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Infrastructure in the News 10.12.16

BAF IN THE NEWS

 

Yahoo! Finance: The Nation's Mayors to Host Bipartisan Forum With Presidential Campaigns on Investment in Metro Priorities: "Keeping Cities Strong: A Mayoral Forum on Transportation, Water & Energy"

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/nations-mayors-host-bipartisan-forum-162503333.html

The Honorable Edward G. Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania (2003-2011), Mayor of Philadelphia (1992-2000) and Co-Chair of Building America's Future will represent Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump's representative is To Be Determined.

 

NATIONAL NEWS

 

Reuters: Toyota Raises Concerns About California Self-Driving Oversight

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/10/11/business/11reuters-toyota-usa-selfdriving.html?_r=0

A Toyota Motor Corp official on Tuesday raised concerns about California's plans to require compliance with a planned U.S. autonomous vehicle safety check list, calling it "preposterous."

 

Reuters: Electric Cars Could Dominate Roads in Wealthy Cities by 2030: Report

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/10/11/technology/11reuters-electric-vehicles.html

Electric vehicles could account for two-thirds of all cars on the road by 2030 in wealthy cities such as London and Singapore due to stricter emissions regulation, falling technology costs and more consumer interest, research showed on Tuesday.

 

Washington Post: Car crashes remain leading cause of death for teens, but fatalities drop by almost half in a decade

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/car-crashes-remain-leading-cause-of-death-for-teens-but-fatalities-drop-by-almost-half-in-a-decade/2016/10/11/9d190a82-8fb3-11e6-9c85-ac42097b8cc0_story.html

Vehicle crashes have long been the leading cause of death for teenagers, but the number has dropped by about half in the past decade as fewer teens seek driver’s licenses and there are state restrictions on those who do.

 

Mashable: How self-driving cars, EVs and public transit could transform cities

http://mashable.com/2016/10/11/future-of-urban-transportation/#ahHueE_GQOqG

Three early transportation trends could soon transform the way global city dwellers get around, analysts say.

 

Bloomberg: American Airlines limits growth in effort to raise fares

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-11/american-airlines-pares-growth-plans-in-effort-to-raise-fares

American Airlines Group Inc. trimmed expansion plans in an effort to bolster fares and placate investors by keeping capacity in line with demand.

 

Knowledge @ Wharton (University of Pennsylvania): Can Infrastructure Spending Be a Silver Bullet?

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/can-infrastructure-spending-be-a-silver-bullet/

Anyone who reads op-ed pages could have noticed a recent shift in economic debate: More and more experts saying that monetary policy has shot its bolt and it’s time to crank up government spending on things like roads and bridges to spur growth. Or, if not for the sake of stimulus, to pay for needed projects while money is cheap.

 

Trucks.com: Trucking Industry Faces Weak Freight Demand into 2017

https://www.trucks.com/2016/10/12/trucking-industry-weak-freight-demand-2017/

Truck manufacturers are laying off workers, carriers are cancelling orders for new vehicles, and shipping rates and volumes are slumping. Put it all together and you get a challenging environment for the American big-rig industry.

 

Seattle Times Opinion: No, self-driving cars aren’t ‘The Answer’

http://www.seattletimes.com/business/economy/no-self-driving-cars-arent-the-answer/

Don't believe the hype about autonomous vehicles. They won't be a substitute for a balanced system that includes rail transit and passenger rail.

 

STATE NEWS

 

Associated Press: The Latest: Flooding continues across eastern North Carolina

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-latest-florida-raises-hurricane-matthew-death-toll-to-9/2016/10/11/9897d9bc-9011-11e6-bc00-1a9756d4111b_story.html

Flooding across eastern North Carolina is still expected to get worse before it gets better. The National Weather Service says the Tar River in Greenville was at nearly 23 feet. It’s expected to reach 25 feet late Thursday night or early Friday.

 

Associated Press: Weekend work will affect all 6 Metro rail lines

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/weekend-work-will-affect-all-6-metro-rail-lines/2016/10/12/16423bc4-9057-11e6-bc00-1a9756d4111b_story.html

Metro says weekend work will impact rail service on all six of its lines.

