government

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker traveled to Vermeer Corporation on Aug. 8 as part of her nationwide listening tour, during which she met with businesses and thought leaders to hear about their priorities, concerns and ideas on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs.

The House Appropriations Committee made huge cuts in the fiscal 2014 budgets of the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF and DWSRF), the main source of federal aid to cities and counties for the purpose of water infrastructure maintenance and construction.

The pipeline approval "speed up" bill hit a couple of speed bumps on July 9. At hearings in a House subcommittee, the unofficial "pipeline" commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) pointed out some potential unintended consequences that might come about if the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act (H.R. 1900) as initially written becomes law.

There probably will be neither tears nor jeers from the pipeline community over the departure of FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff. He announced his exit in late May and is staying on until President Obama nominates a successor.

The EPA says it has some fairly significant problems with the State Department's draft environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The State Department draft supplemental EIS (DSEIS) was based on assessment of a new alternative route proposed by TransCanada.

The Obama administration's positive draft environmental impact statement on the final, four-state leg of the Keystone XL pipeline appears to set approval by the State Department on an exorable path.

Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor

The most significant federal action this year affecting underground construction companies is likely to be the final rule from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on excavation damage. The rule will have two parts. One will define minimum excavation damage program standards for states.

The Department of Energy published a report from NERA Economic Consulting which concludes unlimited exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) will help the U.S. economy, and the greater the exports, the greater the public good. The DOE automatically approves LNG exports to countries with a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. But it must find that exports to countries without FTAs are in the public interest. The DOE commissioned the report to help it decide whether to approve additional non-FTA exports.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) along with local utilities and others in the clean water community came together to celebrate 40 years of accomplishments under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and to call for a new vision to ensure further water quality progress.

As I write this column, it has been about two weeks since the presidential election. In conversations with many industry people, the topic is always what lies ahead for the next four years and can we still transition into a reasonably healthy business environment?

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