By Caroline Fuller
Democrats Look to Reinstate Superfund Tax
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, will likely reintroduce legislation to reinstate the superfund tax or the "polluter pays" tax. Strongly opposed by Republicans, the tax is popular among Democrats, who now control Congress. The tax has been obsolete since 1996 when then President Bill Clinton tried to extend it before the tax expired.
John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, has agreed to hold hearings on the tax and look into paying for the Superfund program. The Superfund tax is comprised of three different fees: a tonnage fee on the use of approximately 40 chemicals commonly found on Superfund sites, a fee for corporations who profit more than $2 million/year regardless of any contribution to the contamination of a Superfund site, and a 10 cent/barrel tax on oil. Prior to the expiration of these fees, they were contributing $1.6 billion annually.
U.S. House Transportation Committee Questions Mexican Truck Plan
The U.S. Dept. of Transportation will move forward with a pilot program that grants roughly 100 Mexican trucking companies access to U.S. roads. These companies will have to meet U.S. safety standards to pass beyond the current restriction of 20 miles across the Mexican-U.S. border.
Reps. James Oberstar, D-Minn., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.,
both members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, are requesting U.S. Dept. of Transportation Inspector General Calvin Scovel III to verify that Mexico has met the congressionally authorized terms before opening the southern border to Mexico. These terms include hours-of-service limits, hazardous materials screening, and drug and alcohol testing. U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters endorsed the program, saying:
"It will make trade with Mexico easier and keep our roads safe at the same time."
Jurisdiction Fight Ensues between Two U.S. House Committees
Both the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and the U.S. House Agriculture Committee are seeking control over President George W. Bush's bid to advance production of cellulosic ethanol.
Collin Peterson, D-Minn., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, believes his committee should have control over the loan guarantees for expanding research and ethanol production from plants and all other non-corn based sources.
Peterson believes the U.S. Dept. of Energy's administration of the loan guarantees program is too time consuming. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has not commented on the situation but is known for protecting the committee's jurisdictions. Bush believes that cellulosic ethanol is fundamental in completing his goal of producing 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by 2017.
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