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Infrastructure in the News 12.1.16

BAF IN THE NEWS

 

Global Trade Magazine: Support for Trump’s Infrastructure Investment Plan

(Marcia Hale’s statement on Donald Trump’s election is reposted)

http://www.globaltrademag.com/global-trade-daily/support-trumps-infrastructure-investment-plan

Marcia Hale, President of Building America’s Future, congratulated President-elect Donald Trump, and expressed the organization’s commitment to work with him on improving the nation’s roads, bridges, rails and transit.

 

Mass Transit Mag: Building America’s Future Statement on Secretary of Transportation Appointment

(Mass Transit Mag reposted BAF’s statement on Elaine Chao’s Nomination)

http://www.masstransitmag.com/press_release/12283308/building-americas-future-statement-on-secretary-of-transportation-appointment

Marcia Hale, president of Building America’s Future, recently commented on Elaine Chao’s nomination to be secretary of transportation.

 

CNN International: Quest Means Business

(Secretary LaHood was a guest on CNN International)

http://mms.tveyes.com/MediaCenterPlayer.aspx?u=aHR0cDovL21lZGlhY2VudGVyLnR2ZXllcy5jb20vZG93bmxvYWRnYXRld2F5LmFzcHg%2FVXNlcklEPTE3MTgxNCZNRElEPTY5NzQ2MjgmTURTZWVkPTM0MTkmVHlwZT1NZWRpYQ%3D%3D

Click the above link to watch Secretary Lahood on CNN International discussing Trump’s pick for Secretary of Transportation.

 

NATIONAL NEWS

 

Associated Press: Freight Railroads Don't Expect Big Trade Changes Under Trump

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/11/30/business/ap-us-railroads-trade.html

Major U.S. freight railroads expect their business to fare well as long as the economy continues growing despite President-elect Donald Trump's promises to overhaul U.S. trade policy and renegotiate bad deals.

 

Huffington Post: Donald Trump’s Transportation Secretary Pick Would Inherit Crumbling Roads And Robotic Cars

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/elaine-chao-transportation_us_583f239fe4b0c68e047e5108

Roads, bridges and tunnels across the United States are in disrepair. Tech giants are already rolling out self-driving vehicles in cities, sending regulators and insurance companies scrambling to write new rules. Ride-hailing apps are reshaping how passengers get around and how drivers are paid to shuttle them there.

 

Insurance Journal: Trump Transportation Chief’s Record Signals Slowdown in Safety Regulation

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2016/12/01/433683.htm

Elaine Chao’s record as secretary of labor suggests she’d have a light hand when it comes to safety regulation as head of the Transportation Department and would seek to shift responsibility from the federal government to states where possible.

 

Recode: Trump’s pick for transportation secretary could be good for companies with self-driving ambitions

http://www.recode.net/2016/11/30/13779302/elaine-chao-donald-trump-dot-dol-secretary

Donald Trump will reportedly nominate Elaine Chao — the former secretary of labor under the Bush administration who also served as the deputy secretary of transportation under the previous Bush administration — to be the Department of Transportation secretary.

 

Digital Trends: New Transportation Secretary could go light on regulations for Uber and Lyft

http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/dot-choice-elaine-chao-favors-gig-economy/#ixzz4Rb5ZCwJm   

Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing companies may find new support in Washington, D.C. Elaine Chao, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head up the Department of Transportation, has voice support for a light hand in regulating sharing or ‘gig economy’ companies, Fortune reported.

 

WIRED: The Hidden Task Ahead of Trump’s Transport Chief

https://www.wired.com/2016/11/elaine-chao-secretary-transportation-self-driving-cars/

OF THE MANY things Donald Trump has planned for his presidency, Democrats support at least one—in principle, if not specifics. It’s way past time to fix America’s crumbling infrastructure. Tuesday, Trump named the woman for the job, nominating Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation.

 

Washington Examiner: How Trump can compromise on transportation

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/how-trump-can-compromise-on-transportation/article/2608562

The presidential election result was surprising to many not only for its result, but for the blunt demonstration of the cultural, political and economic "coming apart" of rural and urban America. The American electorate has a lot of baggage to sort out, but in the meantime, the election did bring good news at the local level, both rural and urban: Some 49 state and local transportation proposals worth $200 billion went before voters, of which 34 passed. This general trend toward local investments in transportation is a healthy one.

 

The Hill: Trump’s Cabinet picks raise hopes for infrastructure package

http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/308163-trumps-cabinet-picks-raise-infrastructure-hopes

President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks are strengthening hopes for a major infrastructure package next year.