 

Washington Post: Metro hints at fare hikes and service cuts to balance $275 million budget shortfall

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/metro-hints-at-fare-hikes-and-service-cuts-to-balance-275-million-budget-shortfall/2016/10/11/6ef06524-8fd6-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html

Things could get a lot more painful for beleaguered Metro riders as the agency looks to close an anticipated $275 million budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year by possibly raising fares, cutting bus routes and shutting low-use stations during nonpeak hours.

 

Honolulu Civil Beat: Does Clean Transportation Need A Jump Start?

http://www.civilbeat.org/2016/10/does-clean-transportation-need-a-jump-start/

We drive over 30 million miles every day in Hawaii. That’s equivalent to 63 roundtrips to the moon (only with more traffic).

 

Chicago Tribune: Board rails against CSX over ongoing crossing issues

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-sta-csx-rail-st-1012-20161011-story.html

Instances of blocked crossings and malfunctioning gates and signals on a CSX Transportation line running through Chicago's Southwest Side and adjacent suburbs remain "troubling" despite assurances by the railroad that it's working to correct long-running problems, according to a new ruling by the federal Surface Transportation Board.

 

Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Fayetteville transportation committee mulls Arkansas 112 proposal

http://www.nwaonline.com/news/2016/oct/12/fayetteville-transportation-committee-m/?latest

The city could get a new Arkansas 112 at a significant discount if it takes that stretch of highway off the state's hands.

 

ABC6 (Pennsylvania): FREIGHT TRAIN JUMPS TRACKS IN PAULSBORO

http://6abc.com/news/freight-train-jumps-tracks-in-paulsboro/1549768/

A freight train leaving a nearby train yard jumped the tracks in Paulsboro, Gloucester County.

 

By Brianna Gurciullo | 10/12/2016 06:00 AM EDT

With help from Tanya Snyder and Lauren Gardner

FIRST IN MT: BUSH 43-ERA DOT OFFICIALS OPPOSE TRUMP: Thirteen George W. Bush appointees who served at DOT, the Energy Department and EPA are coming out against Donald Trump, who they say "lacks the competence, experience, and temperament to lead." According to a statement provided exclusively to MT, the officials - including former Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, former NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge, former FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman and former FHWA Administrator Thomas Madison - say none of them "has ever before publicly opposed a Republican presidential nominee," but they think Trump doesn't represent GOP principles.

Support for infrastructure spending isn't enough: Trump has said he would spend $550 billion on infrastructure as president, but as your host reports for Pros, the group of officials points out that "he has not been clear about the sources of new or additional revenues to support such an investment beyond substantially expanded federal borrowing." Besides, his promise to invest in infrastructure doesn't "overcome our concerns about his capacity to govern fairly and effectively," they said.

IT'S WEDNESDAY: Good morning and thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Please send tips, feedback and, of course, song lyrics to bgurciullo@politico.com or @brigurciullo.

"And I know my ship, it won't be coming in. And as I lay me down to take my rest. I can see that it's just dust in the wind."

Want to keep up with all of MT's song picks? Follow our Spotify playlist.

THE SIDE EFFECTS OF VAGUE GUIDELINES: Toyota is concerned about California's proposal to mandate that automakers comply with the 15-point safety assessment in NHTSA's new driverless car guidance before their vehicles are tested on the road. "I can't stress [enough] how bad this is," Hilary Cain, Toyota's director of technology and innovation policy, said Tuesday at an event on Capitol Hill. "So if we don't do what's being asked of us - voluntarily - by NHTSA, we cannot test an automated system in the state of California. That is preposterous."

As our Tanya Snyder reports for Pros, Cain insisted that NHTSA wrote its guidance while "trying to be flexible in its approach, which is something that we've urged them to do." She and other industry representatives are calling on the government to get more specific: "There is a lot of ambiguity and vagueness about what exactly is being requested of us," Cain said.

TIME FOR CONGRESS TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE? Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Tuesday that DOT is "doing everything we can within our authorities" when it comes to driverless cars. The department released guidelines for the rapidly developing technology last month. But, Foxx said, "there will come a point where our ability to do it in the executive branch is going to end and the role of Congress" will need to begin. DOT has indicated that it could ask lawmakers for more power to regulate self-driving cars.

