in the process to develop a federal regulatory scheme for interstate motor carrier registration, proof of insurance filing, and collection and payment of fees.

States have the right to adopt regulations deemed necessary for the safe transport of all goods. Such regulations include, but are not limited to, permit requirements, licensing, inspection, size and weight restrictions and access, and safety enforcement.

NCSL opposes preemption of state regulation of intrastate motor carrier operations based on an affiliation with, or integration of other models of carriage. A joint state-federal effort, with industry guidance, should be undertaken to develop recommendations for harmonizing and rationalizing state regulatory requirements, and should include methods to promote incentive-based regulation rather than imposing federal sanctions that are not germane to the goals sought.


States should be allowed the widest discretion in defining "reasonable access" for larger vehicles. Only state and local governments understand the local conditions that are important for assuring safety on roads and streets connecting to Interstate and Primary system truck routes.

Under its authority to designate routes capable of accommodating certain types of motor carrier configuration, states must be afforded the opportunity to consider design and operating characteristics. Federal guidance on motor carrier design is appropriate in this regard.

The current federal maximum size and weight standards imposed upon states should not be increased at this time. Without sacrificing safety, states must provide for the movement of freight to and from local businesses with a minimum of impediment. However, NCSL opposes the current federal moratorium on states exceeding federal size and weight limitations. States should be allowed to issue permits on a "case by case" basis for certain oversize and overweight carriers, as well as specializing hauling vehicles which exceed federal standards, under appropriate conditions set and monitored by state agencies.

NCSL opposes federal requirements to increase state size and weight enforcement, and, instead, supports incentive-based regulation to allow for the rational use of state enforcement resources.


In their efforts to implement the requirements imposed by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act relative to commercial drivers' licenses, states should be granted continued latitude in conforming existing state licensing, testing and penalty provisions to those stipulated under federal law, as well as the opportunity to grant waivers of certain requirements where warranted. State legislatures have taken aggressive action to implement as many of the requirements as possible, and should be found in "substantial compliance" within the spirit of the law.


NCSL opposes any federal restrictions on the right of the states to establish the rate of state highway use taxes based upon registration, fuel purchase and use, and weight and distance considerations. NCSL rejects the premise that the incidental impact of a regulatory tax imposed by a state necessarily poses a burden to interstate commerce. Where state tax methods have been ruled unconstitutional, NCSL supports prospective calculations of court-ordered restitution. NCSL supports state administrative reforms and joint state-federal efforts to curb the evasion of highway taxes.


Federal efforts should focus on research on the impact of various motor carrier configurations on transportation infrastructure and overall safety. Nothing herein should be considered in conflict with the adopted policy of NCSL with regard to transportation of hazardous materials. NCSL supports the application of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) research to the elimination of regulatory burdens, but disapproves of federal mandates on the states to adopt ITS technologies or participate in ITS programs. Additional research should concentrate on issues related to driver safety and driver fatigue. NCSL recognizes that the Federal Highway Administration has a duty to ensure that the nation's highways are safe for all motorists. To this end, federal research efforts should focus on determining and preventing the causal factors associated with accidents involving automobiles and commercial motor vehicles.

July 1998


National Energy

(Joint policy with AFI Environment Committee)

The National Conference of State Legislatures urges the federal government to develop, implement and maintain an expansive, integrated, environmentally-sensitive and cost-effective national energy policy. The NCSL recognizes the efforts of the federal government in the development and implementation, to date, of the National Energy Strategy, and encourages its continued implementation, development of a follow-up version of the NES, and adoption of comprehensive energy legislation by Congress.

The primary goals of a national energy policy should be to provide for the most efficient use of energy, to promote reliable sources of domestic energy supplies, to develop a comprehensive energy conservation strategy and to develop and promote the use of alternative, renewable energy sources. A national energy policy should ensure adequate supplies of affordably priced energy. A national energy policy should ensure the use of energy in an efficient and environmentally-sound manner so that the needs of our citizens, economy and national security interests are met. Energy independence shall be the long term goal of the United States. A balanced mix of energy sources is essential to the security and the future economic growth of the United States. It is also imperative that a national energy policy account for the effect of the use of each fuel source on the environment.


Those principles which NCSL believes ought to guide the development and implementation of a national energy policy include:

  • Promotion of the most efficient and economical use of all energy resources.
  • Promotion and provision of incentives for the development and optimal use of all energy resources.
  • Assurance that various domestic energy sources are continually developed, maintained and stored to prevent supply emergencies and to preserve the nation's independence.
  • Consideration and assessment of environmental costs and benefits for all energy resources, fuels and technologies in rendering legislative, regulatory and market decisions regarding energy production and use.
  • Provision of an affordable energy supply for all citizens.
  • Specification and balancing of clear lines of local, state and federal regulatory authority.
  • Development of both short - and long-term strategies to provide adequate energy supplies, efficient utilization of those supplies and optimum cost effectiveness.
  • Promotion of the education of school-age children regarding energy resources, consumption and production and regarding environmental protection, safety and risks in energy production.
  • Assurance of expanded energy research and development and broadening of the citizenry's access to energy-related information.
  • Assurance of participation of state and local officials in the development and implementation of a national energy plan and strategy.
  • Avoidance of mandates, particularly unfunded mandates, upon state and local governments in order to effect a national energy policy.
  • Promotion of energy conservation and efficiency and the development and use of alternative and renewable energy supplies.


The development of environmentally-sound energy conservation and efficient supply and distribution systems requires long range planning, least-cost planning, and sustained efforts. The immediate establishment and implementation of a national energy strategy, as recommended in this document and further discussed and supported in existing NCSL policies, will assure that the future energy needs of American citizens, the United States economy and national security interests are met in an efficient and environmentally sound manner.

Development of a national energy strategy should have at least these six principal steps: (1) a forecast and assessment of our nation's energy future and its impacts; (2) an evaluation and ranking of short and long-term energy options available to the nation; (3) an evaluation of possible energy futures which provide greater benefits to our citizens, based upon the options ranked above; (4) development of recommendations for energy options and energy futures that the nation should pursue, with the establishment of national targets or goals; (5) evaluation and recommendation of implementation mechanisms including, but not limited to, incentives, technical assistance, educational programs, regulatory standards or guidelines to achieve the targets or goals; and (6) coordination of federal and state components, responsibilities, and authority.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) should rank the energy options available to the nation. The options should be grouped by end use and not by specific fuels or efficiency improvements. The ranking of each option within a group shall reflect the market and nonmarket costs of energy saved or delivered, the relative degree of uncertainty and risk exposure, and the compatibility of each option with other national goals. Ranking should be periodically revised to reflect changes over time. Any ranking and any energy policy should include the long-term environmental impacts.

In choosing among energy policy alternatives, a cost-benefit approach should be applied in which the full long-term costs of an option in taxes, consumer energy bills, environmental impacts, security risks, and other national goals are weighed against the additional availability or conservation of energy and other long-term benefits it might be expected to generate.

Those measures involving the lowest costs, in terms of public expenditures, revenue losses, costs to consumers, and environmental or other impacts, should be considered first. Energy policy alternatives that would improve our energy security and reliability without imposing significant new costs, while balancing the need for environmental protection, should be implemented. Although the potential costs and benefits of a given proposal can be extremely difficult to estimate, this framework is valuable in setting consistent terms of debate for our various energy policy choices both now and in the future.

An effective national energy policy must include carefully coordinated federal and state components. The responsibility for developing the state components rests principally with the legislatures. Channels of communication between state legislatures and the federal government must be strengthened. In the development of a national energy policy, the federal government shall consult closely with state legislatures, shall devise mechanisms to bring state legislatures as full participants into the energy decision-making process on a continuing basis, and shall ensure the inclusion of representatives of the legislative branch of state government in all state-federal working groups in the energy area.

Conservation and Energy Efficiency

Increased energy efficiency and conservation should be considered as primary sources of energy, since both are practical, cost-efficient and essential for addressing future energy needs. Increased efficiency will decrease our reliance on imported oil, reduce the environmental impacts of fossil fuels, reduce the long-term operating costs of U.S. industries thus improving their competitiveness, slow the depletion of our finite fossil fuels and extend the time we have to make the transition to new and innovative energy technologies. Environmental concerns associated with energy policy choices can be accomplished most effectively by improving the efficiency of this nation's energy use and by making sure that choices among fuels and energy products and services reflect their true environmental costs. This principle shall apply to imported energy as well as domestic energy.

It shall be part of the energy strategy of the United States to promote energy efficiency in a variety of ways including setting or strengthening as technologies improve: Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards for automobiles; energy efficiency provisions in building codes (including lighting efficiency standards and weatherization); home appliance and heating and cooling unit efficiency standards; waste recycling and reduction standards for industrial manufacturing; standards for conservation in electrical production and supply including cogeneration, and use of alternative energy; and a national transportation policy, emphasizing various forms of mass transit, that promotes energy efficiency. These measures impose costs as well as provide benefits and should be evaluated for adoption along the lines outlined in the implementation section. Programs must be cooperatively developed and implemented by the states and federal government working together as full partners, and should consider incentives to promote and encourage energy efficiency and development of cost-effective energy resources.

