Transportation interests oppose new climate bill

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A broad-based group of transportation interests today assailed the landmark climate change legislation offered last week by U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, saying it would set back efforts to improve the nation's highways, bridges and transit systems.

Twenty-eight groups representing government transportation officials, trucking interests, mass transit operators, transit employees, motorists, construction workers and contractors said the legislation would impose higher fuel tax costs but divert most of the money from transportation improvements.

The bill would require oil refiners to purchase carbon emissions allowances at prices that would increase with time, as an incentive to drive down oil consumption and promote use of cleaner energy.

The transportation groups estimated that in 2013, the first year of the legislation's effect, it would generate $19.5 billion in fees from fuel consumption. "Instead of returning revenue from these fees to improving the transportation system, the bill diverts at least 77 percent of the funds away from transportation infrastructure investment," they said in a letter to Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lieberman.

"America's roads, bridges and transit systems are falling apart in many cases," said William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, in a conference call with news reporters today. He said the Kerry-Lieberman bill is "insufficient to maintain, much less improve, public transit, roads and bridges."

Passage of the bill also would block efforts to find funding for a new long-term federal transportation bill to replace the one that expired last year, he said.

He was joined in the conference by John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America; and Pete Ruane, president and CEO, American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

They said improving highways, bridges and transit systems and reducing traffic congestion were a key part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of foreign oil. They said every dollar in new transportation fees generated by climate change legislation should go to the federal Highway Trust Fund.

"Traffic congestion needlessly wastes 2.8 billion gallons (of gasoline) per year," Mr. Sandherr said. He cited a study that concluded that easing congestion could trim carbon emissions from transportation by 30 percent. The Kerry-Lieberman measure "actually makes the problem worse," he said.

"They need our support to get this thing done," Mr. Ruane said. "This is the shadow-boxing phase of this fight. The first punch hasn't been thrown."

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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