By Caroline Fuller
Concerns Arise Over Underground Fuel Tank Requirements Compliance
State environment officials are raising concerns that laws requiring state regulations to be tougher than federal standards could lead to lengthy delays in amending state regulations to reflect new underground fuel tank compliance and inspection requirements outlined in the 2005 Energy Policy Act (EPACT).
Several federal tank regulations have not been updated since 1988. Because of this, many states that are not allowed to move beyond federal standards will most likely not comply with new standards outlined in EPACT unless state laws are amended.
Faulty and leaking underground storage tanks have caused widespread groundwater contamination and led to substantial cleanup costs. EPACT requires states to conduct routine inspections of underground tanks every three years. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will publish guidelines outlining training requirements for the tank inspectors.
President George W. Bush signed EPACT in August 2005. This is the first time states have been required to conduct routine tank inspections so frequently. Prior to this regulation, tanks were inspected every four to 10 years, on average.
Eight U.S. Senators Introduce Fuel Economy Act
U.S. Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill.; Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind.; Joseph Biden, D-Del.; Gordon Smith, R-Ore.; Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.; Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Norm Coleman, R-Minn; and Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; have introduced legislation that will increase fuel economy standards for automobiles.
The Fuel Economy Act of 2006, S. 3694, would reduce U.S. gasoline consumption by nearly half a trillion gallons by 2028 and greatly decrease U.S dependence on foreign oil. Currently, the United States imports 60 percent of its oil from the Middle East and spends $800 million a day, or $300 billion annually, on its 20-million-barrel-a-day oil usage. Passenger vehicles burn 8 million gallons of oil each day.
The Fuel Economy Reform Act would also provide fairness and flexibility to domestic automakers by establishing different standards for different types of cars. Currently, automotive manufacturers have to meet broad standards to cover their entire fleet of cars. This disadvantages larger companies that produce full lines of small and large cars and trucks rather than manufacturers that only sell small cars.
U.S. House Member Introduces Excise Tax for Automobiles Legislation
U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 5959, the TEAM (To Encourage Alternatively fueled vehicle Manufacturing) Up for Energy Independence Act of 2006. This legislation will encourage the production of alternatively fueled vehicles by phasing in a tax penalty on the manufacture or import of new, non-flex fuel cars, light trucks, and SUVs. Independent fueling station owners who own less than 10 stations will benefit greatly from this legislation as any revenues generated by the tax penalty will be used to help them install alternative fuel equipment.
According to the legislation, the first retail sale of each passenger automobile sold by a manufacturer, producer, or importer will impose a tax in the amount of the applicable percentage of the price for which it was sold. The percentages are as follows according to year: 2007, 5 percent; 2008, 10 percent; 2009, 20 percent; 2010, 40 percent; and all years beyond 2011, 80 percent. Lofgren is optimistic that H.R. 5959 will ensure "a more secure and sustainable future" for America and help to ensure its "energy independence."
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