States should continue to have the authority to establish incentives for consumers to purchase automobiles with improved energy efficiency of motor vehicles including, but not limited to; (a) efficient vehicle purchase incentives, such as gas guzzler taxes and feebates (fees and rebates linked to improved fuel economy or emissions); (b) public and private fleet procurement guidelines and incentives that favor efficient vehicles; (c) other consumer incentives for efficiency, such as "pay as you drive" automobile insurance.

Also, the federal government shall promote energy conservation education and fund research into conservation technologies. Federal funding of energy conservation programs, including grants to states, should be enhanced.

The government's leadership role in the purchase and use of new energy efficient technologies and products shall be expanded, and all government-owned buildings shall make use of economical energy conservation programs.

In addition to the energy conservation program called for above, additional policies should be adopted, including the following:

  • Research and Development -- Priority should be given to the renewable energy resources for the long-term and to the conservation and conversion from existing fossil fuel resources in the short-term. Basic energy conservation research funded by the government shall include superconductivity studies.
  • Energy from Solid and Liquid Waste -- The conversion of solid and liquid waste after all recyclable and reusable materials are removed can make a contribution to our energy supply. A resource recovery program which utilizes the waste stream should be encouraged where economically and environmentally feasible for this purpose provided that problems with air emissions and ash residue are resolved.
  • Architecture -- Use and design of innovative building technologies, including building orientation, that enhance conservation and efficient energy usage shall be promoted.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy sources are characterized by a broad range of technologies, costs, efficiencies and environmental concerns. Renewable energy sources include, but are not limited to, geothermal, hydropower, biomass, wind, photovoltaics and solar. Recognizing this spectrum of resources, the federal government should institute a long range, stable Renewable Energy Development Program which identifies and assists renewable energy sources from research and development through demonstration projects and commercialization in a cooperative effort among industry, higher education, and national laboratories.

Renewable energy resource development must be ranked and funded on the basis of factors including energy efficiency, economic competitiveness, environmental impacts, and technological adaptability. Part of this program, and critical to its success, is federal development of alternative technologies that improve renewable energy efficiencies, cut costs, and assist in integrating renewable energy into existing energy systems. Also needed is a translation and distribution system for international technical and marketing papers on renewable energy. The U.S. should strive to become a world leader in the use of renewable energy resources.

Energy Emergency Preparedness

The federal government should support and enhance energy emergency preparedness in order to reduce the potential impact of petroleum supply disruptions. Initial efforts should focus on strategies to prevent emergencies from occurring. Such programs shall give consideration to existing state laws and programs, and state and local officials shall be included in the federal planning process.

The national energy emergency preparedness program shall include the following principles: voluntary conservation is preferred to mandatory measures wherever possible; any mandatory response should be phased in, beginning with the least stringent measures, with gasoline rationing reserved for only the most severe shortage; and to minimize undue hardships on states and regions heavily dependent on motor vehicle transportation, rationing allotments and allocation plans should be based on state and regional needs and strategies rather than on national averages. Priority shall be given to home heating needs including home heating oil and propane, provided homes are adequately insulated.

It is essential that emergency response procedures be thoroughly and carefully tested to ensure the coordination and flow of information between energy suppliers, consumers, and federal, state and local governments. Maintenance and operation of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is essential to any national energy emergency preparedness plan. The federal government should fill the SPR to its authorized level. There should be continued refinement of the timely sales process for SPR oil and the continued regular testing of the SPR sales mechanism and physical drawdown capabilities. Where necessary, regional rotating product stocks or other mechanism to ensure regional availability of supplies should be established. Fuel switching capability for large energy users to reduce dependence upon a single fuel source should be encouraged.

Section 7(d) of the Export Administration Act of 1979, 50 U.S.C.S. Appx. 2406(d), generally prohibits the export of domestically produced crude oil transported by pipeline over the right-of-way granted by sec. 203 of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act, 43 U.S.C. 1652.

This restriction affects the value of the domestic crude oil produced from Alaska North Slope reserves, reduces the market value of the oil in Alaska and on the west coast of the United States, increases the oil's market transportation costs, reduces tax revenues collected by these states and their local governments, lessens oil industry employment, discourages the exploration for and development of additional domestic crude oil reserves, and otherwise diminishes the nation's energy independence and economic activity.

A recent study by the United States Department of Energy finds that elimination of the restriction on export of Alaska North Slope crude oil would create thousands of jobs, significantly increase government revenue, reduce the trade deficit with Japan, and cause no harm to the environment, all with minimal, if any, effect on gasoline prices paid by consumers.

The United States Congress has under consideration reauthorization of the Export Administration Act. Lifting the restriction on the export of Alaska North Slope crude oil would result in a number of immediate and long-term economic benefits to the nation and the affected states.

The National Conference of State Legislatures therefore opposes the continuing restriction on export of Alaska North Slope crude oil and urges the United States Congress, as part of its reauthorization of the Export Administration Act, to eliminate from the Act the provision restricting the export of Alaska North Slope crude oil, recognizing that the President can restrict the export of any commodity, if necessary, during a national emergency.

Crude Oil

The federal government should promote the environmentally-sound production of domestic energy resources in coordination with the conservation and efficient use of energy resources, and the management of energy imports.

The federal government should promote and encourage domestic production of crude oil in an environmentally sound manner in order to supply United States consumers with a secure source of petroleum, and provide a stabilizing influence to the world price of crude oil. Since domestic production is declining rapidly, the efficient use and conservation of these resources must be encouraged. Also, the extraction and transportation of crude oil must be done only with full safeguards for the protection of the environment. In this regard, the federal government should consider incentives for domestic exploration, maintenance of stripper wells, but excluding other extractions, and technological research for methods of enhanced oil and gas recovery that are environmentally safe and in accordance with state policy.

The federal government should ensure that energy resources are utilized in a manner that recovers the most energy value possible while assuring full protection of the environment. Similarly, it should be the strategy of the United States to alleviate oil dependency by funding research and development to perfect alternative fuels, particularly for the transportation sector and primary modes of personal transportation. Enhanced oil and gas recovery from known reserves should be promoted in an environmentally sound manner.

The federal government should manage United States imports by diversifying import suppliers, pursuing a Pan American Energy Alliance with Western Hemisphere producing nations, and opening a dialogue with suppliers worldwide.


Coal is America's leading fossil fuel in reserve. Coal holds the promise of long-term energy security for this nation. Resources of coal can be properly utilized only if we develop a technology to burn coal more cleanly, and efficiently. Because coal consumption produces carbon dioxide, conservation and efficiency must be emphasized. Mined lands should be reclaimed to an environmentally appropriate state.

It should be the goal of the United States to provide continued support for the Clean Coal Technology Program, in partnership with the private sector. Research and technology development in clean coal usage should include work in precombustion, combustion, post-combustion, and coal conversion areas with desulfurization efforts a top priority. The United States should jointly address transboundary environmental problems with its neighbor Canada. A resolution on the issue of acid rain must be reached soon and should take into account the findings of the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and other recent scientific reports. Programs should be designed to reduce the amount of sulfur dioxides by at least 50% and to reduce nitrogen oxides emitted into the air from coal burning. The solution should promote the utilization of clean coal technologies and balance costs to our environment and health with potential impacts upon the economy and costs to electricity consumers.

Since gas generated from coal can be distributed through existing pipeline systems, and since the delivery of coal in a conventional form will require extensive capital investment in plant conversion and rail transportation, coal gasification should be seriously considered as an alternative to the use of coal in a conventional manner.

The effects on local infrastructure needs and the costs of prime farmland protection and land reclamation shall be considered in the development of a national coal program. Financing of activities under the abandoned mine reclamation fund shall be accelerated, and a federal commitment to reclamation shall be strengthened. No federal policy having implications for land development or management should be adopted without accommodating the laws and views of affected states.

Natural Gas

It should be part of the strategy of the United States to include the use of clean, efficient natural gas. It should be used in a manner that sustains long-run availability. This should include the co-firing of natural gas with other fuels for efficiency or environmental purposes. Natural gas is a fuel that can be depended upon over the long term. Based on our history of exploration and the current levels of consumption, EIA sources indicate there to be at least 70 years worth of gas available for U.S. consumption. Proven reserves account for 11 years of supply.

The United States should encourage domestic production of natural gas in an environmentally sound manner. Further, the federal government should complete price deregulation by 1993 as provided in current law.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should expedite decisions regarding pipeline construction serving the oil-dependent markets and should be encouraged to provide access by interconnecting pipelines to producing areas of this nation. Both producers and users of natural gas benefit from orderly transportation programs which provide competition and reliable supplies of natural gas at the lowest possible cost. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should take steps, to the extent the Natural Gas Act and the Natural Gas Policy Act allow, to remove the disincentives for natural gas pipelines to provide voluntary transportation of natural gas for others, and should immediately take such actions as may be necessary to provide final take-or-pay relief in the natural gas marketplace.

The federal government should fund continuing research and evaluation relative to the environmentally sound production and use of natural gas, in order to conserve energy by improving efficiency and should promote development of alternative vehicular fuels.


Nuclear power is an option that should be included in the development of a national energy plan, with the utmost care taken to address concerns regarding plant safety, and the transportation, storage and disposal of nuclear waste.

