DC Update: Infrastructure Week in Washington; Greenhouse-Gas Regulation Delayed

A report on government actions that could affect the remote-production industry

This week was Infrastructure Week in Washington, and it was filled with panels, presentations, and congressional meetings on how to upgrade the infrastructure used every day in conducting business.

DOT Secretary Elaine Chao

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao kicked off the week by addressing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday. She noted that U.S. infrastructure “is a key factor in productivity and economic growth” but that investing in it has been lax over the past decades. The latest American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Report Card gave the U.S. system a D+ grade overall.

On Tuesday, the American Transportation Research Institute released a report that calculated the cost of highway congestion for the trucking industry, highlighting the importance of infrastructure upgrades. According to ATRI, highway congestion cost the trucking industry more than $63.4 billion in 2015, wasting 996 million hours of productive time, or the equivalent of 362,243 commercial-truck drivers sitting idle for a work year.

Also on Tuesday, Fitch Ratings noted that the absence of a federal commitment to fund infrastructure is causing states to try to fill the gaps on their own. Six states have already raised gas taxes and fees to fund transportation projects this year, and five others are considering it. An increase in gas taxes and fees will impact remote production, and we will continue to follow this issue to keep you informed.

On Wednesday, testifying at a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Chao covered a wide range of topics, including infrastructure funding and how the administration will choose projects. After the hearing, Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) said his committee is working on its own infrastructure package while it waits for the president’s plan.

EU and U.S. officials met Wednesday to talk about potential expansion of a Department of Homeland Security carry-on ban on laptops on direct flights to the U.S. but failed to reach a decision.

On Thursday, DOT announced that it plans to “indefinitely” delay more than a dozen sections of a Final Rule that provides new performance metrics for roads and bridges. The delay applies to sections related to measuring carbon-dioxide emissions from on-road mobile sources in order to provide “adequate time to review them.” The overall Final Rule will go into effect May 20, but it is unclear when DOT will ask for new comments on the sections devoted to the greenhouse-gas metrics.

The Trump administration sent a letter to Congress Thursday morning notifying lawmakers that it intends to open trade talks with Canada and Mexico in an attempt to renegotiate NAFTA. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) told reporters that he “got a sympathetic ear when he raised concerns about trucking provisions of the NAFTA agreement that opened the U.S. market to Mexican truckers.”

Thursday marked the 135-day countdown until DOT appropriations run out. It also marked the 135-day countdown until FAA reauthorization expires, and the highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,232 days.

The electronic ban on international flights could have a detrimental impact on remote production if it expands to domestic flights. EU and U.S. officials are meeting again next week. Look for more updates.

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