 

The Hill: Potential for agreement? Reinvesting in America’s water infrastructure

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/energy-environment/308072-potential-for-agreement-reinvesting-in-americas-water

America’s deteriorating infrastructure promises to have a cascading impact on our nation’s economy, hindering business productivity, employment and personal income – and reducing our international competitiveness. A strong economy depends upon a first class infrastructure system.

 

POLITICO Pro: Mnuchin: Infrastructure 'a big priority' for Trump administration (full article follows Morning Transportation)

https://www.politicopro.com/transportation/whiteboard/2016/11/mnuchin-infrastructure-a-big-priority-for-trump-administration-080350

Steven Mnuchin, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Treasury Department, reiterated the incoming administration's commitment this morning to seeing an infrastructure package pass Congress.

STATE NEWS

 

Reuters: Exclusive: Board Members Selected to Oversee Amtrak's $24 Billion Gateway Project

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/11/30/us/30reuters-transportation-amtrak-gateway-project-exclusive.html

The government corporation charged with overseeing Amtrak's $24 billion Gateway rail project between New York and New Jersey has filled out its governing board, sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

 

Washington Post: Virginia to Metro board members: Shut up and let GM Wiedefeld do the talking

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/virginia-to-metro-board-members-shut-up-and-let-gm-wiedefeld-do-the-talking/2016/11/30/aded6d62-b72c-11e6-959c-172c82123976_story.html?utm_term=.c8598b5e9d20

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe blasted Metro’s board as a “joke” Wednesday over a proposal to cancel the Silver Line, and his transportation secretary called for board members to adopt a lower profile, saying their “political rhetoric” is hurting the system.

 

Associated Press: Metro’s chief promises fewer delays, nicer ride soon

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/metros-chief-promises-fewer-delays-nicer-ride-soon/2016/11/30/f7d87442-b74c-11e6-939c-91749443c5e5_story.html?utm_term=.0c68c70b31b4

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld on Wednesday said the system will double the number of new cars in service by next year, a move that will improve safety and reduce delays.

 

Associated Press: Ohio to invest $15M on corridor for testing smart vehicles

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/self-driving-truck-is-part-of-ohio-announcement-on-research/2016/11/30/01c9ebfe-b700-11e6-939c-91749443c5e5_story.html?utm_term=.3a91b6356b03

As Gov. John Kasich announced a $15 million investment in advanced self-driving highway technology on Wednesday, he urged Ohioans to push back against old ideas about the state.

 

Inc.: Lessons from the Ransomware Attack on San Francisco's Public Transportation

http://www.inc.com/joseph-steinberg/important-lessons-for-everyone-from-the-ransomware-attack-on-san-franciscos-publ.html

A ransomware attack against the San Francisco light rail transit system took its ticket machines offline all day this past Saturday during Thanksgiving weekend - one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year in the United States.

 

Tech Crunch: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies claims more than $100 million in total investment

https://techcrunch.com/2016/12/01/hyperloop-transportation-technologies-claims-more-than-100-million-in-total-investment/

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), the counterpart startup to Hyperloop One, which is also building a prototype of Elon Musk’s hyperloop system, says it has raised a little over $108 million dollars to build the tech aiming to zip us from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under half an hour.

 

NJTV: Statewide Water Infrastructure Repairs Needed

http://www.njtvonline.org/news/video/statewide-water-infrastructure-repairs-needed/

“It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen every day. There’s a water main break every day in some part of the city,” said pipefitter Mike Maloney.

POLITICO Morning Transportation - By Brianna Gurciullo | 12/01/2016 05:42 AM EDT

With help from Jennifer Scholtes, Lauren Gardner, Tanya Snyder, Anthony Adragna, Kelsey Tamborrino and Alex Guillén

TAKE YOUR PICK, TRUMP: By the looks of the sign-in sheet from Trump Tower, the president-elect is finally homing in on his choice for Homeland Security secretary. The three big names that keep circulating in this ongoing game of political telephone are Frances Townsend, Gen. John Kelly and Rep. Mike McCaul — all of whom also happened to swing by that Fifth Avenue skyscraper in the past few days.

Border hawk battle: Prospects aren't as bright as they once looked for McCaul, according to speculators and whispers from within the transition team. And the House Homeland Security chairman's talking points seem to be telling of that turn. Leaving his meeting with Donald Trump this week, McCaul told reporters that he looks forward to "working with him and this administration moving forward in this next ... term." And then came the whammy from The Washington Times, which quoted the president of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC saying the group hopes Trump "would not reward a deceptive pro-amnesty lawmaker like Michael McCaul with a Cabinet position."