A federal government program for the long term management of high level radioactive waste, funded by the generators of the waste, should be pursued in a safe, timely and cost-effective manner, with the highest priority given to the safety and technical suitability of storage or disposal sites. Such a program shall be developed in full consultation with all of the affected states. The nuclear power plant licensing process for future plant construction must be improved to ensure both public input and timely decisions, and federally standardized nuclear power plant designs should be established. However, automatic approval of nuclear power plant operating licenses should not be permitted.

It is essential that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission provide strong, centralized, and consistent administration that would improve management of the agency, expedite policy formulation, and help bring about needed reforms in licensing and regulation, that are consistent with the NRC's primary responsibility of ensuring public health and safety. Meaningful and effective state participation in public safety planning and transportation of commercial nuclear waste is necessary.

States should continue to have the right to monitor operating conditions at nuclear power plants, waste storage and disposal facilities, and to exercise regulatory authority where consistent with federal law.

Federal funding should be provided for research in the areas of waste management technologies, nuclear fusion, and plant retrofit and life extension.


The federal government should promote energy efficiency and conservation to lower the demand for electricity. The development of sources of electric energy that are sufficient to meet national needs, secure from external threat, reliable in availability and delivery, safe relative to people and the environment, and efficient for use in homes, businesses, industries, and as an alternative vehicular fuel, should be pursued after aggressive efficiency and conservation programs are implemented.

The electricity sector today is marked by tremendous regional diversity, especially with regard to capacity. Fuel usage also varies widely. Implementation of federal legislation that fails to recognize this diversity inevitably penalizes one region or another.

Regulatory Authority

State regulatory bodies are close to consumers, utilities, industries, and concerned for state environmental and economic well-being. State regulatory bodies are in the best position to evaluate consumer needs, questions relative to fuel choice, economic development implications, and system reliability. Additionally, the determination as to when and how competitive bidding should be employed in the expansion of electric power generation capacity or to bring on new energy efficiency resources should remain the prerogative of the states through their regulatory commissions and the affected utility companies.

NCSL strongly supports and urges the continuation of the concept of primary state responsibility and final decision authority with state legislative oversight for the approval and siting of all major energy conversion facilities, subject to minimum federal standards established only after the fullest consultation with state governments, both executive and legislative branch.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should ensure that regulation of interstate wholesale markets does not impede state regulation of utility investments. Multi-state cooperation in identifying the economics of and need for additional energy transmission and generation projects shall be encouraged. Least-cost energy planning for electrical generation should be pursued at the state or regional level, wherever applicable. States should have the authority over intrastate transmission practices. There should be no further preemption of state regulatory authority nor shall federal standards be established governing state regulation of utilities. Federal regulators shall ensure full and adequate consultation with state regulators prior to the determination of federal policy.

Our nation must maintain and increase its commitment to energy conservation and efficiency, while maintaining adequate and reliable energy for economic growth. Utilities, investors, equipment manufacturers and consumers should be given legislative and regulatory incentives to promote conservation and efficiency in utility planning, equipment and appliance manufacturing and energy usage practices.

Electricity research and development efforts shall be intensified with regard to energy efficiency, superconductivity, advanced and reasonable environmental controls in power generation, and development of cost-effective renewable supply technologies.

Research and Development

The cornerstone of a national energy policy should include a broad research and development component. The federal government has already committed substantial research funds for clean coal, nuclear research, basic science and related efforts. These research and development efforts ought to be continued. These efforts, however, should be supplemented with increased incentives and federal funding for research and development projects emphasizing emerging technologies, including, but not limited to, renewable resources, energy conservation, efficient use of energy, alternative fuels and oil and gas recovery. This enhanced long-term research and development capacity should also be designed to encourage private sector participation with federal and state representatives.

Education and Information

It is essential that the nation, particularly its elementary and secondary school-age children, be made fully aware of energy use and costs, production processes, alternative energy resources and the impact energy usage has on our environment. If we are to eliminate any inefficiencies that exist as a result of current and future energy use, we must have a fully informed public. NCSL recommends that public and private sector education efforts be initiated, expanded and appropriately funded. These efforts should emphasize that significant economic and environmental benefits can be achieved through increased efficiency and conservation.

An essential step in formulating a balanced energy policy is to develop the necessary data and employ analytical methods and models to assess the productivity costs and risks of the various energy choices available to the nation. The Department of Energy, with assistance from the Departments of Defense, Treasury and State, and the Office of Management and Budget, and in conjunction with the states, shall develop this analytic base.


National transportation strategies must include public policy initiatives directed at broadening the efficient use of our energy resources. These policy initiatives should include, but not necessarily be limited to, incentives and adequate funding for mass transit, high speed rail, magnetic levitation and other emerging transportation technologies; fuel economy standards; gas guzzler taxes, feebates, and other market incentives for improving the energy efficiency of automobiles and light trucks; and federal, state, and local procurement policies favoring efficient vehicles. Public-private partnerships should be encouraged.

July 2000


Oil Overcharge Settlement Funds

Oil overcharge settlement funds have been made available to states from the Department of Energy through the settling of claims against the oil industry for the overcharge of petroleum products. NCSL is appreciative of Administrative and congressional action to disburse authorized unclaimed overcharge monies to the states.

NCSL believes that the refunded oil overcharge money disbursed to states should be used for energy-related purposes. Emerging federal and state emphasis on conservation and energy efficiency programs has created a state need for funds to develop and implement new programs. Existing state grants administered through the Department of Energy need additional money to accomplish program goals. Cash strapped states are unable to meet the growing demands of their energy programs with state money alone.

Therefore, NCSL strongly supports expeditious pass through of oil overcharge settlement funds by the Department of Energy to states only to supplement, and not supplant, energy related programs. NCSL opposes efforts to reduce or eliminate or take credit for federal funding of existing energy related programs such as the Weatherization Assistance Program, the Institutional Conservation Program, the State Energy Conservation Program, and programs authorized to be funded by the Energy Policy Act of 1992, based on the receipt of oil overcharge settlement monies. NCSL also opposes the diversion of oil overcharge monies from their intended energy uses.

July 1998


Oil Spill Prevention, Response and Cleanup

(Joint policy with AFI Environment Committee)

On August 18, 1990 the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 was signed into law. NCSL strongly supports this legislation which maintains a major role for states and does not preempt state oil spill cleanup programs, taxing and enforcement authority, and response funds. NCSL encourages the continuation of this policy during the considerations of future laws or amendments regarding oil spill prevention, response and cleanup.

NCSL is in strong support of the full implementation of all provisions of the Oil Pollution Act, particularly provisions dealing with prevention under Title IV, Subtitle A and the development of the national planning and response system. Prevention must be emphasized to assure the avoidance of oil spills to the maximum extent possible. In addition, a comprehensive, adequately funded planning and response system must be implemented to assure the timely and effective containment and clean-up of spills to assure the absolute minimization of environmental damage.

NCSL recommends the following:

  • Continued efforts toward full implementation of Title IV, Subtitle A of the Act dealing with prevention including, but not limited to, the staffing standards, vessel traffic service systems, the alcohol and drug policy, double hulls, equipping and inspection of vessels, pilotage requirements, and provisions for navigational safety.
  • Adequate funding of the U.S. Coast Guard to assure that they can continue towards full implementation of their requirements under the Act such as periodic inspections of vessels and implementation of the national planning and response system, including, but not limited to, contingency plans, response units and local area committees.
  • Full implementation of the preparation of response plans by tank vessels and onshore and offshore facilities, and also of the requirement for bulk vessels to carry clean-up equipment.
  • Full implementation of the research and development provisions of Title VII of the Act including the Coast Guard's conduct of oil pollution minimization projects. To prevent duplication, NCSL calls on the federal agencies with research funding to coordinate research projects with the states.
  • The continued preservation of states' authority to impose additional liability or requirements with respect to oil spills and removal activities and to establish their own oil spill funds and penalties.
  • That safety and operational requirements for vessels apply, where appropriate, to barges as well.
  • Support for the federal responder immunity standard as contained in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.
  • Clarification of jurisdiction of federal and state natural resources trustees in areas pertaining to oil spill prevention, response and cleanup.

July 1998


Radioactive Waste Management

(Joint policy with the AFI Environment Committee)

Low-Level Waste

Congress mandated that the states assume total responsibility for providing commercial low-level waste disposal capacity with the passage and enactment of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act 1980 and the Low-Level Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985. These laws encouraged states to develop regional solutions to siting low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities. NCSL believes that states are best prepared to license and regulate low-level waste disposal facilities that operate within their borders in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens.

Since passage of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980 and the Amendments Act of 1985, many changes have occurred in the low-level waste public policy arena-changes in the industries and institutions that create low-level waste, and changes in state efforts to pursue development of low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities.

State legislators have examined closely the market forces and new trends that have altered many state and compact perceptions of what is needed to efficiently manage LLRW disposal. Legislators have identified the following reasons that many states and compacts have abandoned efforts to build disposal capacity:

  • decreasing volumes of LLRW nationwide;
  • continued access to operational disposal facilities; and
  • the numerous barriers that hinder development of disposal facilities, including high development costs greater than projected.

South Carolina and Washington continue to host disposal facilities that together offer disposal to generators in every state except North Carolina. Utah has licensed a private sector facility that also is open to generators across the country for Class A low-level radioactive waste. Most states and compacts have slowed or stopped their work.

