Senate to Vote Wednesday on Final Passage of Surface Transportation Bill

March 13, 2012 10:17 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Senate votes down amendment that would have extended biodiesel incentive program

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that the Senate will complete its work Wednesday on the surface transportation bill (S 1813). A vote for final passage of the measure is expected.


Reid said many of the lawmakers want to attend an event tonight for one member -- Susan Collins, R-Maine -- and so he and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had agreed to end today's voting.

Biodiesel incentive extension amendment defeated. The Senate rejected 49-49 a Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) amendment that would provide an extension of a several expiring or lapsed energy-related tax breaks – including the lapsed biodiesel incentive program. The proposal, developed by the Finance Committee, is an expanded version of a proposal by Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) for a $4.7 billion one-year extension of the wind energy production tax credit. The measure required 60 votes to pass. The measure would have extended 19 tax incentives or credits for renewable energy, cellulosic ethanol, biofuels and other energy projects. Before the vote, Stabenow argued that failure to adopt the amendment would result in a tax increase on an industry responsible for 2.7 million jobs. Stabenow also noted that the oil industry has had similar tax incentives for more than 100 years. The National Biodiesel Board called the vote "another missed opportunity for Congress to do something to boost the economy."


The US ethanol industry expressed disappointment -- but not despair -- at the defeat of a Senate amendment today that would have provided greater choice in motor fuels to American motorists and encouraged development of next-generation biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol.  "There are things we can do right now to help lower the fuel prices that are hurting every American family. One of them, that will bring immediate returns, is to bring greater amounts of affordable, clean, renewable ethanol onto the market. We can do that by promoting the installation of Flex Fuel pumps, and encouraging the development of ethanol from cellulosic biomass. Ethanol is trading a dollar cheaper than gasoline, and the more American-made ethanol we get into the market the more affordable fuel becomes, the more jobs we create, the more cleaner our air is, and the more energy independent our nation becomes," said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. Buis described this vote as "losing a battle but not a war."


One amendment that passed would allow farm vehicle drivers to drive within 150 miles of the farm or ranch without a commercial license.


Another cleared amendment grants an exemption from the hours of service rules for drivers hauling agricultural goods within 100 air-miles of the farm during planting and harvest seasons. The exemption also would apply to carriage of farm supplies from or between retail or wholesale distribution points and the farm.


Senators voted 67-30 against giving states flexibility to shift funds allocated to them out of the Highway Trust Fund from one type of approved use to another.

The Senate narrowly approved, 50-47, an amendment by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-Ariz.) to remove privatized state-run toll roads from the mileage formula that determines state HTF funding allocations. Bingaman argued that when a state receives a cash payment and transfers such a roadway under long-term lease to a private company, which then maintains it from toll receipts, the state is no longer bearing those costs and the trust fund should recognize that.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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