Why we care: Even though travel, tourism and cross-border trade don't frequently pop up as keywords in this immigration-dominated discussion, those issues are surely an undercurrent in this covert campaign for the top DHS spot. Just hark back to the way curtailing the Visa Waiver program became the bull's-eye for anti-terrorism efforts last year.

Batting back: Naturally, McCaul is now on defense after some bruising critiques, talking up just how tough he is on immigration issues and border security. The chairman has pointed out that his big border security bill didn't address illegal immigration because it's the House Judiciary Committee that has the power — and was specifically called upon by House leaders — to write the immigration portion of that package. And McCaul is now reminding folks that he has been advising Trump this year on how he can legally stifle the influx of "radical Islamists" into the United States, telling Fox News on Wednesday night that he and the president-elect have put their heads together on "ramping up vetting procedures" for people trying to enter from places like Pakistan.

IT'S DECEMBER: Happy Thursday and thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. It'll soon be time to track Santa Claus' flight! Please send tips, feedback and, of course, song lyrics to bgurciullo@politico.com or @brigurciullo.

"See you in the marketplace. Walking 'round at 8 a.m. Got two hours before my flight. Luck be on my side tonight."

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GREEDY GAVEL: It's a problem so inherently congressional — a story as old as the Department of Homeland Security itself: Dozens of government agencies were broken off to create DHS, and still Congress maintains a complicated web of jurisdiction, a system supported by power-hungry protectionism. But Chairman McCaul says the time might be right to streamline, once and for all, the jurisdiction issue his predecessors tried and failed to remedy. As our Jen Scholtes reports for Pros, "the chairman let on earlier this year that he planned to plea for that consolidation — which would strip jurisdiction from several other panels — in the upcoming Congress. But he went further this week, saying he will seek an amendment to the House rules package in January and that he thinks 'leadership is generally supportive.'"

Boiling point? "I want to energize the movement out there," McCaul told an audience at the Bipartisan Policy Center on Wednesday. "We think we're getting a momentum out there with the members that never realized that we don't have principal jurisdiction."

MNUCHIN: WE'RE PRIORITIZING INFRASTRUCTURE: Trump's pick for Treasury secretary said Wednesday that infrastructure is a "big focus" for the incoming administration. "We need to make sure that our infrastructure is built for the 21st century, that we have roads and bridges and power grids and infrastructure that support this country, and that's going to be a big focus," Steven Mnuchin told reporters in New York, according to a pool report. As for how the administration will pay for those improvements, Mnuchin said: "I think we're going to look [at] a lot of different things. Some public-private partnerships, different types of things we're [looking] at, but it's all going to be a big priority."

SHUSTER SPEAKS WITH CHAO, NO POLICY TALK YET: House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) told our Tanya Snyder that he chatted with Elaine Chao on Wednesday, but the two didn't get into any policy specifics for next year. "It was a great conversation," Shuster said. "I congratulated her. I was really pleased that somebody of her caliber, somebody with her experience and her knowledge of both transportation issues and how the Hill works became secretary of Transportation." (That goes to show pretty much everyone expects the Senate to confirm Chao without much fuss.) Shuster added that he and Chao just exchanged some "pleasantries" on Wednesday. "We've got a long way to go to figure out the policies," he said.

DUST OFF THOSE JNCO JEANS: Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld debuted a new plan Wednesday to address Metrorail's reliability issues in 2017. The "Back2Good" campaign — besides inspiring '90s kids to dust off their Matchbox Twenty CDs — builds on Wiedefeld's candid assessments of the system in stark terms. "Before Metro can be great, it must first be good," WMATA says on its webpage promoting the plan. The initiative's rollout came on the anniversary of Wiedefeld's tenure as Metro CEO.

Everyone here is wondering what it's like: "Back2Good" aims to build off the tail end of WMATA's SafeTrack emergency maintenance program by moving to preventive work and speeding up the retirement of the agency's most problematic railcars (first and foremost the 1000- and 4000-series cars) to the end of next year. The plan also prioritizes stopping near-miss incidents, targeting red-signal overruns and the safety of track maintenance personnel. The goal by the end of 2017: halving the number of service delays caused by track issues and cutting delays due to malfunctioning railcars by a quarter.

Just want you back for good: Wiedefeld has made clear his chief priority is the safety of the system and its riders, but the plan's an acknowledgment that service must start improving to stanch the loss of customers who have found alternative transportation options for their daily commutes. WAMU's Martin Di Caro has a nice overview of Wiedefeld's first year on the job here, including the chief saying he thinks riders will come back to the system.

