In the give and take debate over the funding of the 2-year federal Surface Transportation Act of 2012 (HR 4348) an effort to attach approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline to the bill was dropped, to the relief of environmentalists. There was also satisfaction with the removal of an effort to loosen the EPA’s proposed restrictions on coal-ash from power plants. On the down side, the bill would roll back environmental review laws for highway and bridge construction projects, with little public opportunity for proposing alternates to fossil fuel based transportation.
The bill was finally passed with bi-partisan support in both chambers on Friday, June29. In addition to dropping the pipeline and coal ash provisions, the $120 billion Highway Fund will still be financed by a federal gasoline tax and not by new oil revenues as conservatives wanted. The allocation of one-fifth of the Highway Fund to mass transit was also maintained for the next two years. Finally, eighty percent of the penalties paid by BP for the Gulf oil spill will go to the states for coastal restoration instead of into the general federal operating fund