NCSL believes that the LLRWPA, the federal law which governs low-level radioactive waste management, no longer addresses adequately the conditions of the marketplace and state efforts to provide disposal for low-level waste.

NCSL urges Congress to review the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act and the Low-Level Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985-especially Title II, the Omnibus Low-Level Radioactive Waste Interstate Compact Consent Act-to determine whether other options for disposal by regional compact or unaffiliated state are available. In doing so, Congress should:

  • Rely upon the U.S. General Accounting Office report, Low-Level Radioactive Wastes: States Are Not Developing Disposal Facilities (GAO/RCED-99-238, September 1999) in order to
  • Analyze developments in the industries and institutions that generate low-level waste, such as waste minimization and volume reduction; and
  • Examine state and compact efforts to develop disposal sites and the difficulties encountered by the host states.
  • Continue to provide states both with support and flexibility in their efforts to provide generators with consistent access to low-level radioactive waste disposal To encourage and support alternative long term storage and disposal technologies, such as assured isoolation.
  • Acknowledge that some compacts have been successful in achieving the goals of the LLWRPA. These compacts should be allowed to continue to function as they are without interruption.
  • Recognize that other states and compacts are concerned that future access to disposal facilities is uncertain and that these states and compacts may need alternative facilities in order to provide disposal and assured isolation to their generators.
  • Acknowledge the role that licensed private disposal and assured isolation facilities can play in meeting generators' needs for safe, cost-effective disposal of low-level radioactive waste, while also recognizing state authority to regulate these facilities.
  • Consider an evaluation of the feasibility of co-location of commercial disposal (or assured isolation) facilities at U.S. Department of Energy sites that would be licensed and regulated by the host states.
  • Establish an insurance fund for facility decommissioning and extended care and maintenance until an adequate fund is established through the ongoing operation of each facility.
  • Clarify liability issues surrounding the entire waste cycle and, in particular, the transportation of low-level waste, the shared liability of the compact (but non-host state) members, the liability of unaffiliated host states forced to accept out of state waste, and the continuing or residual liability of waste generators.
  • Clarify in statute the responsibility of the federal government for federal waste, identify any federal waste that might be disposed at compact facilities, and ensure that any federal waste disposed of at compact or unaffiliated state facilities is subject to negotiation and the same laws, regulations, fees and requirements as nonfederal waste.
  • Closely monitor the progress of the involved federal agencies with regard to the issue of mixed wastes, ensuring that a clear policy is defined and interagency differences are resolved.
  • Address the issue of the disposal of NORM and NARM (naturally occurring and accelerator produced radioactive material) waste and mixed waste, in particular with regard to reconciling the different regulatory actions of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

NCSL will continue to provide assistance to the states during the development and implementation of low-level waste management activities. NCSL encourages the federal government to work with NCSL toward that end.

High Level Waste

Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, requiring the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to manage the program according to the process and schedule established by Congress. The success of this project requires public understanding and confidence. To that end, Congress assigned DOE the responsibility to consult and cooperate with other federal agencies, state executive and legislative branches and affected Indian tribes.

In writing and passing the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA), Congress created a special account, the Nuclear Waste Fund, within the U.S. Treasury. With subsequent efforts to reduce the federal deficit, Congress has balanced the need for appropriations from the Nuclear Waste Fund against the benefit of leaving a larger cash balance in the fund to off-set the federal deficit, even though the monies in the fund only can be used on the waste program. Since the Department of Energy has not been able to complete its scientific investigations at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and in order to submit a repository license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a repository that would be operating by 2010, and due to the further uncertainty as to what will happen to DOE's contractual obligation with nuclear utilities to begin accepting spent fuel on January 30, 1998, NCSL urges Congress to:

  • Pass legislation to create a revolving fund from the Nuclear Waste Fund, thereby allowing the Department of Energy to complete its scientific investigations, licensing, and construction of the repository in a timely manner.

In the alternative, NCSL urges Congress to:

  • Direct the DOE to expedite research into the reprocessing of nuclear waste as a fuel for nuclear power plants.
  • Provide adequate and necessary funds to DOE for the high level nuclear waste program.

In an effort to clarify and enhance the role of Nevada and any future potential host states in the high-level waste repository site selection and characterization process, NCSL supports the following:

  • Nevada and future host states, through their executive and legislative branches, should be fully informed and consulted at each step in the process of site selection, evaluation, planning and development.
  • Congress and DOE should provide fair and equitable compensation for the life of the project to state and local governments of Nevada and future host states. This should include funding of independent oversight activities by the executive and legislative branches so that the host state may participate in and conduct its own assessments of the proposed waste repository site and disposal technology, as allowed in the federal act.
  • The federal government should comply with state laws and regulations during the process of site selection and characterization, and the construction, operation and decommissioning of a waste repository, including those laws which implement regulatory authority delegated by the government to the states under federal environmental statutes.
  • Our mutual interest requires a timely and thorough scientific investigation of any proposed candidate site to determine its suitability as a high-level waste repository. Therefore, NCSL urges Congress to clarify the manner in which the national high-level waste program will be carried out consistent with all states' (including the host state's) interest.
  • DOE should continue to work with the NCSL and similar organizations in an effort to ensure that state legislators are included in each step of the process.
  • In the event it is deemed necessary either to select another potential waste repository site or second high-level waste repository, the states should play an integral role in the determination of site selection criteria and the consideration of potential sites.

Transportation of Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel

The DOE is responsible for transporting high-level radioactive waste and spent fuel to the proposed high-level waste repository and to an interim monitored retrievable storage facility, as well as for shipments of transuranic waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). To assure a technically superior transportation system and to help attain public confidence in the safe transportation of nuclear waste, NCSL urges Congress and DOE to:

  • Fully fund or allow states to assess fees to assure coordinated emergency response in case of a transportation accident involving nuclear waste. DOE should seek to enter into a memorandum of understanding with each corridor state to spell out responsibilities, liability, compensation, response time, cleanup and other duties connected with emergency situations.
  • Assure highway accident prevention through the use of superior drivers; carrier compliance with shipping contracts and all applicable state and local regulations; independent safety inspections of drivers, vehicles and shipping containers; designation of safe parking areas during abnormal conditions; advance notice to the appropriate state and local agencies regarding shipments; and state access to information on shipments' status.
  • Apply special criteria to the shipment of spent fuel, including the development of guidelines for routing when shipping by rail, the use of special trains (unit or dedicated trains; moving at designated safe speeds) for rail shipments, safety inspections at origin and enroute, and full-scale testing of casks used for spent fuel transport.
  • Provide opportunities and funding for training of state and local emergency responders to radiological accidents that are coordinated with ongoing programs for emergency preparedness. DOE is to be commended for initiating an open discussion with states and affected parties on how to meet the Section 180(c) requirements of the NWPA that require technical assistance and funding for training of state and local public safety officials along routes for DOE shipments of high-level waste with respect to state routine transportation of these materials and emergency response situations.
  • DOE should consult with NCSL and the states on how to best communicate with and involve the general public and government officials as to shipment methods, accident prevention approaches, and emergency response plans.

Spent Nuclear Fuel Transportation

NCSL calls upon the federal government to:

  • Involve state, local and tribal governments in a meaningful manner in the development of cask designs, support facilities, transportation equipment and other elements of the transportation system;
  • Consult with all affected parties regarding cask compliance with radiation emissions standards. Because cask integrity and safety is of paramount concern in a transportation system, all affected parties must be involved in a consultation process including, but not limited to, states, local governments, Indian tribes, carriers, labor, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Transportation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency;
  • Proceed to develop dual-purpose (transportation and storage) and universal casks (transportation, storage and disposal) to reduce the handling of spent fuel and, thus reduce the risk of mishaps and lessen worker exposure;
  • Utilize to the maximum extent unit or dedicated trains for spent fuel shipments to enhance safety and to increase public acceptability; and
  • Encourage development of and help fund sophisticated state emergency management communications centers in corridor states to enhance emergency preparedness and response along potential routes.

Monitored Retrievable Storage

NCSL recognizes the urgency of the need to manage the temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel, and urges the following:

  • Congressional support for the volunteer siting process initiated by the Nuclear Waste Negotiator.
  • That DOE should demonstrate the safety and cost advantages of developing one or more MRS sites in comparison to at-reactor storage of spent fuel, prior to the selection and approval of any MRS.
  • That the federal government should take actions necessary to establish a centralized interim off-site spent fuel storage facility by 1998 in order for DOE to be able to begin removing spent fuel from utility reactor sites under its contractual obligation to the utilities. The federal government should also support continued progress by private entities to locate interim storage facilities.
  • That DOE should begin immediately to ensure that the necessary infrastructure, including transportation capability, exists at each nuclear power plant and that it will be available to support the acceptance of spent fuel for interim storage beginning in 1998.
  • DOE should implement a compensation program that recognizes both its statutory obligation to provide compensation to the host state and the equity required for state and local governments in return for assuming this responsibility for the rest of the nation.
  • That each utility will have the option to decide whether it wishes to store spent fuel on-site rather than at an interim storage facility, should it choose to do so.
  • That DOE request funding of independent host state oversight activities, for both the executive and legislative branches, during the study and characterization of a potential federal or private MRS site;
  • That Congress authorize any agreement entered into between the Negotiator and a state or tribe volunteering to host an MRS and appropriate the necessary funds to support the projects agreed to be located in the state in exchange for hosting the federal or private MRS as well as transportation, construction and maintenance projects and emergency response training and equipment related to MRS activities;
  • If a tribe agrees to host a federal or private MRS, that the Negotiator and DOE agree to work with the surrounding state(s) on issues related to transportation, highway and rail safety and emergency response.