THE STANDARDS THEY AREN'T A CHANGIN': The EPA on Wednesday proposed leaving in place its vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards for model years 2022 to 2025, Pro Energy's Alex Guillén reports, but it'll be Trump who has the final say. The EPA and NHTSA released a draft technical report in July concluding that automakers can comply with the standards. However, cheap gasoline and stronger-than-expected sales of big vehicles such as SUVs mean the carbon reductions and fuel savings initially promised won't be achieved. In a statement, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said that it's clear "from the extensive technical record that this program will remain affordable and effective."

Some slam the move, look to DJT: Ford blasted the proposal, as Alex reports. "It is deeply disappointing that eleventh-hour politics in a lame-duck administration has short-circuited a data-driven process for developing regulation," said Ziad Ojakli, the carmaker's group vice president of government and community relations. "Ford and the industry stand ready to work with the next administration and Congress to find a way forward. We remain committed to improving fuel economy for our customers in a way that also preserves consumer choice, vehicle affordability and American jobs."

The Trump factor: When asked Wednesday if the EPA moved up its proposal because of the incoming Trump administration, acting EPA air chief Janet McCabe said that wasn't the case. "What's on the administrator's mind is her review of the information that's available now," McCabe said. "And in her view, it's an appropriate point for her to indicate her view that the standards are on track and that the industry is on track to meet them and that a rulemaking to change them is not necessary at this time."

STATE OF THE STATES REGULATING DRIVERLESS CARS: PENNSYLVANIA: Our Tanya Snyder chatted with Leslie Richards, the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, for the fourth part in a series of Q&As with state officials all trying to figure out how they should regulate the use of driverless cars on their roads. Richards said a "huge focus" for PennDOT is how autonomous tech can be used in freight. She said: "Uber and Google and even large manufacturers and businesses that have large freight movement, Amazon, and others are choosing to be in Pennsylvania because we are doing everything possible, and looking at every tool and resource possible, to make sure that freight continues to move well throughout our state." Pros can read the full Q&A here.

DOWN TO FLINT IN WRDA TALKS: Negotiators maintain they are within striking distance of reaching a deal on the Water Resources Development Act — a major water infrastructure package — but assistance for the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., remains the last holdup. "We're just down — literally — to the Flint issue," Sen. Barbara Boxer, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, told Morning Energy. She added that Republicans were floating unacceptable new offsets for the Flint aid, though GOP aides said that was not the case.

Promises, promises: House Speaker Paul Ryan vowed again Wednesday that Congress is "going to address Flint" before the end of this Congress. Flint's congressman, Dan Kildee, was also feeling upbeat on Wednesday night: "Congress is now right on the precipice of doing its part. ... I'm confident the commitments that have been made are going to be held to and beyond that I wouldn't want to prejudice any of the discussions."

I KNOW YOU GOTTA PUT IN THEM HOURS: In 2017, it looks like the House will have more working days than usual. "The House will be in session for 145 days next year, an increase over the 132-day average during non-election years for the past three GOP-led Congresses," POLITICO's Rachael Bade reports. "It adds up to 13 more days of work in 2017, spread over several additional weeks." Expect some five-day workweeks during the early part of 2017. During Trump's first 100 days in office, the House will work up to 61 days on the Hill.

ICYMI: House Democrats reelected Nancy Pelosi as minority leader on Wednesday in a 134-63 vote between her and Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio. "Pelosi faced criticism from multiple fronts in the run-up to the election, boosted by Ryan's underdog challenge," Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan and Kyle Cheney report for POLITICO. "Her decisive win is likely to quell some of the unrest among the rank and file. But tensions are still simmering behind the scenes, as members look ahead to another two years in the minority and Donald Trump moving into the White House."

TSA PROCESSED 16.5 MILLION TRAVELERS LAST WEEK: The number of people who went through airport security in the United States during the week of Thanksgiving increased 4.9 percent from last year, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement Wednesday. From Nov. 21-28, 16.5 million people made their way through security at airports across the country. Johnson said 99 percent waited in their lines for less than a half-hour. And 95 percent waited fewer than 15 minutes. Meanwhile, 97 percent of PreCheck travelers waited fewer than five minutes.

THE AUTOBAHN:

— "Close calls on U.S. airport runways rise sharply." The Wall Street Journal.

— "Pilot told Colombia controllers 'no fuel' before crash." The Associated Press.

— "NHTSA sued over automatic braking agreement." The Detroit News.

— "Three American cruise lines are expected to announce deals to start service to Cuba." The Wall Street Journal.

— NHTSA "wants you to complain more." The Associated Press.

— "The great self-driving shuttle race." The Information.

— "Kasich hopes to transform Rt. 33 into 'smart road.'" The Columbus Dispatch.

— "TSA PreCheck is stuck in its own security line." Bloomberg.