New problems call for new jobs: Foxx made his remarks during a Facebook Live discussion Tuesday with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough that focused on drone policies, your MT host reports for Pros. When McDonough asked about cybersecurity concerns, Foxx mentioned that DOT could someday need officials who specialize in ethics and privacy. "We have an incredible workforce in government but there may be competencies that we learn that we need to have in the future that we don't have today," Foxx said.

PRITZKER WITH A MESSAGE ON JOBS : On a day dominated by talk of driverless cars and all sorts of innovations at the Internet Association's annual conference in Silicon Valley, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said Tuesday that folks in government need to pay attention to the "anxiety being created in this country by the fast pace of change." Pro Technology's Tony Romm reports that Pritzker had been addressing the advent of self-driving trucks, which could one day leave many truckers out of work: "If we're going to dislocate 3 million truck drivers, how are we going to deal with that as a country? . . . That's a real challenge for the government leaders we elect. . . [Should the] guys and gals who create the digital solutions [be] the ones who benefit, and the mass employed lose? I don't know if that's sustainable."

S&P: ICAO DEAL COULD INCREASE AIRLINE COSTS: The International Civil Aviation Organization's agreement on aircraft emissions "could lead to substantially increased costs for airlines and their passengers if more environmentally friendly alternative fuels do not emerge as a viable option," according to Standard & Poor's. As our Tanya Snyder reports for Pros, S&P Global credit analyst Philip Baggaley wrote in an article Tuesday that the deal likely won't affect "the credit quality of the airlines, manufacturers, and aircraft lessors" for the next several years. But "the potential impact will mount over time and could become significant for airlines during the next decade or beyond," Baggaley wrote.

NAM HYPES INFRASTRUCTURE BLUEPRINT AHEAD OF ELECTION: The National Association of Manufacturers is out this morning with an initiative promoting infrastructure policy ahead of Nov. 8 in an effort to call attention to what the group says will be its "signature issue" in 2017. The document outlines funding needs for different transportation modes and provides a menu of revenue options that includes the usual suspects - an increased or indexed gas tax, a vehicle-miles-traveled fee, a passenger facility charge cap hike. The report also estimates how much private-sector funding options like different bond programs could bring to the table.

THE STORY BEHIND DOJ'S SETTLEMENT WITH U.S. AIRWAYS, AMERICAN: The Justice Department's settlement that cleared the way for U.S. Airways and American Airlines to merge came after heavy lobbying by former members of the Obama administration, ProPublica reports . Rahm Emanuel, former White House chief of staff and now mayor of Chicago, "emerged as one of the deal's biggest champions," according to ProPublica. Emanuel wrote to the Justice Department in 2013 supporting the merger: "The letter was an uncanny echo of the airlines' arguments - for good reason: It was actually written by an American Airlines lobbyist, emails obtained by ProPublica show." Emails between members of Emanuel's staff indicated that he wanted help from airlines in updating O'Hare International Airport.

FATAL CRASHES INVOLVING TEENS ARE UP: Teenage drivers are 1.6 times more likely to be involved in a deadly car crash than adult drivers, according to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association. Fatal traffic crashes involving teenagers rose 10 percent last year, the first increase since 2006, according to NHTSA data utilized in the report. The GHSA report, funded by a Ford Motor Company Fund grant, looked at 10 years of NHTSA data, finding that drivers between 18 and 20 years old are involved in more deadly crashes than drivers between 15 and 17 years old. While every state has graduated driver licensing, a third of teenagers don't get their license by the time they turn 18. GHSA suggests broadening graduated driver licensing to cover those 21 or younger.

PROPOSAL WOULD MAKE TRANSPORTERS LIABLE FOR ANIMAL ABUSE: The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has proposed holding livestock transporters responsible for animal abuse, Pro Agriculture's Ian Kullgren reports. "The move represents a significant departure from the current system, where only the operators of farms and slaughterhouses are held accountable for abuses that happen on their properties," Ian explains.

