Transportation Bill Passes With Fly Ash Amendment
(Wheeling News-Register 4-19-2012) The U.S. House on Wednesday voted to extend federal transportation funding through September, a measure that included Rep. David B. McKinley's "fly ash" bill and another provision permitting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. House Resolution 4348 was approved by a vote of 293-127, with local Reps. McKinley and Shelley Moore Capito, both R-W.Va.; Bob Gibbs and Bill Johnson, both R-Ohio; and Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., all voting in favor.
The measure extends funding from the federal Highway Trust Fund through Sept. 30.
Legislation to construct the Keystone XL pipeline - which would transport oil produced from Canadian tar sands to Port Arthur, Texas - was previously blocked by President Barack Obama.
The White House has threatened to veto the GOP-backed transportation bill passed Wednesday, which it says bypasses longstanding practices for the approval of cross-border pipelines. The veto statement noted that a final pipeline route has yet to be decided.
McKinley's amendment in the transportation bill seeks to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating fly ash as a hazardous substance. Previously called the "Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act," House Resolution 2273 initially passed the House as stand-alone legislation last fall.
Since that time, McKinley's measure has sat idle in the Senate. He attached his bill to the transportation bill in an effort to bring it up for discussion in the Senate.
Fly ash is a byproduct of coal-fired power plants and is often utilized in building and highway construction. If the EPA were to prohibit the use of fly ash in road pavement, the cost of road construction would increase by at least 10 percent, according to McKinley.
He called for Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., to stand up for the transportation bill and his fly ash measure when it goes before the Senate.
"This is about protecting jobs and maximizing government construction dollars," McKinley said. "More than 316,000 jobs will be saved if this provision is adopted. We have done our part in fighting for these jobs and ensuring we keep costs down on road construction projects. Now, we're looking to the Senate and its leadership to do the same."
He indicated he isn't certain how it will be received in the Senate.
"A lot of it depends on the Senate leadership and those in West Virginia as well," said Jim Forbes, spokesman for McKinley.
Democrats have solidly opposed the GOP transportation plan, saying it undermines environmental protections, penalizes union workers and doesn't spend enough money to meet highway and transit construction needs.
Instead, Democrats have unsuccessfully pressed House Republicans to bring up a bipartisan, $109 billion transportation bill passed by the Senate earlier this year.
Lawmakers in both parties said the Senate bill would likely pass the House, but possibly with more Democratic than Republican votes, an awkward prospect for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. That gave rise to the House GOP's newest tactic - trying to trigger a formal legislative conference with the Senate without actually having passed their own long-term legislation.
But there is concern in Republican ranks that by using what is effectively a shell bill, the Senate will have the advantage in negotiations on a broad array of transportation policies.
"Are we going to support the Senate bill? Absolutely not," Johnson said at a conservative gathering the day before the House vote.
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