Washington Watch

The Federal Communications Commission is setting aside $300 million in 2012 as a down payment for phone companies in rural areas to build wireline broadband connections.

Two House committees are attempting to combine slightly different pipeline safety bills while Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is preventing a Senate vote on a bill passed by the Commerce Committee last May. All three bills are moderate, and make changes around the edges of current law, both with regard to natural gas and oil pipelines.

The pipeline safety recommendations issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Aug. 30 puts significant pressure on both Congress and the Obama administration to respond to the problems discovered as part of the NTSB investigation of the PG&E San Bruno explosion in December 2010.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has picked up the pro-union cudgel from Democrats in Congress. In the last session of Congress, Democrats had tried and failed to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) which would have expanded union organizing rights.

Proposed 4G satellite service raises GPS Interference questions
A critical report from a Federal Communications Commission advisory committee on June 30 was the latest hitch in the plans of a company called LightSquared to offer new 4G wireless service to broadband users.

On Capitol Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee debated whether to accelerate a decision by the Obama administration on the Keystone XL Pipeline and the plan to send oil from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.

In a meeting held in May with Senators at the U.S. Capitol, Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), called on Congress to address the urgent need to rebuild America’s infrastructure and to actively pursue innovative funding approaches to finance this critical investment without increasing the deficit.

The fracking debate is moving forward on two separate stages in Washington. The Department of Energy's natural gas subcommittee is expected to make recommendations on fracking liquid disclosure in August.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) appears ready to propose a new standard on silica exposure which would have a major impact on underground construction companies.

Officials from the Obama administration are discussing whether the administration should review the data being used to support a forthcoming Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) assessment that could label formaldehyde as a carcinogen in the wake of industry and other concerns, including a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel that criticized similar EPA claims.

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