SHIFTING GEARS: Richard Anderson has retired from Delta's board of directors. The executive chairman formerly served as Delta's CEO. Frank Blake, lead director, was selected as non-executive chairman. Blake is The Home Depot's former CEO.

THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ):

- "FBI investigating if fatal plane crash in East Hartford was intentional." The New York Times.

- Results from the Silicon Valley Insiders Poll. The Atlantic.

- "Metro paints dark financial picture, raises possibility of fare hikes, service cuts." WAMU 88.5.

- "D.C. Council calls on Metro to restore late-night service." The Washington Post.

- "FAA proposes $78,000 civil penalty against Amazon.com, Inc., for alleged hazardous materials violations." FAA.

- "Kelly's lawyer suggests Christie knew Bridgegate plan before closures took place." POLITICO New Jersey.

- "Self-driving cars will be the best thing to happen to motorcycles." Bloomberg.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 58 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 352 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 26 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,452 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

9 a.m. - The Advisory Committee on Accessible Air Transportation begins a three-day meeting. Hilton Arlington, 950 N. Stafford St., Arlington, Va.

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

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/10/bush-43-era-dot-officials-oppose-trump-019586

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Bush-era DOT, EPA appointees come out against Trump Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 10/12/2016 06:00 AM EDT

Thirteen members of DOT, the Energy Department and EPA during George W. Bush's administration are opposing Donald Trump's bid for president.

In a statement provided to POLITICO, the officials - including former transportation secretary Mary Peters and former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman - said none of them "has ever before publicly opposed a Republican presidential nominee" but think Trump doesn't represent GOP principles.

They go on to say that Trump has "damaged the future of our party" with "appeals to racial and religious differences, his unfounded charges and personal attacks against those with whom he disagrees, and his broad and repeated misuse of facts and data" - all of which will undermine his ability to lead the country.

Trump has promised to spend $550 billion on upgrading the nation's infrastructure - double what Hillary Clinton has said her administration would spend.

But the group pointed out that "he has not been clear about the sources of new or additional revenues to support such an investment beyond substantially expanded federal borrowing." Further, they said his support for boosting infrastructure money isn't enough to "overcome our concerns about his capacity to govern fairly and effectively."

Additionally, the group says that if the Unites States tears up its trade agreements with Mexico and China, as Trump has sworn he will do, it "would also obviate key transportation agreements with those nations - agreements that have provided American businesses with access to key markets in a global economy."

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Toyota: NHTSA's self-driving car guidelines are too ambiguous Back

By Tanya Snyder | 10/11/2016 05:57 PM EDT

A Toyota official said Tuesday that NHTSA's new guidelines on self-driving cars are too vague - an issue that's especially concerning given that at least one state, California, is thinking about making portions of the new guidance mandatory.

At an event on Capitol Hill, Hilary Cain, director of technology and innovation policy for Toyota, said the California Department of Motor Vehicles is proposing to require compliance with the 15-point vehicle safety assessment contained in NHTSA's guidance in order for a driverless car to be tested on California's roads.

"I can't stress [enough] how bad this is," Cain said. "So if we don't do what's being asked of us - voluntarily - by NHTSA, we cannot test an automated system in the state of California. That is preposterous."

That could cause delays in testing, Cain said. The Consumer Technology Association has warned that delays in rolling out the technology may cost lives, considering that many believe the technology will help reduce fatalities caused by human error.

Cain said NHTSA purposefully drafted its guidance "trying to be flexible in its approach, which is something that we've urged them to do. But if there's going to be accountability, and there's going to be enforcement, then we're probably going to need a little teeny bit more meat on the bones on some of these areas."

In particular, she said the sections on cybersecurity and data sharing are unclear in their direction to automakers.

NHTSA officials insist that there is no one right way to comply with any of the 15 points on its vehicle safety checklist and that the assessment is mostly a way of ensuring that automakers consider issues like privacy, cybersecurity and backups in case of system failure. But it includes, for example, several instances where NHTSA recommends that automakers "consider and incorporate guidance, best practices, and design principles" from multiple organizations.