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

In accordance with Public Law 96-164, the Department of Energy designed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) as the first permanent repository for defense generated transuranic (TRU) waste.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Land Withdrawal Act (PL 102-579), passed by Congress in 1992, allows for further testing and experiments to determine the viability of radioactive waste disposal in deep geologic salt formations as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences in 1955. Positive results would benefit the nation as a waste problem solution.

NCSL urges Congress and DOE to:

  • Appropriate adequate funds and direct the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to expedite their respective responsibilities under Public Laws 96-164 and 102-579, to support testing and planned waste receipt in 1998.
  • Implement through DOE, a compensation program that recognizes equity considerations for state and local governments hosting a TRU waste repository and the federal government's obligation to provide such compensation.
  • Provide assistance to the host community to subsidize and maintain an independent environmental monitoring and analytical laboratory to ensure public confidence and safety (i.e., Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center).
  • Provide assistance to the state of New Mexico and other affected states for highway maintenance and improvements, emergency response training and equipment, and public education.
  • Provide assistance to corridor states for transportation-related impacts.

July 2000


Rail Regulation

The National Conference of State Legislatures recognizes the importance of national freight and passenger railroad systems to the free flow of commerce and mobility in and among the various states and insular areas. The federal government continues to have a role and responsibility in ensuring a cost-effective, fuel efficient and economically sound rail transportation system. Rail transportation is an integral part of a balanced transportation system which contributes to sustain economic growth and competition in a global economy. A viable rail transportation system offers the opportunity for alleviating traffic congestion; providing alternatives in land use planning and addressing certain environmental concerns.

Increases in mixed rail operation on shared tracks and right-of-ways demand that concerns over liability and costs be rationally reviewed within the context of federal legislation. Fair and equitable standards for assessing costs, risks and priority usage are a necessary component of furthering the nation's rail network for passengers and freight. NCSL supports a strong role to be played by the federal government in facilitating the introduction of technology which may mitigate costs and risks. In addition, federal support should include oversight of possible impediments to passenger rail services resulting from freight-rail ownership of trackage.

Freight Transport

The states and the federal government have an interest in supporting an efficiently managed and well-maintained national freight railroad. It is a federal responsibility to ensure a competitive environment for the transport of freight. NCSL recognizes the interest of the states in preserving rail lines that are essential to local and regional commerce.

  • Preservation - NCSL recognizes that a considerable investment has been made in the national rail freight system. The continued viability of the system is of economic importance to the nation's transportation infrastructure. Federal policies should allow, transfer and preserve nonviable rail lines and rights-of-way to avoid the adverse economic impact or loss of economic opportunity to states and their localities.
  • Regulation - NCSL supports in general the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 passed by Congress which is designed to improve the regulatory climate of the freight rail industry by removing a number of regulatory restraints that adversely affect the industry's economic performance. The regulatory needs of the railroad industry should be balanced with the captive shippers who have no alternative means of transportation available. Future productivity gains are appropriately shared with railroad shippers.
  • State Assistance - Federal support should be continued for the Local Rail Freight Assistance program. This support is critical to aid states in maintaining essential branchline services which otherwise would be eliminated. NCSL supports adherence to formula distribution; and an end to federal earmarking of LRFA funds; and expansion of the program in response to growth in freight rail transportation.
  • Taxation - Federal laws that preempt the role of state courts by giving federal courts jurisdiction to establish the valuation of property for state and local tax purposes, or that give selected classes of state and local taxpayers procedural and substantive privileges unavailable to most taxpayers, offend principles both of federalism and equity. The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act (4-R) should be examined by Congress to determine if it has been judicially expanded beyond the original intent of Congress.
  • Alternative Transport - Methods of transporting freight which is traditionally carried by the rail industry should be considered in light of the economic impact overall. The right of federal eminent domain should be granted only when there is a compelling national need for an alternative means of freight transportation.
  • Fuel taxes - Federal taxes assessed on the railroad industry must be based on an equitable share of the federal fiscal needs.

Passenger Lines

  • Amtrak - the continued economic viability of Amtrak is in the national interest. Amtrak's long-term survival is dependent on the adoption of efficiencies and reduction of operating costs. NCSL supports the continuation of contract protections and severance benefits in their current forms. Federal funding should account for existing revenue deficiencies and provide for a capital improvement program. In addition, NCSL supports the availability of motor fuel tax revenue, to be redirected to the Highway Trust Fund, for state discretionary subsidization of Amtrak service.
  • Intercity/Commuter - state and local support of intercity rail systems has been critical to alleviating congestion, mitigating environmental concerns, and providing a feeder system to Amtrak. Federal support for these efforts is indicated.

    Commuter rail facilities using trackage owned by private freight companies have become an important part of the transportation system in urban areas. Use by commuter rail of track on an appropriate priority basis at a reasonable cost, should be based on actual cost to the rail company owner.
  • High Speed - the availability of direct and indirect federal financial support high speed rail projects is imperative for these capital-intensive rail systems. Such options as guaranteed loans, tax exempt bonds, and targeted federal investment will facilitate the deployment of this technology in the United States. Federal policy should encourage U.S. technology development and production, while incorporating the technology developed by non-U.S. companies. The present state volume cap on bond financing with exemption from federal taxation imposes an artificial restraint on the use of such bonds for high speed rail projects.

    NCSL recognizes that railroads over whose rights-of-way many High Speed Rail authorities will operate have a legitimate concern over increased exposure to liability as a result of high speed rail operations. This liability issue must be addressed by Congress in the context of high speed rail legislation. NCSL suggests that state legislators should be included in ongoing cooperative agreements to explore solutions to this problem.


NCSL supports a continued Federal role in setting national performance and safety goals. NCSL urges Congress to provide incentive funding to promote comprehensive rail safety programs in the states.

Trespassing - NCSL recognizes that the vast number of injuries and fatalities associated with the railroad industry that are due to trespassing incidents. The role of the federal government in this arena is appropriately one of conducting research and facilitating public awareness of the danger and the illegality of trespassing under state law.

Grade crossings - NCSL recognizes the inherent risks of highway-rail grade crossings where motorist disregard even active warning devices and gates. Federal funding through the Section 130 program should be continued and increased to adequately compensate states for utilizing federal standards for grade crossing warning devices. In addition, the Federal Rail Administration is encouraged to finance a long-term national grade crossing safety awareness campaign. Federal preemption has effectively limited the role and responsibility of states over most aspects of rail transportation. However, state law has been preserved in areas related to tort liability in accidents involving railroads; responsibility of motorists and pedestrians in yielding to rail traffic; and overall decisions on grade warning devices or closings. NCSL supports the US Supreme Court decision in CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Easterwood, which held that railroads are responsible for installing and adequately maintaining warning devices at highway grade crossings, and that the use of federally approved devices does not remove that responsibility. Furthermore, NCSL strongly opposes efforts by the federal government to preempt traditional state authority in this area; to replace state statutes governing violations by motor vehicles and penalties for failing to yield to an oncoming train; or to establish numeric standards for crossing closings to be accomplished by states.

Research - Additional grade crossing research should be conducted in such areas as driver response to existing warning devices, improved crossing warning devices, low-cost active warning devices, off-track train detection systems, train conspicuity (reflectorization), locomotive conspicuity (lights), and audible warning technology (whistles/horns).

NCSL encourages Congress to act as follows:

  • Repeal that portion of the Surface Transportation Board Act of 1995 which exempts railroad companies from all local and state laws.

July 1999


State Authority Over Driver's Licensing and Birth Certificates

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 contains provisions preempting traditional state authority, mandating administrative activities on state and local governments without funding and compelling states to adhere to various federal standards regarding driver's licenses and birth certificates. This law primarily addresses border control and enforcement against illegal immigration, but does so by violating the National Conference of State Legislatures' basic federalism principles.

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 strips states of their autonomy to issue driver's licenses and process birth certificates and is in violation of the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 1996 Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, Section 656 (b) proposes rules requiring states to follow federal guidelines in issuing and producing driver's licenses. Under section 656 (b) states are mandated to:

  1. Obtain Social Security Numbers from both new and renewal applicants for Driver's Licenses
  2. Electronically verify these numbers with the Social Security Administration
  3. Use the social security numbers on driver's licenses issued, and
  4. Comply with Federal security guidelines regarding uniform, mandatory features for driver's licenses.

The issuance and production of the driver's licenses are currently within the purview of the states. NCSL believes strongly that the authority to issue and produce driver's licenses should continue to remain within the domain of state authority.

Given the number of previous federal demands on state departments of motor vehicles and in consideration of the recent passage of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) of 1995, we urge Congress to reverse this outright and unwarranted intrusion of state authority that compels states to be mere administrative arms of the federal government. The federal legislation requires states to obtain social security numbers in order to issue a license, an activity which the preponderance of states avoid for purposes of avoiding fraud and protecting individual privacy. The promulgated rule additionally calls for states to verify social security numbers with the Social Security Administration. The absence of any meaningful current or historic federal role in the administration of driver's licensing activities should be a sufficient basis on which the federal government recedes from this incursion. Furthermore, the federal government does not have the power to authorize state licensing agencies to act in a particular fashion.

