Thursday, June 21, 2012

HR 5972 Introduced – DOT Appropriations

Yesterday Rep. Latham (R,IA) introduced HR 5972, the FY 2013 appropriations bill for DOT, HUD, and associated agencies. Title I of the bill is the Department of Transportation Appropriations Act, 2013. As I noted in an earlier posting the House Rules Committee will hold a hearing on the bill today to formulate the rule for the consideration of this bill next week.

The GPO version of the bill is not yet available, but the House Appropriations Committee web site has their committee print of the bill and the report on the bill available. As I expected there isn’t much mentioned in the way of security (a brief section on IT cybersecurity spending for the Department; only $6 Million; pg 5 of the bill), but there are a couple of mentions of chemical transportation safety measures in the Committee Report.

Rail Safety User Fee

The Committee provided $184,000,000 for safety and operations ($5,404,000 above FY 2012 enacted level and $28,000,000 above the budget request). The Committee rejected the President’s budget proposal “to establish a rail safety user fee collected from railroads to offset salary costs associated with rail safety inspectors” (Committee Report, pg 44).

PHMSA Special Permit Processing Fee

The President’s DOT budget included a request for a new fee for the processing and enforcement of special permits, a fee on top of the current application fee. The budget request forecast an income from that fee of $12 million. The bill did not include that new fee. The Committee Report (pg 64) noted that that request should have been part of an authorization bill not a spending bill.

Pipeline Safety Inspectors

The bill did not include funding for the additional 120 pipeline safety inspectors requested in the President’s budget. The Report notes that the recent Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (HR 2845, PL 112-90) included provisions for 10 new inspectors and that PHMSA is still having problems filling their previously allocated staffing positions. As a result the Committee did not feel it was appropriate to fund the President’s new request.

They did note that they will “reconsider a modest request for additional Pipeline Safety personnel in the Administration’s fiscal year 2014 budget, but only if PHMSA satisfies the pre-conditions enacted into law— by filling existing vacancies before asking for more and by determining that requested increases are necessary” (Committee Report, pg 65). That ‘promise’ is of course contingent upon the results of this November’s elections.

Moving Forward

As I noted in my earlier blog, the House Rules Committee will almost certainly provide an open rule for the consideration of this bill next week. This will mean that there will be a wide variety of amendments offered on the bill and some could address additional chemical transportation safety issues.

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