"It's got an 'and' in it, not an 'or,'" Cain said. "It's a laundry list with an 'and' on it. And I don't think they mean that we should implement every guidance and best practice that's contained within every single one of those potential resources, but the way it's written right now -- if you're reading it literally - it would require you to do that."

Non-binding, "flexible" guidelines like NHTSA's are intended to put the muscle in the back end, enforcing penalties if something goes wrong. But some argue that public acceptance of the technology could be bolstered if a vehicle has NHTSA's seal of approval.

David Strickland, a former NHTSA administrator, now counsel for a coalition of self-driving car manufacturers, said the quickest way to overcome consumer squeamishness is to get them to test-drive a self-driving car. But before they'll try it out, consumers want a guarantee that it's safe.

Referring to a recent Cox Automotive survey in which only about one-third of respondents said they would feel comfortable letting a vehicle drive them without their control, Strickland said people know from their own experience that technology is fallible.

"Hand-held devices occasionally freeze and need to be rebooted," Strickland said. "When you apply that to something that is actually moving at 65 miles an hour you aren't necessarily very comfortable having a blue screen of death or a reboot or a spinning beach ball."

People want to make sure that the driverless car they're about to get in wasn't brought to market by "a new entrant of three engineers and a shade tree that can, frankly, deploy as a self-driving vehicle and don't have the same notion of risk assessment or the ability to protect the public," Strickland said.

Adding "meat to the bones" of the guidance would help automakers like Toyota too. "There is a lot of ambiguity and vagueness about what exactly is being requested of us," Cain said.

This confusion is one of the potential drawbacks of "soft law" like NHTSA's guidelines. And when it comes to regulating fast-evolving technology, more and more government oversight is done through guidance, not statute or even regulation.

"Every single agency is defaulting to this new model for emerging technologies," said Adam Thierer, a research fellow for the free-market Mercatus Center at George Mason University. "There is no law that governs a whole host of these new emerging technologies. Instead, there is just best practices, agency guidance, agency threats, and multi-stakeholder processes. That is the new world of emerging technology regulation we live in."

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Foxx: Congress will need to step in on driverless cars Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 10/11/2016 02:00 PM EDT

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said today that Congress will eventually need to get involved in regulating driverless cars, as DOT can only go so far without more direction from lawmakers.

DOT released guidelines for self-driving cars last month and noted that officials could ask Congress for more power to regulate the rapidly developing technology.

"With the automated vehicle, we set up a framework that I think is going to stand that test of time. I think this is a real watershed moment for autonomous vehicles because now there is a very tangible conversation we can have about the details of how we get from here to there," Foxx said today during a Facebook Live discussion with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. "So we're doing everything we can within our authorities. But there will come a point where our ability to do it in the Executive Branch is going to end and the role of Congress is going to have to" begin.

When McDonough asked about cybersecurity issues during the discussion, which mostly focused on drone policies, Foxx said DOT may need to create new agency positions to address concerns raised by technological advances.

"We have an incredible workforce in government but there may be competencies that we learn that we need to have in the future that we don't have today. Will DOT at some point need to have an ethicist within DOT? Will we need to have privacy folks? There's all kinds of questions about that," Foxx said. "And what we're doing is basically laying a framework upon which those types of discussions can occur and that evolution can happen organically."

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S&P: ICAO carbon deal could raise airline costs in the near term but won't hurt credit ratings... yet Back

By Tanya Snyder | 10/11/2016 09:54 AM EDT

S&P is expecting higher costs for airlines as a result of ICAO's plan to reduce carbon emissions, but the ratings agency says the immediate impact on credit will be minimal.

"The agreement could lead to substantially increased costs for airlines and their passengers if more environmentally friendly alternative fuels do not emerge as a viable option," said S&P Global credit analyst Philip Baggaley in an article published this morning.

Baggaley added that the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation "covers only a particular subset of aviation environmental regulation," and that he doesn't think it will affect "the credit quality of the airlines, manufacturers, and aircraft lessors" for the next several years. However, he warned that "the potential impact will mount over time and could become significant for airlines during the next decade or beyond."

