Transportation Bill Amendments Would Impact Americans' Health, Environment

by Katie Greenhaw, 3/8/2012

T­­oday, the Sena­­te will move forward with votes on transportation legislation that could affect Americans' health and the environment. Several amendments to the bill target two issues – the Keystone XL pipeline and the EPA 's lifesaving boiler rule, which limits hazardous air pollution from boilers and process heaters at industrial facilities.

The votes will occur on the $109 billion Surface Transportation bill, S. 1813, which was introduced in November but has been held up since it came out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works early last month with more than 100 amendments unrelated to transportation, including amendments related to the Keystone pipeline and the boiler standards. An agreement reached yesterday, however, will limit the number of amendments to 30 and has allowed the bill to move forward.
 
There are three amendments worth watching because of their anti-regulatory effects. The first is an amendment offered by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that would delay and weaken EPA’s boiler standards standards that the agency has determined will save up to 6,500 lives, avoid 4,000 heart attacks, and prevent more than 46,000 cases of aggravated asthma and bronchitis every year. A similar bill passed in the House last year, H.R. 2250, would make substantial alterations to the Clean Air Act and to EPA's long-standing practice of establishing emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants. 
 
In addition, two different amendments on the Keystone pipeline will go to a vote. One amendment from Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) would require the approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, while the alternative offered by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) would ban exports of both the pipeline’s oil and refined products made from the oil.
 
Like about half of the amendments to the transportation bill, these proposals need 60 votes to pass, which some say is unlikely in the case of the Keystone pipeline amendments. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expects the Senate to vote on ten amendments today, completing votes on the rest next Tuesday, Mar. 13.
 
We’ll keep you updated as the process moves forward.
 

UPDATE: This afternoon, Sen. Wyden's amendment on the Keystone pipeline was defeated 33-65. Sen. Hoeven's amendment on Keystone and Sen. Collins' boiler rule amendment both failed more narrowly, by votes of 56-42 and 52-46, respectively.

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