NCSL also opposes the provision that subjects birth certificates to a potentially wide array of regulatory standards for format and content before they can be recognized as legal documents. The National Conference of State Legislatures finds both the birth certificate and driver's license provisions unacceptable and egregious violations of the spirit of the federal UMRA.

The movement of the states regarding driver's licenses has been to eliminate the use of Social security numbers and instead issue a random ID number to the driver, or give drivers the option of using either their social security number or a random ID number. Section 656 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act constitutes a move in the opposite direction. Additionally, NCSL feels strongly that because of the absence of any financial assistance, these proposed rules would impose an undue financial burden on the states, as well as an enormous administrative burden. This monetary burden constitutes an unfunded mandate on the states and is a direct violation of the unfunded mandate act of 1994.

NCSL strongly opposes this or any attempt to establish a national driver's license or National ID card and the preemption of state authority regarding the issuance and production of driver's licenses and birth certificates.

July 1999


State Primacy in the Regulation of Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Wastes

Used oil, and oil and gas exploration and production wastes are currently exempt from classification as hazardous under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), however, this exemption may be lost when RCRA is reauthorized. While offering only insignificant environmental improvement, loss of this exemption could have an adverse impact on oil and gas exploration, production, and recycling in the producing-states.

When the disposal or recycling of oil and gas exploration and production wastes is conducted in accordance with effective state regulations, it does not create a significant health or environmental impact. Since oil and gas exploration and production occurs in several different States in distinct regions, regulation is best handled by the affected State to accommodate site-specific conditions and environmental considerations.

Loss of the RCRA exemption for oil field wastes would require the EPA to develop RCRA hazardous waste regulations governing the disposal of oil and gas exploration and production wastes, thereby duplicating the successful efforts of the producing states to ensure environmentally sound disposal practices. Loss of the RCRA exemption for used oil would sound the death knell for oil recycling efforts.

Regulations governing the recycling or disposal of used oil or oil and gas exploration and production wastes within the individual States must remain the individual State's right and responsibility. Consonant with well-recognized principles of federalism, the National Conference of State Legislatures urges the EPA to recommend to the Congress that primary responsibility for the regulation of oil and gas exploration and production wastes continue to be exempt from federal preemption.

July 2000


Surface Transportation

The National Conference of State Legislatures supports the continuation and preservation of a federal-aid surface transportation program. The federal government has a role in supporting a national surface transportation system which meets national defense needs, addresses fairly and equally the mobility needs of all Americans and facilitates interstate commerce. The federal program should direct spending to national priorities, while allowing for state and insular area flexibility in local and regional variations. It is also essential that the federal surface transportation program incorporate requirements and foster goals of other national policies which impact transportation decision-making.

The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) recognizes the unique contributions of each transportation mode to the productivity of the States and the Nation, and to the ability of this nation to compete globally in the emerging and existing international economies.

The National Intermodal Transportation System policy declaration in ISTEA contemplates an integrated transportation system for the movement of both freight and people, with increased emphasis on adopting technologies that improve productivity.

The National Conference of State Legislatures calls upon Congress to fully fund the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) at its authorized levels.

In anticipation of increased federal funding, states have taken measures to meet state matching requirements. States have also incorporated the higher overall funding levels in statewide plans.

The enactment of ISTEA envisioned enhanced programming flexibility and increased responsibility for meeting a multitude of national goals. The ability of states to maintain flexibility in decision making and comply with environmental and other mandates is dependent on adequate and reliable funding.


NCSL supports the current percentage distribution of user fees within the Highway Trust Fund. Of those funds deposited in the Mass Transit Account, NCSL supports the use of funds for intercity passenger rail service, including Amtrak. At a minimum, the current proportion of fuel tax receipts directed to the Mass Transit Account, should be incorporated in any tax increase.

NCSL supports the present division of federal aid for mass transit, with discretionary grants to be financed with the 1 1/2 cent federal gasoline excise tax and formula grants supported through General Fund revenue.

  • A federal trust fund, financed by user fees, should be retained as the primary method of funding federal-aid surface transportation projects.
  • Transit agencies, including commuter rail operations, should be exempt from federal fuel or energy taxes. Due to the positive environmental impact resulting from increased use of public transportation, a tax on such fuels would be counterproductive.
  • All highway user fees should be dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund and fully expended before any increase in user fees is considered.
  • The Highway Trust Fund should be removed from the unified federal budget. Transportation programs financed by trust fund revenue should be classified as "mandatory" spending and operate as a "pay-as-you-go" program.
  • Annual appropriations should equal authorized spending levels. Obligation ceilings should be set to reflect gross receipts, plus interest earned.
  • The "user-fee" nature of the Federal-aid highway program must be safeguarded from any attempts to divert these fees to non-transportation spending. User fees which have been collected and diverted from the Highway Trust Fund must be reclaimed.
  • User fees designated for imminent return to the Highway Trust Fund should be made available for flexible transportation usage by states.
  • Federal guidelines should be designed to accommodate private sector support. The private sector has an important role in supplementing public support. The level of private sector participation is best determined by state and local authorities. However, mandated private participation criteria should not be a prerequisite for receiving federal funds.
  • The federal match should encourage state efforts in specific programs of national significance, but should not discourage flexibility in state or insular areas transference of categorical funds.
  • Statutory or regulatory barriers to state and locally-granted revenues should be removed.
  • Any examination undertaken on the advisability and feasibility of establishing a federal capital budgeting program, should adequately address the preservation of state priority-setting.
  • Federal formulas designed to distribute bonus highway funds should consider all state, insular areas, and local efforts to fund highways and not be limited to fuel taxes raised.


In an effort to fashion comprehensive and cohesive statewide transportation plans which conform to federal requirements, states must have preeminent authority to synthesize local and regional plans with overall state objectives and budgetary considerations. The federally-mandated State Transportation Improvement Plans must transcend regional directives. Under current provisions of ISTEA, state plans stand to be encumbered and fragmented by dissension at sub-state levels of government.

ISTEA recognizes the limitations of each mode in the seamless delivery of goods and people, and has promoted mechanisms strengthening transportation planning of projections and funding flexibility of these projects.

Those mechanisms, most importantly the state transportation plans, local transportation improvement programs, and intermodal management systems, incorporate the needs of urban and rural populations and the private sector directly in the decision-making process that allocates scarce transportation dollars.


  • Interstate System

    The Interstate system should be completed, with consideration given to possible enhancements, including "outer bypasses," new Interstate connectors, and highways of national significance. Priority should be given to congested corridors if Interstate system is expanded.

    The level of funding available for maintenance should insure that at a minimum, the current condition is maintained. Provisions to transfer interstate maintenance funds to other categories should be permitted after vigorous examination.
  • National Highway System

    The federal government should include those primary, secondary roads and marine highways, which states and insular areas designate as having national significance, as part of the National Highway System. The level of state funding for the National Highway System should be based on demonstrated needs. NHS funds should be made available to states as a block grant with a minimum of grant conditions.

    NCSL urges Congress to consider that inclusion of corridors in NHS legislation, not submitted by states, may still be subjected to state approval and conformity processes. Any subsequent state route submissions for NHS designation should be approved administratively.

    States should be permitted to employ state design standards for construction on non-Interstate NHS projects.

    NCSL urges Congress to amend Subsection (b) of Section 3390 of the National Highway System Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-59) to allow states to decide whether to use a portion of federal highway funds to construct sound barriers on existing highways.

Bridge Program

Many of the nation's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. A special bridge program should be available to provide immediate funding for deteriorated bridges. States and insular areas should have the flexibility to invest federal funds in the most critical bridge needs, including maintenance and upgrading of functionally obsolete bridges. A variable inspection program meeting federal requirements would allow states and insular areas to direct attention to the bridges which present the greatest hazard. States should be permitted to upgrade bridges to state design standards, and develop cost-effective maintenance and rehabilitation programs.


The use of tolls for financing or supporting certain segments of highway is an acceptable alternative when funding for construction or maintenance would be otherwise unavailable. The present toll pilot project should be expanded to provide for participation by other states and insular areas with eligible projects and to allow for private sector participation. However, high occupancy vehicle (HOV) restrictions should be permitted on toll roads at the discretion of a state. In general, NCSL opposes current federal restrictions on tolling.

Scenic Roads

A scenic road program is an important component of the federal-aid highway system. Incentives should be provided for efforts to maintain scenic and historic roadways, which facilitate the removal of illegal signs. Any federal requirements which limit the states' options in sign removal should take into consideration the fiscal ability of the state insular area or local removal/compensation authorities, and the unique environment and characteristics of the specific location.


The National Conference of State Legislatures recognizes the important role the federal government has played in recapitalizing deteriorating transit systems. The mass transit component of the national transportation system is vital to urban and rural dwellers, commuters, elderly, young and the poor. Adequate federal support of the mass transit system will contribute to the reduction of urban congestion and air pollution; encourage energy efficiency; and promote overall mobility. NCSL calls upon the federal government to address fairly and equally the needs of all Americans. Specifically, NCSL calls upon the federal government to take the lead in fostering a national interconnected mass transit network. An integrated national network of urban transit, intercity passenger rail and bus systems is a necessary part of an intermodal system.