Since fuel efficiency gains aren't keeping pace with growth in air traffic, S&P expects that airlines will begin to purchase more efficient airplanes, to the benefit of the manufacturers.

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USDA to put transportation firms on hook for abuse, tighten labeling Back

By Ian Kullgren | 10/11/2016 01:44 PM EDT

The Agriculture Department is proposing a few big changes for the livestock and meat industries as it empties out its regulatory locker in the final months of the Obama administration, making livestock transporters liable for animal abuse that happens on their watch and cracking down on labeling claims.

In a proposal published Friday in the Federal Register, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service said it intends to hold the employees of livestock transporters personally responsible for the abuse of cattle, pigs, sheep and goats - including criminal charges for the most serious cases. The move represents a significant departure from the current system, where only the operators of farms and slaughterhouses are held accountable for abuses that happen on their properties.

"That's a sea change," says Nancy Perry, a senior lobbyist for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "That's huge. I don't believe we've been comfortable so far holding individual transporters accountable."

The proposal - which would modify rules that implement the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act - comes in response to a petition filed in January 2015 by an attorney on behalf of a swine slaughtering facility. The petition requested FSIS review its humane handling enforcement policy and argued that slaughtering facilities "should not be held accountable when non-employees inhumanely handle livestock on the official establishment premises."

The change would raise USDA's role in prosecuting cases of alleged abuse. FSIS' general counsel would review the evidence and make a recommendation to the Department of Justice or a judge on whether to press charges, a department spokeswoman explained.

It would also give federal regulators another set of eyes and ears. Right now, farms and slaughterhouses have little incentive to report abuses on their properties; if the new procedure goes through as written, farmers and slaughterhouse owners could notify USDA about abuses with less fear of being punished.

Theoretically, it could also open up a pathway for whistleblowers who aren't activists filming secret videos, a phenomenon that continues to be a headache for some of the nation's largest meat companies.

One of the latest examples came this summer, when Compassion Over Killing released gruesome footage from poultry farms in Virginia showing workers throwing, kicking and strangling chickens as they were loaded into transport trucks. Tyson promptly sacked 10 employees and forwarded the footage to local authorities.

The proposal is open for a 30-day comment period, and the meat industry is indicating it will go along, considering the proposal would reduce risk for livestock producers. The North American Meat Institute, a group that represents meat packers, is planning to discuss the issue at an animal welfare meeting on Wednesday. A spokeswoman said the group may recommend some changes but isn't likely to put up a fight.

Animal welfare advocates see the USDA proposal as progress, but say it will not address a large number of abuses. In particular, the rule, like the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, doesn't cover chickens or turkeys, which constitute 90 percent of the animals involved in live animal transportation, notes Paul Shapiro, a lobbyist for the Humane Society of the United States.

"Talk about a loophole that's so big you could drive a truck through it," Shapiro says. "It's a positive step forward, but excluding chickens does not make sense considering they are nearly all animals that are trucks and in slaughter plants."

FSIS' proposed crackdown on transportation companies is just the latest of a slew of new livestock-related measures released by USDA in the final days of the Obama administration. Two days earlier FSIS proposed more rigorous definitions and verification requirements for labels on meat products such as "organic," "grass-fed" and "raised without antibiotics" - the first update on animal raising claims in 14 years.

For "grass-fed" beef, companies would have to submit a detailed description of the controls in place to ensure grass-fed cattle are never mixed in with their corn-eating counterparts. Under the proposal, which is accepting comments through Dec. 5, they would also have to provide a description of the animals' diet to prove that the claims aren't misleading.

Activists and progressive food companies have long said that USDA doesn't do enough to verify whether companies are being truthful about such claims.

However, some grass-fed cattle ranchers say the new process won't make much of a difference, mostly because it lacks on-farm inspections. The American Grassfed Association, by contrast, audits every farm.

"I'm shaking my head," said Carrie Balkcom, the group's executive director. "It's more paperwork ... no verification. None."