— "Elaine Chao will face many challenges as Trump's Transportation secretary, including Metro." The Washington Post.

— "'I Love N.Y.' signs have a lot to say. The government says they're illegal." The New York Times.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 8 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 302 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,402 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

8:30 a.m. — The National Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council begins two days of meetings. Washington Hilton. 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW.

8:30 a.m. — NHTSA holds a meeting to "explore the risk factors associated with pupil transportation and potential solutions to prevent school transportation-related crashes." DOT. Media Center. 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE.

1:30 p.m. — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson speaks at a Homeland Security Advisory Council meeting. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 6th Floor. Moynihan Board Room.

3:30 p.m. — The Stimson Center hosts a discussion on the "ethical, legal, and security implications of the U.S. drone program." Stimson Center. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. 8th Floor.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at transpocalendar@politicopro.com.

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/12/for-trumps-dhs-pick-a-wait-with-bated-breath-020357

Stories from POLITICO Pro

McCaul foresees critical mass in DHS jurisdiction battle Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 11/30/2016 03:35 PM EDT

House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul is pushing forward with his plan to consolidate congressional jurisdiction over homeland security and said Wednesday that he's picking up followers.

The chairman let on earlier this year that he planned to plea for that consolidation — which would strip jurisdiction from several other panels — in the upcoming Congress. But he went further this week, saying he will seek an amendment to the House rules package in January and that he thinks "leadership is generally supportive."

"I want to energize the movement out there," McCaul told an audience at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "We think we're getting a momentum out there with the members that never realized that we don't have principal jurisdiction."

When the Homeland Security Department was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, jurisdiction was split over dozens of committees, and it remained that way even after the House Homeland Security Committee was created and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee took on homeland security work.

The House Transportation Committee has held onto oversight over agencies such as FEMA and the Coast Guard, for instance. And because the Secret Service was previously an agency of the Treasury Department, the House Judiciary Committee has retained its control over the law enforcement agency.

Like his predecessors, McCaul has been vocal about what a headache the oversight split causes, saying on Wednesday: "How in the world can I get anything done as chairman? It needs to be fixed once and for all."

For instance, in October McCaul introduced a bill (H.R. 6381) aimed at making improvements to DHS; it was referred to nine other committees, including the panels on Agriculture, Financial Services and Foreign Affairs. And the same jurisdictional web has been blamed for preventing lawmakers from ever enacting a reauthorization bill to lay out policy guidance for DHS.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson agrees and often mentions that his department is beholden to the whims and requests of more than 100 committees and subcommittees.

On Wednesday, sitting beside McCaul at the BPC event, Johnson cited what he characterized as "mesmerizing data:" DHS officials have testified at 208 hearings in the past two years, department personnel have attended more than 4,000 congressional engagements in that span and the secretary has personally testified 26 times in his three years in office.

"It keeps us very, very busy," Johnson said.

Despite that bipartisan agreement, jurisdictional consolidation is a tough sell, because no matter how small their slice of oversight, no committee leader wants to relinquish turf.

"The problem is, committee jurisdiction is power," former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) said during the discussion. "It's not a zero sum game for the country, but it is for the Congress. ... It's great, I think, that Paul Ryan and others are prepared to maybe get a few people mad and put the country first."

This political struggle was not unforeseen by the 9/11 Commission, which clearly laid out an argument for jurisdictional consolidation in its 2004 report.

"Few things are more difficult to change in Washington than congressional committee jurisdiction and prerogatives," the commission wrote some 12 years ago. "To a member, these assignments are almost as important as the map of his or her congressional district. The American people may have to insist that these changes occur, or they may well not happen."

Back

Shuster-Chao talk today mostly 'pleasantries' Back

By Tanya Snyder | 11/30/2016 02:08 PM EDT

House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster said he spoke this morning with President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Transportation secretary this morning, mostly to congratulate her.

"It was a great conversation," Shuster said. "I congratulated her; I was really pleased that somebody of her caliber, somebody with her experience and her knowledge of both transportation issues and how the Hill works became secretary of Transportation."

Shuster said they didn't get into a discussion of any specific issues. "It was just pleasantries," he said. "We've got a long way to go to figure out the policies."

It's still unknown where Chao — or Trump — will come down on major transportation issues that will eventually come before the new administration, such as separating the air traffic control system from FAA and how to rescue the Highway Trust Fund from insolvency.

Back

EPA proposes no changes to 2022-2025 vehicle emission standards Back

By Alex Guillén | 11/30/2016 11:30 AM EDT

EPA today proposed not making any changes to vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards for model years 2022-2025 — but President-elect Donald Trump's administration will make the final call.

