Jun 28 2012
Senator will continue to fight for ways to pass coal ash, Keystone XL pipeline provisions
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today issued the following statement about a bipartisan agreement on the surface transportation bill.
“Investing in infrastructure isn’t a Democratic idea or a Republican idea – it’s an American idea. While this measure is not perfect, I am pleased that my colleagues were able to work together across party lines to reach an agreement. When it comes to infrastructure and all of our critical priorities, our states are counting on us to work on long-term legislation to give them the maximum amount of certainty and planning time – we simply cannot afford to just kick the can down the road with short-term extensions that take us month to month.
“I am disappointed that this bill did not contain a provision to prevent the EPA from overregulating coal ash, which I strongly urged negotiators to support. Not many people realize that coal ash is commonly recycled for everyday uses like roads and buildings, and that it is a less-expensive construction material. This provision would have ensured that states, and not the federal government, take the lead in properly regulating coal ash. It also would have saved us money and created thousands of jobs – a clear win for the people of West Virginia and all American taxpayers. I will continue to work to make sure it passes Congress sooner rather than later. I am equally disappointed that this bill did not contain a measure that would finally allow us to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would bring oil into the United States from our friends in Canada, create good American jobs and make this country more energy independent.
“Still, the surface transportation bill has a very significant impact on every single state in the nation, with about 3 million jobs are at stake both this year and next year. In 2011, 2,288 West Virginians were employed in the West Virginia Highway, Street and Bridge Construction industry, according to Workforce West Virginia. Right now in our state, we have 1,326 projects that are at various stages of development and would be shut down if Congress were to allow the surface transportation authorization to expire. Each and every one of us has highway, transit and safety projects in our states that are a critical source of jobs and economic growth. I will support this bill with my friends on both sides of the aisle to make sure we protect those jobs.
“Finally, I am pleased that this legislation has helped us resolve the looming student loan interest rate crisis, so that students in West Virginia and around the nation will not see their interest rates double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1.”
National Flood Insurance Program
- The transportation bill includes much-needed reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program that will help get the program out of debt, and at the same time, provide stability and certainty to American families in all 50 states who face the risk of flooding.
- The measure would bring down costs by $4.2 billion over 10 years and has bipartisan support.
- The National Flood Insurance Program currently has about 5.6 million policies covering $1.2 trillion in property, including 21,777 policies in my state of West Virginia.
Payments in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural School programs
- The legislation reauthorizes funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural School programs.
- The Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program requires the federal government to make payments to local governments that help offset the loss of property taxes that may arise because nontaxable federal lands are located within their boundaries. These PILT payments help local governments carry out vital services like firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations.
- West Virginia received $2,863,940 in PILT payments in 2011.
- The Secure Rural Schools program provides payments to counties where national forests are located. The payments are given to the counties because national forests are tax-exempt, and the funds can be used for roads and schools. The payments are made by the U.S. Forest Service.
- West Virginia received $1,863,052 in county payments in 2011.
- Failure to reauthorize the county payments and the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program would have resulted in 11,000 job losses, $1.37 billion in lost business revenue, and $1.88 billion in lost tax receipts next year.
Additional background on the transportation bill
- It provides 100 percent of federal cost share for the next 10 years toward the completion of the Appalachian Highway Development System (Corridor H). Current law would only provide 80 percent cost share. This is an incentive for states to use as much of their total federal funding for all highway projects toward completion for the Appalachian Corridors.
- The bill establishes a new Appalachian Development Public Transportation program to distribute $20 million for providing greater public transportation opportunities to residents in rural areas.
- It includes language to streamline the process by which military servicemembers and veterans who operate heavy trucks during duty to obtain their commercial drivers’ license.
- It does not change any weight or size restrictions for trucks.