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Kelly's lawyer suggests Christie knew Bridgegate plan before closures took place Back

By Ryan Hutchins | 10/11/2016 11:49 AM EDT

NEWARK - Gov. Chris Christie and one of his senior aides talked about the plan to close lanes to the George Washington Bridge before the political revenge scheme was implemented, and then again as it was unfolding, an attorney for the now-former aide suggested on Tuesday in federal court.

Attorney Michael Critchley, who represents defendant Bridget Anne Kelly, asked a witness in U.S. District Court if she knew Kelly and the Republican governor "had discussions about the lane closures before they occurred," and again later. The witness, former Christie aide Deborah Gramiccioni, said she did not know.

But Gramiccioni did say she joined Kelly and Christie at a lunch on August 13, 2013 - the same day Kelly sent the now-infamous "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email. The lane closures took place less than a month later, causing days of gridlock in the Bergen County community.

Gramiccioni and Kelly held the same rank at the time, deputy chief of staff to the governor, both overseeing different areas of front office operations. Gramiccioni said she heard no discussions about the lane closures while she was at the lunch with Christie, and did not learn until December that Kelly was involved.

The governor, currently a top adviser to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of or involvement in the incident.

Christie has not been charged with any crimes, though the admitted mastermind of the plan, David Wildstein, testified under oath that he and Bill Baroni, the other defendant in the case, told the governor about the traffic problems that were being caused by the lane closures as they were occurring.

Gramiccioni, a former federal prosecutor and now a nominee to be a Superior Court judge in New Jersey, testified earlier in the day about a meeting later that December in which Christie - furious and yelling - demanded to know if any of his senior staff had emails or information about the lane closures.

By then, controversy was growing and lawmakers were asking more and more questions about who was really behind the episode and why it had occurred. The official line was that it was part of a failed traffic study.

On the morning of Dec. 13, 2013, Christie summoned his senior staff to his office with questions about the incident. Christie was set to hold a high-profile press conference in an hour to announce the resignation of Baroni, his top appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Christie wore his emotions on his sleeve, according to Gramiccioni, who Christie had decided to name to Baroni's job at the Port Authority, which operates the bridge.

"During this meeting with the governor and senior staff, the governor was incredibly angry and let us know how angry he was," Gramiccioni testified under questioning by federal prosecutors. "In a thunderous tone, told us how disappointed he was that he had just won a landslide victory and was now dealing with a number of things, one of them being the lane closure."

He gave his team a deadline: Staff had one hour to tell either of his two highest ranking aides, Counsel Charles McKenna or Chief of Staff Kevin O'Dowd, what they knew, according to Gramiccioni.

Gramiccioni testified that she had already told McKenna and O'Dowd that she heard Kelly was on emails involving the lane closures. She said she also told Christie that a day earlier. And Gramiccioni said that Baroni was the one who told her.

Gramiccioni testified that after the meeting with the governor, she continued to prepare for the press conference, but at several points saw into Kelly's office. O'Dowd was hovering over Kelly's shoulder, looking at her computer screen. She said she also "believed" she saw Bill Stepien, the governor's campaign manager, standing in the corner.

Christie held his press conference, and of course was asked about the lane closures and whether he could "say with certainty" that no one on his staff had been involved. Christie said he could.

Later in the day, before leaving the statehouse, Gramiccioni said she saw Kelly in her office. Kelly looked like she'd been crying, so she said she went to talk to her.

"She said that she had been looking at her computer through her emails all morning and she didn't know if she had any emails regarding the lane closures," Gramiccioni said. "I didn't understand that."

Kelly said she would routinely delete emails because she had a contentious relationship with her ex-husband and didn't want her children to find any emails between them, Gramiccioni recalled.

"I said, did you have anything to do with this?" Gramiccioni said. "And she adamantly denied having anything to do with the lane closures."

Gramiccioni said she told Kelly, who she considered a friend, that she should come clean if she had anything to do with the incident.

A month later, after the email was released in which Kelly declared it was "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Christie fired Kelly.

Gramiccioni, a former assistant U.S. attorney who is currently executive director of the Center of the Administration of Criminal Law at the NYU Law School, was nominated this year by Christie for a Superior Court judgeship in Monmouth County. The nomination is still pending before the state Senate.

This post has been updated and written through with more news from the trial.

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