Issue Update 03/22/2019

Biomass

Yesterday’s opinion section of The Hill, a widely read publication popular with Congressional staff and Members of Congress, included this piece from the Dogwood Alliance. 

As is typical with Dogwood as part of its Stand for Forests Campaign, the opinion piece asserts that carbon emissions from biomass combustion exceed those of coal and other fossil fuels. The following excerpt is indicative of the article’s tone—

“Though the industrial forest industry is far from green it often promotes itself as such. Like other destructive industries it uses distraction tactics, pointing to climate change, wildfire and insects for “killing trees” as releasing massive amounts of carbon while the single largest driver of carbon emissions from tree mortality is, by far, logging.”

Dogwood also questions the renewability and carbon neutral qualities of biomass and is critical of FRA-supported language directing federal government agencies to recognize the carbon neutrality of biomass fuels and energy in all federal environmental and energy policymaking. 

The Biomass 101 campaign has been made aware of this op-ed and is planning a response.  

DRIVE Safe Act

The FRA team continues our push on Capitol Hill to recruit cosponsors for the DRIVE Safe Act (S. 569/H.R. 1374). So far, the bill has attracted bi-partisan support with the 10 cosponsors of the House bill boasting an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. Likewise, the Senate bill currently has three Democrat and three Republican cosponsors. FRA’s advocacy efforts are aimed at Senate Democrats, particularly those on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to which the Senate bill was referred.  

The ultimate policy goal of this legislation is to address concerns among carriers and those dependent on trucks to transport raw materials or manufactured goods about the shortage of truck drivers in the U.S. In an unfortunate development this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a study alleging that evidence does not support claims of a truck driver shortage. BLS contends that driver retention is the issue, not a shortage of candidates interested in driving trucks. BLS goes on to concede that the market for drivers is tight and has been for many years, but that there is no evidence of an actual shortage

The American Trucking Association issued a release shortly after the BLS study was made public. ATA criticized the study as missing the point—that there are ample candidates for open truck driver positions, but there are not enough applicants who meet the qualifications to be hired. According to ATA, carriers in some cases reject 90 percent of applicants because they fail to meet at least one of the requirements to drive in interstate commerce.  

Electronic Logging Devices

Legislation to allow small carriers — those with 10 or fewer trucks — to forgo use of electronic logging devices and return to using paper logs was introduced by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN). The bill, H.R. 1697, was introduced March 12 and is pending in the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee

The Small Carrier Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act exempts all carriers with 10 trucks or fewer from the ELD mandate. Identical legislation was introduced in the last Congress but failed to move out of committee. The lone Republican co-sponsor is Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT). 

These two Members of Congress also introduced H.R. 1698, a bill to exempt drivers who haul agricultural commodities from the ELD mandate. That bill is also pending in the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.