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Legislative Update April 2012

New EPA Regulations for Coal-Fired Power Plants Negatively Impact the Rail Industry

Last December, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued final regulations establishing Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) to limit emissions of toxic substances from power plants, and they are now proposing additional standards to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. These new regulations, aimed at reducing pollution by dramatically decreasing the use of coal for generating electricity, could eventually cost a substantial number of jobs for coal mining workers, as well as railroad workers, and lead to higher energy costs.

In a March 16 letter to President Obama, BLET National President Pierce urged the Obama Administration to reconsider these harsh regulations and pointed out that nearly one in five railroad jobs are related to the hauling of coal. A number of congressional leaders have vowed to kill the regulations using the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to block final agency regulations. Stay tuned for more on this subject.

Surface Transportation Reauthorization

 

Leaders in the House & Senate continue to differ on how to move forward with surface transportation funding. On March 29, just before the start of a two-week recess, Congress approved a 90-day stopgap bill to extend current highway funding, thereby averting a halt in road and infrastructure projects. This was the ninth extension since a $286 billion multi-year plan ended in 2009.

Two weeks earlier, on March 14, the Senate approved $109 billion bipartisan transportation and infrastructure bill that would have financed the program for two years, putting pressure on House Republicans to set aside their stalled version and pass the Senate version before the March 31 expiration of the federal highway trust fund. The House Transportation Committee had passed its own version earlier this year, a five-year $260 billion measure that would have been paid for in part by revenues from new oil drilling projects. House Republicans never brought this measure to the House floor, some stating that the price tag was too high, others stating they did not like the removal of dedicated funds, and still others were unhappy with the drilling component. Unwilling to take up the Senate measure, the House Republicans instead went with the short-term bill.

Heard of the 99% Spring?

During the week of April 9-15, people will be coming together in cities and towns across the nation for the first step in an unprecedented grassroots movement to train 99% of Americans (i.e., those of us who are not part of the “the 1%”) to: (1) tell the story of our economy—how we got to where we are, what went wrong, and what a different future might look like; (2) learn the history of non-violent direct action; and (3) learn how to take action and create great change. The BLET and the Teamsters are joining force with dozens of other pro-labor and middle class groups in this nationwide movement known as the 99% Spring.

These one-day “Spring Trainings” are being organized by local organizations and volunteers in living rooms, union halls, churches, and community centers nationwide. We all have busy lives and can make excuses not to get involved, but there has never been a more important time in our lifetime to become an activist than now, when corporate power, tax giveaways to the 1%, and the influence of money in politics have created a crisis that is costing millions of Americans their homes, their jobs, and their retirement savings.

To find the 99% Spring event closest to you, go to: http://civic.moveon.org/event/events/index.html?action_id=268&rc=99IBT.

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