News & Issues
Although September’s passage of a Continuing Resolution will keep federal highway programs funded through March 31, 2012, both House and Senate have indicated the will to complete work on a comprehensive Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill on an accelerated schedule, during November—partially because of a breakthrough in the impasse over funding, and partially because the rejection of the President’s “Jobs Act” has made a robust highway bill attractive in terms of job creation.
FRA member Jim Robbins, fourth-generation owner of Robbins Lumber in Searsmont, Maine, published a lengthy op-ed in the October 6 Bangor Daily News criticizing the assumptions behind, and practical effect of, the 70,000-acre National Park that former Burt’s Bees mogul Roxanne Quimby is proposing, as a means of disposing of a portion of her large investment in northern Maine woodlands.
On July 29, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced the Commercial Truck Safety Act (S 1450), co-sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), which proposes a new remedy to the disjunction between state-approved truck weight tolerances and Interstate rules. Sen. Snowe’s bill proposes to give any state the right to petition the U.S. Department of Transportation to authorize a three-year “demonstration program” in that state that would enable a six-axle configuration weighing up to 100,000 pounds to access the Interstate system in that state.
The Wood Supply Research Institute has updated and revised Project information on its web site, to reflect its decision earlier this year to promote and release research results more extensively beyond its immediate membership.
The U.S. Forest Service has published a 14-page report, illustrated with photos, maps, and satellite imagery, demonstrating the effectiveness of a series of fuel treatment projects in protecting vulnerable communities threatened by this spring’s record-breaking Wallow Fire, which ultimately burned more than 733 square miles in Arizona and New Mexico.
On June 26, a group of anti-truck pressure groups published a letter opposing the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (“SETA” - HR 763 / S 747), making unfounded allegations that SETA would compromise safety, damage roads, and increase truck traffic. The letter—signed not only by Public Citizen and other so-called “safety” groups and rail interests but also by several green group...
“Advancing the Obama Administration’s commitment to rapid and responsible development of large-scale renewable energy,” opens a July 14 news release from the Department of the Interior, “Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the approval of four new projects on public lands, the launch of environmental reviews on three others, and the next step in a comprehensive environmental analysis to identify ‘solar energy zones’ on public lands in six western states.”
The Department of Labor failed to meet its original April target for releasing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for its proposed “Plan / Prevent / Protect” regulation, which would be a major overhaul of DOL enforcement under several agencies, touching on health and safety, mining, and construction, among others. The one we are most concerned about is the “Right To Know” initiative, which proposes the introduction of new enforcement tools for DOL’s Wage and Hour Division.

On July 12, AbitibiBowater announced that its Coosa Pines, Alabama pulp mill had signed a five-year contract with Alabama Power to provide the utility with 15 megawatts of generating capacity, as an element in its ongoing reconfiguration. In February, the mill stated that it would cease paper manufacturing, to concentrate on fluff pulp.

Several reports of serious injuries and fatalities associated with log trucking have come to our attention recently:

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