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Thursday, February 4th, 2010
Denver’s local editorial board calls for a postponement of sales tax increases to fund transit

The Denver Post — RTD leaders would be wise, we think, to refrain from going to metro voters in November for a sales tax hike to support the FasTracks rail system.

A story in Friday’s Post said several key RTD directors were leaning against the move, saying this isn’t the right economic time to ask voters for more money.

They’re right about that.

Waiting, reassessing and perhaps going to the ballot in 2012 is a far more prudent course of action.

We also hope RTD will spend the next couple of years figuring out the best ways to trim back the total bill for the rail system so the agency can approach voters with the smallest tax hike possible.

Unfortunately, RTD board members have, at least for now, put aside consideration of what they call “potential critical adjustments” as they’ve worked on finalizing the project’s 2010 financial plan.

The reductions, which center on running trains less frequently, could depress ridership. But the move also could save hundreds of millions of dollars.

Cost-saving strategies need to be on the front burner, not held as a backup plan. [read more…]

Thursday, February 4th, 2010
California Officials Would Not Regulate Electric Car Charging Firms

The New York Times — California officials have indicated they are not inclined to regulate electric car infrastructure companies that plan to sell electricity to drivers through networks of charging stations.

Whether to treat such companies as quasi-utilities has been a contentious issue. The state’s three big utilities have split on the topic, while battery charging start-ups like Better Place and Coulomb Technologies have warned that regulation could stifle innovation and scare off investors.

Now the president of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael R. Peevey, has signaled he is siding with the companies as the commission moves to put electric car regulations in place. [read more…]

Thursday, February 4th, 2010
White House Goes After Oil And Gas Subsidies–Again

The New Republic — There’s plenty of thrilling budget news today, what with the president’s proposal for the 2011 fiscal year now up on the OMB site. On energy matters, the big eye-catcher is the fact that White House wants to scrap some $36.5 billion in tax breaks for fossil-fuel producers over the next decade:

For the petroleum industry, the cuts primarily come from repealing companies’ ability to write down depletion of wells and intangible drilling costs such as renting rigs and axing the domestic manufacturing tax deduction. The administration also increased the amortization period for independent producers for some exploration costs, costing the industry $1.1 billion over the next decade. …

The White House targeted $2.3 billion in similar tax benefits for the coal sector between 2011-2020.

It’s not like this idea materialized out of thin air. Last year, the G-20 nations all pledged to start phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies as a step toward reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The White House is proposing to redirect some of that money toward cleaner energy sources: The budget also has $5 billion in new loan guarantees for renewable projects and $36 billion in new loan guarantees for nuclear reactors. Though, granted, the president can propose whatever he wants; what really matters is whether lawmakers follow through. And the tax breaks for oil and gas producers have a lot of support in Congress—last year, in the FY2010 budget, the White House wanted to repeal $31.5 billion worth of fossil-fuel subsidies, and that idea was buried. [read more…]

Thursday, February 4th, 2010
Los Angeles considering rainwater ordinance

UPI — A proposal by the Los Angeles Department of Public Works would make builders of developments and new homes capture and reuse rainwater runoff, official said.

The ordinance, written in July by Board of Public Works Commissioner Paula Daniels, is designed to prevent approximately 104 million gallons of polluted runoff ending up in the Pacific Ocean, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

Under the ordinance, builders would provide permeable pavement, rainwater storage tanks, horticultural areas and curb bump-outs. The ordinance mandates builders manage 100 percent of a project’s runoff or face a $13-a-gallon runoff fee. [read more…]

Thursday, February 4th, 2010
Missouri lawmakers seek to block EPA from regulating greenhouse gas

The Associated Press — Two congressional members from Missouri said Tuesday that they plan to file legislation blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from developing its own greenhouse gas rules.

U.S. Reps. Ike Skelton, a Democrat, and Jo Ann Emerson, a Republican, sharply criticized federal environmental regulators and warned that because EPA officials are not elected, the agency is not accountable to the farmers, business owners and other Missouri residents who could be hurt.

The EPA had concluded in December that that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases represent a danger to public health, which allows it to consider rules limiting them. That decision stems from a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found greenhouse gases are air pollutants under federal clean-air laws.

But the two Missouri lawmakers say Congress did not intend to give the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act. [read more…]

Thursday, February 4th, 2010
Obama considers isolating cap and trade from green-jobs bill

The Wall Street Journal — President Barack Obama said for the first time Tuesday that legislation that would require industries to pay for emissions of greenhouse gases may need to be separated from a more popular “green jobs” bill in the Senate, a maneuver that could kill what once had been one of the administration’s top policy priorities.

Answering a participant in a town-hall meeting in Nashua who asked about green jobs—those connected to renewable energy—and so-called cap-and-trade legislation, Mr. Obama said, “The only thing I would say about it is this: We may be able to separate these things out. And it’s possible that that’s where the Senate ends up.”

Until now, the Obama administration has refused to entertain in public the idea that lawmakers might have to split up the climate bill. The shift by the president is another sign that the White House is rethinking strategy on big first-year agenda items such as health care and climate legislation, after public dissatisfaction with its focus on those issues helped cost Democrats their filibuster-proof hold on the Senate last month. [read more…]

Thursday, February 4th, 2010
U.S. construction spending falls sharply in December

Reuters — U.S. construction spending fell more steeply than expected in December to its lowest level since 2003, dragged down by a sharp drop in private residential and state and local government construction, a government report showed on Monday,

The Commerce Department said construction spending dropped 1.2 percent to $902.5 billion, falling for a second straight month. November’s construction spending was revised down to show a 1.2 percent decline, instead of a 0.6 percent fall.

Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast construction spending falling 0.5 percent in December. For the whole of 2009, construction spending fell by a record 12.4 percent. [read more…]

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010
Jobs Bill to extend Highway Trust Fund for one-year

The Washington Post — The first jobs bill is expected to include a one-year extenstion of the legislation authorizing the highway trust fund, which will keep money flowing to infrastructure projects but put off a longer-term reauthorization of the measure being sought by some lawmakers and transportation lobbying groups. The measure will also include funds for Build America Bonds, which help state and local governments finance infrastructure projects. [read more…]

Monday, January 4th, 2010
San Francisco: Ambitious Downtown Transit Project Is at Hand

The New York Times — In 2010, San Francisco will finally bring out the wrecking balls and cement mixers and embark on a grand overhaul of its downtown. The project could eventually result in a half-dozen new skyscrapers, including a 1,200-foot tower whose gracefully tapered top would add a defining element to the iconography of the upwardly mobile skyline.

Much of this grand transformation, which would leave the 853-foot Transamerica pyramid as the second-tallest structure in the city, is still in the conceptual stages. The ambitious plan for a new urban neighborhood could be scaled back. But the centerpiece of the project — a $4.2 billion public transit hub — has enough financing to begin construction, and the first dirt could be turned as early as March.

In the process, the squat, malodorous building at First and Mission Streets will be razed and replaced by the Transbay Transit Center, a sparkling multiuse building with links to regional bus service, Bay Area Rapid Transit trains and California’s proposed high-speed rail line. [read more…]

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