Federal Programs

The focus of a federal mass transit assistance program should be on alleviating congestion and ensuring mobility. The existing programs should be restructured to provide federal support for those efforts which seek to encourage and expand ridership. Federal policies should be changed to support the use of high occupancy shared-ride services and to provide overall incentives for system usage.

NCSL supports federal funding for "reverse commuting" activities. The federal program should not encourage investment according to the availability of categorical funds, but on the basis of need and merit. The level of federal support should bear a relationship to the service levels state, insular area, and local governments are willing to support.

  • Formula Grants - consideration should be given to a consolidation of categorical programs in order to increase state, insular area, and local flexibility in priority-setting.
  • Discretionary Grants - this program should be supported with the 1 1/2-cent federal gas tax in order to provide assistance to capital-intensive projects. NCSL opposes efforts to require minimum allocations of discretionary capital funds regardless of specific demonstrated need and in the absence of requirements that funds from the Mass Transit Account be dedicated to mass transit projects only. NCSL does not support preferential treatment being given to applicants who overmatch federal financial requirements. This policy would place less economically healthy applicants at a competitive disadvantage.
  • Research/Development - the federal government has an appropriate role in financing a viable research and development program. The financial commitment in this regard has decreased in recent years. Federal research should concentrate on the development of efficient and reliable modes of mass transit, and provide a comprehensive and comparative analysis of transit modes to assist state and local governments in assessing system suitability.
  • Matching Ratio - the non-federal matching requirement should be a parity with matching requirements for other surface transportation programs.


The National Conference of State Legislatures supports the promotion of the intermodal goals of ISTEA, seeking to ensure the implementation of systems and facilities that strengthen the connectivity between the modes and provide linkage to overcome the limitations of each mode to an integrated transportation system.

NCSL supports an integrated transportation system that fosters competitiveness for domestically produced goods in international markets, and that preserves and enhances an efficient infrastructure ensuring marketplace choice for the seamless movement of goods and people. To this end, construction of links between the NHS and intermodal facilities should be established as an eligible use of NHS funds.

Indian Programs

Transportation is an important service program that provides the infrastructure upon which American Indian tribes' initiatives can be achieved. The economic growth of any Nation depends on adequate road and transportation systems to insure the success of economic and community development plans on reservation lands.

The National Conference of State Legislatures recognizes the unique and extensive transportation funding needs on Indian lands. In an effort to ensure that these needs are adequately addressed, NCSL supports a direct planning relationship between Indian Nations and state departments of transportation.

NCSL further supports the following adjustments in the implementation of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991:

  • Immediate adoption and full implementation of the relative need formula for funding allocation.
  • Adequate compensation for administrative costs of ISTEA planning requirements.
  • Clarification of inclusion of bridges located on Indian reservations as part of state responsibility for bridge funding.
  • Increased oversight of Bureau of Indian Affairs transportation functions by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • Allocation of BIA administrative funds to establish rural technical assistance centers should be mandated as non-discretionary.
  • Increased coordination between U.S. Department of Transportation and BIA in ISTEA interpretation.

Surface Transportation Program

The goal of flexibility envisioned in the Surface Transportation Program has not been attained due to overall underfunding of the program; extensive earmarking of funds for certain activities; and the backlog of historically eligible highway projects taking precedence over other transportation options. In order to fully realize the potential of the Surface Transportation Program, Congress must address these factors. STP funds should be made available for intercity passenger rail, including Amtrak.

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program

The level of obligation by states and insular areas of this category has been notably low. The linkage between Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) improvement Program funds and project eligibility determinations, brought about by extensive planning requirements, have encumbered state efforts to fully utilize this revenue source. It is appropriate that the magnitude of administrative requirements be reduced so that states and insular areas can dedicate funds to relieving traffic congestion and improving air quality. CMAQ should continue to be available at the same level to areas redesignated as Clean Air Act maintenance or attainment areas. States should be allowed to utilize CMAQ funds for innovative state-sponsored programs which result in reduced vehicle emissions or for intercity passenger rail service provided to relieve traffic congestion.


The use of federal-aid highway funds as a sanctioning device to enforce federal non-transportation goals is an anathema to states and insular areas. The number and scope of federal mandates to recipients of federal-aid transportation funds has grown steadily. These mandates require recipients to meet certain transportation and non-transportation related social goals. In the absence of federal financial support for the implementation of such mandates, NCSL urges that mandates not directly related to the federal surface transportation program be eliminated and those that are necessary to the program be fully funded. Any reduction in the federal match portion for a specific program should be accompanied by a reduction in mandates for that program. At a minimum, NCSL insists that any withholding sanctions enforced be subjected to a strict interpretation of statutory provisions governing the amount to be withheld. Such provisions stipulating that a percentage of a state's "apportioned amount" be withheld, should be construed so that funds are deducted from a state's authorized apportionment, not the state's percentage share of obligation authority. The intention of this position is to limit the fiscal impact of any withholding in the face of diminishing Congressional appropriations and lowered obligation ceilings.

NCSL opposes mandates which employ the use of "apportionment transfers" which are thinly-veiled "reprogramming sanctions" constituting federal coercion.

Federal mandates should not be applicable to state and local "overmatches." Overall, NCSL opposes federal mandates which preempt legitimate state authority over public safety. Mandates which have this effect should be fully repealed. Partial repeal of mandates, such as the national speed limit, restrict the ability of states to effectively ensure public safety concerns are met. NCSL calls upon Congress to repeal ISTEA-related mandates and funding sanctions. State efforts to adjust to the structural and programmatic changes embodied in ISTEA and the Clean Air Act require significant alterations in states' organization, planning and budgets. NCSL supports the expansion of projects eligible for exemption from federal-aid highway funding sanctions resulting from non-compliance with the Clean Air Act.

Federal funds should be specifically directed to facilitate compliance with federal mandates. Certain unfunded mandates which are unequivocally grant conditions are appropriate. NCSL specifically opposes the repeal of the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements for federally financed transportation projects.


Any modification to apportionment formulas necessitated by changes in transportation demands or patterns must include "hold harmless" provisions for those states or insular areas which stand to have their apportionment reduced. All states and insular areas should receive a minimum return of 90 percent on their contribution to programs responding to national transportation system goals. States and insular areas should receive an amount equal to their Highway Trust Fund contribution for any funds apportioned for state or insular areas flexible programs or regional programs.

Demonstration Projects

Those projects which are otherwise ineligible for federal-aid moneys and are not among states' or insular area's designated priority projects are improperly competing with state-established priorities. These "demonstration projects" should be funded through a state's or insular area's regular apportionment; should not be outside spending controls in place for formula projects; and should never place funding for state or insular area programs at risk.


Increases in the federal investment are necessary to maintain an adequate surface transportation system. Investment efforts should focus on improving safety, reducing the cost of transportation, alleviating congestion, and preparing for the transportation demands of the future. Investments should foster overall interconnectivity and a multi-modal network.


Extensive categorization of programs reduces the flexibility of states and insular areas in addressing transportation needs and arbitrarily encourages expenditures according to the availability of federal funding. Categories should be reduced and state and insular areas flexibility increased. Existing barriers to transferability of funding should be eliminated.


The federal government should continue to take a lead in transportation research and planning. Research activities should focus on the utilization of innovative technology including the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) program and magnetic levitation systems; elimination of transportation barriers, including protectionist policies; reduction of transportation costs; clean air containment; emission reduction strategies; and promotion of economic development for the entire surface transportation system.


The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program includes women as a presumptive class of socially and economically disadvantaged individuals in a single goal system. NCSL supports the distinction of contract and overall goals for minority and for women-owned firms. The present lack of separate goals allows a disproportionate amount of set-asides to be awarded to firms, notwithstanding their economic standing. NCSL urges the U.S. Department of Transportation to carefully reevaluate all minority contracting programs in light to the Supreme Court decision in Adorand Constructors Inc. v. Pena. Such programs must be reviewed in an effort to avoid jeopardizing other U.S. DOT-administered programs.

NAFTA Transportation

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) acknowledges the imminence of harmonization of U.S. land transportation standards with those of Canada and Mexico. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) established the Land Transportation Standards Subcommittee (LTSS) and the Transportation Consultative Group(TCG), under Articles 913 and 914, as mechanisms to "seek to the extent practicable" compatibility of standards among the three signatory nations.

NCSL supports the broad principles underlying the portions of NAFTA relating to eliminating barriers to North American commerce. However, NCSL views the NAFTA as promoting reduced barriers, consistent objectives and compatible principles in the land transportation of commerce, and not demanding absolute uniformity in regulations or procedures. Any and all steps toward implementation must respect the roles played by states in transportation safety and the variances in state laws and regulatory schemes. Any trilateral land transportation agreements reached should be subjected to federal legislative and regulatory review, allowing for ample imput from affected states.