A draft technical report issued in July by EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which oversees a twin regulation on fuel economy, concluded that automakers can comply with the standards. However, cheap gasoline and stronger-than-expected sales of big vehicles such as SUVs mean the carbon reductions and fuel savings initially promised will not be achieved.

"It's clear from the extensive technical record that this program will remain affordable and effective," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement. "This proposed decision reconfirms our confidence in the auto industry's capacity to drive innovation and strengthen the American economy while saving drivers money at the pump and safeguarding our health, climate and environment."

EPA said in a release that the technical analysis did indicate the standards could be tightened for those later model years, but that keeping them unchanged gives the auto industry more certainty for long-term planning. Environmentalists had hoped EPA would strengthen the standards, while some automakers sought to loosen the standards.

The agency will take public comments through Dec. 30. EPA's final decision on the matter is due by April 1, 2018.

The midterm evaluation was built into the 2012 vehicle rules as a safety valve for automakers concerned that technology might not advance enough to meet the standards more than a decade down the road.

Back

Vehicle rules will fall short on emissions, fuel savings, agencies say Back

By Alex Guillén | 07/18/2016 04:57 PM EDT

U.S. vehicle efficiency rules won't deliver the carbon reductions or fuel savings President Barack Obama promised in his first term because cheap gasoline has set off a buying spree of gas-guzzling trucks and sport-utility vehicles, according to new government figures released Monday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and EPA stressed in their draft technical report that automakers can still comply with their rule setting average fuel economy levels through 2025. But as a whole, cars and trucks will fall short of the much-heralded 54.5 miles per gallon goal envisioned under the 2012 rule, meaning the projected carbon dioxide emissions savings will not come to pass.

EPA and NHTSA set a range of standards depending on the size of the vehicle, a method meant to preserve consumer choice while decreasing the fuel consumption of gas-guzzlers like SUVs. But cheap gas has put more SUVs on the road than expected, dampening overall efficiency gains even as each individual vehicle becomes more efficient.

"54.5 isn't a standard, never was a standard and isn't a standard now," a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call. "54.5 is what we predicted in 2012 the fleet-wide average could get to, based on assumptions that were made back then about the mix of the fleet as between cars and light trucks and SUVs.

"We're recognizing the fact that gasoline prices are lower now," the official added. "They will change again, surely, between now and 2025. But right now when we look at the forecast out, we see that the vehicle mix is likely to include more SUVs and light trucks than what we expected in 2012. So when you put that assumption into context with the actual standard ... you're going to get a slightly lower number than 54.5."

In their new report, EPA and NHTSA estimate that target would actually be between 50 and 52.6 mpg by 2025. (Technically, it is a measure known as miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent, which takes into account electric cars and natural gas vehicles sold each year.)

EPA said in the 2012 rule that the standards would save around 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide over the program's lifetime, the equivalent of more than the U.S. emitted from all sectors in 2015. Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said that because the report indicates the average per-vehicle CO2 level is reduced by 3.5 percent to 8 percent, depending on the case, there would likely be an equivalent reduction in the overall savings. That comes out to roughly 200 million to 480 million tons.

The draft report is only the first step in a midterm review process that could culminate in changing the standards for the 2022-2025 model year vehicles. EPA will take comment on the draft technical report for 60 days, and ultimately the process ends in 2018, when EPA could finalize any potential changes to the future targets.

EPA and NHTSA say the 2022-2025 standards "can be met largely through improvements in gasoline vehicle technologies, such as improvements in engines, transmissions, light-weighting, aerodynamics and accessories."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement that the fuel economy standards get "a grade of 'incomplete.'"

"To ensure that the vehicle fleet actually reaches or exceeds the bold goal of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 ... the EPA and NHTSA must set even more stringent standards moving forward," Markey said. "The automotive industry can meet these standards with the same technological ingenuity that has made today's cars and SUVs fuel-efficient computers on wheels and that is enabling the self-driving cars of tomorrow."

The report is already providing ammo for automakers looking to loosen the 2020s standards.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement that market changes since the rule was finalized four years ago mean that "it will be a daunting challenge to meet the very aggressive requirements of the 2022-2025 federal fuel economy and greenhouse gas rule. Absent a vigorous commitment to focus on marketplace realities, excessive regulatory costs could impact both consumers and the employees who produce these vehicles."

Back

Ford slams EPA proposal, calls on Trump to 'find a way forward' Back

By Alex Guillén | 11/30/2016 02:04 PM EDT

Ford Motor Co. today blasted EPA's proposed determination that the 2022-2025 vehicle emissions standards should remain unchanged and called on the incoming Trump administration and Republican Congress to take action.

"It is deeply disappointing that eleventh-hour politics in a lame-duck administration has short-circuited a data-driven process for developing regulation," said Ziad Ojakli, Ford's group vice president for government and community relations.

"Ford and the industry stand ready to work with the next administration and Congress to find a way forward. We remain committed to improving fuel economy for our customers in a way that also preserves consumer choice, vehicle affordability and American jobs."

The timing of the proposal's release means the Trump administration likely will make the final call. The deadline to do so is April 1, 2018.

The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, which represents Ford and 11 other automakers, said in formal comments to EPA's draft technical report released this summer that formed the basis of EPA's proposal to keep the standards in place. AAM identified "significant concerns" with the report's data and analysis, including EPA's estimation of "customer acceptance" of fuel-efficient technologies.

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McCabe: Incoming Trump administration wasn't consideration in auto standards proposal Back

By Alex Guillén | 11/30/2016 12:38 PM EDT

EPA's acting air chief dodged questions today about whether EPA moved up a proposal that kept in place the 2022-2025 vehicle emissions standards because of the incoming Trump administration.

"That's not what's on our mind," acting EPA air chief Janet McCabe told reporters on a conference call.

"What's on the administrator's mind is her review of the information that's available now," she continued. "And in her view, it's an appropriate point for her to indicate her view that the standards are on track and that the industry is on track to meet them and that a rulemaking to change them is not necessary at this time."

The 2012 rule did not specify a timeline for EPA to issue a proposal — just a deadline of April 1, 2018 for the final determination.

McCabe also declined to say whether EPA might finalize the determination before Jan. 20, saying only that EPA "will look at the comments and consider what the next steps ought to be." The comment period ends Dec. 30, giving the agency just three weeks before Trump takes office.

In a letter to Trump's transition team earlier this month, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers urged the president-elect to "adjust" the 2022-2025 standards because they "pose a substantial challenge... due to the steeper compliance requirements."

"We're confident that there will be the technologies available, and in fact there are now," McCabe said on the call.

Environmentalists would likely challenge in court any move by the Trump administration to loosen the standards.

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Boxer says Republicans pushing for new Flint offset Back

By Anthony Adragna | 11/30/2016 03:39 PM EDT

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) says Republicans are floating new, unacceptable proposals to offset aid to help the city of Flint, Mich. respond to its drinking water crisis — though Senate Republican aides quickly disputed that.

"They're floating new ideas for pay-fors that we are not going to accept," Boxer, ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, told POLITICO today. "There is a pay-for that [Michigan Sen.] Debbie Stabenow had identified with advanced vehicles to pay for Flint and we just want to stick with that rather than bring in new pay-fors."

The offset cited by Boxer involves winding down a DOE loan program for advanced vehicle manufacturing. Both chambers are still working through whether funding for Flint will come in the final Water Resources Development Act or in the short-term government funding resolution.

One Republican aide denied that there was a new funding source being considered, but noted "everything is being discussed as we speak" on how to address Flint funding.

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House GOP planning to work more next year Back

By Rachael Bade | 11/30/2016 10:10 AM EDT

House Republicans are planning to work more than three extra weeks in 2017, compared with the current year, as they push to enact Donald Trump's agenda.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced the stepped-up workload on Wednesday morning as Republicans lay the groundwork to repeal Obamacare and overhaul the tax code in an effort to spur the economy.

The House will be in session for 145 days next year, an increase over the 132-day average during nonelection years for the past three GOP-led Congresses. It adds up to 13 more days of work in 2017, spread over several additional weeks.

"To ensure that we have ample time to enact our conservative agenda, I have increased the average number of days we will be in session by the equivalent of more than three legislative weeks," McCarthy wrote in text accompanying the emailed schedule. "With an incoming Trump Administration, I have added these extra session days primarily during the first part of the year."

The calendar includes a number of five-day workweeks in the first part of the year, a departure from the typical three- to four-day weeks enjoyed by lawmakers last year.

Lawmakers will be working in Washington up to 61 days of Trump's first 100 days in the White House.

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Pelosi prevails Back

By Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan and Kyle Cheney | 11/30/2016 08:43 AM EDT

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi swept aside a challenge from Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan Wednesday to win another term atop the Democratic Caucus, ensuring continuity for Democrats despite their poor performance on Election Day.

Pelosi beat Ryan in a 134-63 vote, securing the two-thirds support within the caucus she had claimed earlier this month before Ryan officially jumped in the race.

Still, the loss of more than 60 members was a significant expression of discontent with the current leadership team. When Pelosi was challenged six years ago, 43 lawmakers voted for her opponent.