In the course of the negotiations, NCSL supports the following principles as necessary guidance to the U.S. delegation:

  • Current U.S. and individual state transportation safety standards are not an impediment to trade, and should be preserved at the highest degree of safety.
  • Enforcement of motor carrier safety requirements is primarily a state function and practical responsibility. State enforcement of equipment standards, size and weight allowances, insurance documentation, operator requirements, financial responsibility and liability, hazardous materials transport, and vehicle emissions standards must be protected in any agreement.
  • Research to provide information on motor carrier configurations must be undertaken by an unbiased, impartial party which no vested interest in decisions to be made regarding the performance or safety of motor carriers.
  • Legitimate reciprocity in and among signatory countries must be established, particularly in licensing standards and data transmission.
  • Regional and economic variances in state statutory and regulatory schemes should be accommodated.
  • States, with a shared interest in a specific form, route or corridor of interstate commerce, should be allowed to enter into interstate compacts to promote and facilitate commerce in accordance with NAFTA LTSS agreements. States should not be inhibited in such interstate compacts by federal preemption of intrastate authority.
  • U.S. federal government priority financing should be forthcoming for any recognized, designated or de facto NAFTA corridors for purposes of upgrading capacity and reducing congestion.
  • Decisions which are reached, on motor carrier configuration, must be based on equipment which can be operated safely and efficiently in all countries.
  • The U.S. federal government has a role and responsibility to ensure that border procedures properly screen for indications of impermissible equipment, cargo, or drivers, in an efficient manner.

July 1999


Transportation Safety

The National Conference of State Legislatures supports a continued federal role in setting national performance and safety goals. Safety programs should be expanded to incorporate emerging safety issues.

Federal transportation safety programs should provide funding to promote comprehensive safety programs in the states. Necessary modifications should be made in federal safety grants programs to permit the maximum number of states to qualify, with the level of annual appropriations being adequate to fund grants to all states that qualify. NCSL opposes the use of federal sanctions or redirection penalties to enforce federal safety standards. Federal mandates that are enforced through the use of "reprogramming" sanctions should be repealed. Any existing federal compliance standards should reflect overall state effort to promote safety.

Increased federal attention to safety education is an appropriate vehicle for federal involvement. NCSL supports federal activities that seek to identify and remove transportation operators who have a record of unsafe operation of any mode of transportation. The opening of the National Driver Register to all transportation industries supports this goal. Individual privacy should be accorded appropriate safeguards.

It is a federal responsibility to ensure the drug and alcohol-free operation of federally-regulated transportation systems, and to this end, drug and alcohol use testing is a necessary mechanism.


The federal government should identify and develop advisory approaches to overall highway safety. NCSL supports the full utilization of existing technology, including effective traffic control devices and traffic control systems in order to promote transportation safety. When traffic exceeds design standards, additional safety measures should be encouraged.

NCSL supports the right of each state to determine those blood alcohol levels that are appropriate within its state boundaries. Additionally, NCSL believes it is within the purview of the state to determine the best highway safety laws or combination of highway safety laws to best combat drunk driving fatalities and other road fatalities.

Federal monitoring and compliance standards should accurately reflect compliance effort and unique state circumstances.


NCSL recognizes the modernization of the nation's air traffic as a federal priority. The implementation of the National Airspace System Plan, developed to meet air traffic demands and alleviate aviation hazards, should be expedited. While the nation's aviation network does face capacity limitations, NCSL supports the efficient utilization of existing capacity through scheduling improvements.

Motor Carriers

There is a continuing need for federal support of state enforcement and inspection activities. The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program has been important to states in this regard and should be reviewed for programmatic improvements that enhance state participation and expand eligible activities.

NCSL supports the right of the states to make determinations of reasonable "access" for motor carriers. NCSL further supports as a state option the expansion of the existing definition of "terminal."

Federal guidelines that identify safety and engineering concerns to be considered in "access" determinations would help supplement state efforts. Such guidelines should be related to vehicle operating characteristics and route specifications, but should not restrict the state decision-making process.

The fiscal realities involved in upgrading all roads and bridges to accommodate extensive expectations of "access" demand that the onus be placed on truck design that complements existing transportation networks.

States which have adopted the preponderance of the federal commercial driver's license requirements should be held in "substantial compliance" even when sanctions against drivers with blood-alcohol content (BAC) levels lower than the federal illegal standard are not adopted.

Federal support for research and development of technology which facilitates motor carrier safety should be increased, particularly that which provides information on safety compliance. Federal efforts should focus on research on the impact of various motor carrier configurations on overall safety. Additional research should also concentrate on issues related to driver safety.

NCSL supports a federal ban on the use of radar detectors in commercial motor vehicles.


NCSL endorses an increased state role in disciplinary actions against unsafe marine pilots. The responsibility of employers of marine pilots to fully investigate the pilot's history in operating modes of transportation should be upheld by the federal government. In an effort to improve navigational safety, NCSL supports federal equipment specifications and accident notification requirements for towing vessels. NCSL supports the conformance of federal boating-while-intoxicated standards to any enacted state BAC standard.


NCSL supports state initiatives to institute notification systems for the identification and protection of underground pipeline facilities. Federal efforts to impose a national "one-call" system, enforced through highway funding sanctions, is an unwarranted national mandate.


NCSL supports a comprehensive federal review of rail safety programs including efforts to eliminate unnecessary grade crossings. The protection of rail passengers, employees and the general public and the continued improvement of operating environments should be considered as priority safety goals. Federal efforts should be concentrated on improving safety through the adoption of performance-based standards, continued federal funding of the U.S. DOT Transportation Center, and an expanded public information campaign. Federal funding should be increased to support the improvement of safety at highway-rail grade crossings, including the use of low-cost safety improvements like traffic control devices and support for Operation Lifesaver, Inc. The utilization of sound risk assessment analysis should be employed to prioritize expenditures of limited funds. NCSL supports a continuation of state leadership in collaboration with rail industry technical assistance in making determinations on appropriate warning devices at crossings. Earmarked annual Federal Highway Administration funding for states to implement the Section 130 grade crossing improvement program should be continued and made fully available to states. Further, Section 130 program funding should be excluded from federal highway program obligation limitations and transfer provisions. In an effort to avert train accidents, federal efforts and finances should be made available for the study of positive train separation technology.

July 1999



The National Conference of State Legislatures recognizes the combined efforts of all levels of government and users in sharing the cost of port/waterway development and maintenance. The nation's ports and waterways are an integral part of an intermodal transportation system and where feasible, the deployment of ferry crossings should be encouraged and supported.

NCSL further acknowledges the distinctive roles played by the states and the federal government in financing waterways and ports. The increase of state and local financial support in recent years should be concomitant with an increased planning responsibility. This function is particularly important for the integration and support of other transportation systems for enhanced port/waterway activity.


Traditionally, the federal role in port development has been secondary to state and local support. The current harbor maintenance tax has allowed for increased federal operations and maintenance.

NCSL supports a phased-in increase which is equally shared by all commercial users of ports not part of the Inland Waterway System. This equal distribution of fees assessed at all ports permits all ports to be adequately maintained and operated regardless of relative cost. This is particularly important to the American Pacific Islands which have limited transportation alternatives.

  • Foreign Imports - support action by the Federal Maritime Commission to restrict foreign cargo shipments from nations which discriminate against U.S. carriers. In addition, any importation of hazardous materials should comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act to insure proper notification and assessment of environmental impact.
  • Cargo Preference - the cargo preference requirements of the Food Security Act should be repealed. These provisions unjustifiably increase costs to taxpayers through increased federal shipping costs and are of questionable benefit to national security.

Inland Waterways

The federal role in inland waterway capital and operating expenditures has been predominant. Due to the interstate commerce nature of this transportation system, this is an appropriate responsibility for the federal government. NCSL does not support the application of user fees to finance this system. The inland waterway system is of national importance as an alternative mode of commerce and a facilitator of regional economic development. NCSL supports the utilization of U.S. DOT discretionary funds for emergency assistance to states ports or waterways adversely affected by severe flooding.


  • Coast Guard - the role of the U.S. Coast Guard in directing waterborne traffic should be enhanced. Adequate emergency response plans should be developed with a review of existing contingency plans. Authority to access the National Driver Register should be extended to the Coast Guard so that the complete history is available on seamen being processed for licensing and certification.
  • Pilotage - support enforcement of federal laws which establish disciplinary procedures for state-licensed pilots who have performed improper pilotage services aboard enrolled U.S. Flag vessels.
  • User Fees - this method of financing expenses incurred primarily for the user's benefit is an appropriate mechanism. However, the effect of such charges in a competitive worldwide environment should be carefully scrutinized. Fees assessed should be equitable and nondiscriminatory. Those fees collected should be protected in trust fund accounts and their expenditure limited to the purposes for which they were collected. Recreational boat user fees which are being collected but not available for related boat safety activities should be immediately repealed. User fees should be assessed on commercial traffic to recover uncompensated benefits to civilian navigation and search and rescue activities. A phase-in period is appropriate to alleviate any financial burden.
  • Marine Environment - a comprehensive liability and compensation system should be maintained at the federal level to provide vulnerable coastal states with a means of environmental restoration in the event of a shipping accident.
  • It shall be the policy of the United States to require that domestic oil producers and common carriers develop the capability to safely transport crude oil and other liquified petroleum products, and to quickly and effectively contain and clean up oil spills that occur.

July 1998


NCSL staff contacts:

Eileen Doherty, Committee Director
Laurie Holmes, Staff Assistant