Separately, Rep. Linda Sánchez eked out a win over Rep. Barbara Lee in the race for vice chair of the caucus, no. 5 in the party's leadership ranks. The tally in the contest between the two Californians was 98-96.

Pelosi emerged from the closed-door caucus elections and told reporters she had a "special spring in her step" because of her opportunity to present a contrast with the Trump White House.

"We know how to win elections," she said, congratulating Ryan on his challenge. "We've done it in the past. We will do it again."

Pelosi faced criticism from multiple fronts in the run-up to the election, boosted by Ryan's underdog challenge. Her decisive win is likely to quell some of the unrest among the rank-and-file. But tensions are still simmering behind the scenes, as members look ahead to another two years in the minority and Donald Trump moving into the White House.

"Clearly this didn't turn out the way we wanted it to," Ryan said at a news conference after the vote. "We knew it was going to be an uphill battle." He added, "I'm proud of having 63 votes."

Pelosi had vocal support from multiple lawmakers leading up to the election, who said her longtime tenure would be an asset heading into an unprecedented period in Washington. They also pinned the party's poor election on Hillary Clinton.

"Everything we care about [is] at risk," California Rep. Adam Schiff said in his nominating speech for Pelosi. "We need the very best to lead us...No one is a better tactician than Nancy Pelosi."

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) added, ""The fact of the matter is many red-to-blue candidates were undone by the top of the ticket."

When it was Ryan's turn to speak, he praised Pelosi's leadership but said it was time for "accountability" after multiple dismal election cycles.

"Everything we do should be about getting back in the majority," Ryan said. He added he "bit his tongue" after the past three election cycles, but no more.

Ryan argued that the party had failed to deliver a compelling message to blue-collar voters like those in his Ohio district, which he won easily even as Hillary Clinton lost the area by a wide margin. He also earned the support of a slew of younger members frustrated at being frozen out of leadership.

Pelosi's win means she'll once again assume the mantle of a caucus firmly in the House minority after picking up just six seats in November's elections — far fewer than the party initially projected.

Republicans will hold a 241-194 edge in House seats, and they're preparing to hammer out an agenda with the incoming Trump administration.

Pelosi's aides largely dismissed Ryan's challenge, even as it rattled the caucus. Before Thanksgiving, her team suggested she had already lined up support from two-thirds of the Democratic caucus, and some Pelosi allies derided Ryan's long-shot bid as a precursor to a run for higher office in Ohio.

Now the focus shifts to rebuilding the fractured caucus and what message Democrats will seize on heading into the next Congress.

"We talk more about free-range chickens than we talk about working people," said Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Ryan supporter.

Ryan was nominated at the caucus meeting by Reps. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado and Marcia Fudge of Ohio, who insisted afterward that the challenge was necessary.

"We did not lose today, today we won," she said. "We have now a leadership that listens to what we're saying."

Pelosi's allies countered that dramatic changes to the caucus' approach were not in order, noting that Democrats picked up six seats despite losing the presidency.

"I don't think we need to beat ourselves up," said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland said Democrats' main failure was messaging and "ensuring voters fully understand that we're standing up for their economic interest."

But he added that House Democrats' meager gains were largely caused by outside forces, like Wikileaks and the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton.

"I don't think you can lay this ... just at the feet of our leadership," Cummings said.

Pointing to 75-year-old Bernie Sanders' performance among young voters, Cummings also rejected the notion that Pelosi, who is 76, and other House Democratic leaders are too old.

Incoming Rep. Charlie Crist, the former Florida governor, said Pelosi had already signaled willingness to incorporate new members into leadership. The caucus, he said, "is more united than ever before."

Republicans, meanwhile, were quick to mock Democrats' decision to return Pelosi to power.

"What a relief," tweeted Kellyanne Conway, the communications strategist for Trump. "I was worried they had learned from the elections & might be competitive and cohesive again."

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Politico Pro: Mnuchin: Infrastructure 'a big priority' for Trump administration

By Lauren Gardner | 11/30/2016 09:45 AM EDT

Steven Mnuchin, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Treasury Department, reiterated the incoming administration's commitment this morning to seeing an infrastructure package pass Congress.

"It's a big priority of this administration. We need to make sure that our infrastructure is built for the 21st century, that we have roads and bridges and power grids and infrastructure that support this country, and that's going to be a big focus," he told reporters outside of Trump Tower, according to a pool report.

But Mnuchin was no clearer on how those improvements should be paid for. Advisers and confidantes to Trump have suggested everything from tax credits for project investors to a one-time tax holiday for U.S. corporations with profits parked overseas.

"I think we're going to look a lot of different things. Some public/private partnerships, different types of things we're [looking] at, but it's all going to be a big priority," he said.