Policies for the Jurisdiction of the Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee
Below are the policies of the NCSL Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Infrastructure as of the Legislative Summit business meeting, which was held on August 22, 2014.
Air Policy Directive
The Clean Air Act Implementation
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) fully supports the goals embodied in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) and urges the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to proceed diligently with full implementation of the law to achieve clean air for our citizens. It is essential that Congress and the EPA fulfill their responsibilities to facilitate implementation by the states.
NCSL makes the following recommendations:
- Implementation of the CAAA is the responsibility of the states. NCSL encourages Congress and the EPA to pay particular attention to the voices of that state expertise and experience.
- Communication with state legislators is of utmost importance because only state legislators can enact enabling legislation for state programs and appropriate state funds. Congress and the EPA should regularly and directly work with state legislators during federal action on air quality issues.
- EPA should work closely with states to assist them in developing all regulations, technical assistance and funding necessary for compliance. Furthermore, EPA should support any state regulation that enables that state to meet or exceed the CAAA standards.
- grants authorized under the CAAA provide financial resources to the states for development and implementation of air quality programs and other clean air responsibilities. Congress and the EPA must ensure that states continue to receive adequate funding to cover all costs of program management including monitoring.
- Because the states have existing air pollution control programs to administer with current federal funding, any new air quality programs or responsibilities mandated by Congress or EPA should be accompanied by additional federal funding.
- NCSL urges EPA to provide as much administrative flexibility as the law allows in order to achieve clean air goals in the most cost effective and efficient manner.
- Cost-effectiveness should be permitted as a factor in state selection of transportation control measures and emissions control strategies.
- NCSL urges EPA to meet all deadlines for publication of documents required under the CAAA. NCSL urges Congress to amend the law to replace statutory deadlines for state action with language that provides a specific time period for state compliance after document publication.
- NCSL urges EPA to act expeditiously to enact the required regulations necessary to reduce emissions from federally preempted sources. Failure to act to require emission reductions from federally preempted sources can impede a state’s ability to achieve attainment in some areas despite any and all actions available to a state in development of their state implementation plans.
- NCSL urges Congress to develop and implement sustainable management policies which will reduce fuel loadings on federal lands, thereby reducing emissions from catastrophic wildfires and improving carbon sequestration on those lands.
- EPA should provide training opportunities for states to help develop the skills and understanding needed to properly implement the CAAA. In addition, EPA should provide informational resources to help the public understand its role in achieving CAAA goals.
- Congress and EPA should take maximum advantage of tools and strategies to reduce emissions from mobile sources including but not limited to promoting alternative fuels and encouraging strict exhaust standards for light duty vehicles.
- Federal highway legislation should be made consistent with CAAA objectives. The EPA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) should work together to ensure coordination of federal policy.
- NCSL urges the adoption of national energy, transportation and other policy that emphasizes energy conservation in order to help achieve the goals of the CAAA. This should include strengthening of emission standards for automobiles as technologies improve, more energy-efficient lighting, buildings, and transportation, and more research and use of alternative forms of energy.
- NCSL urges the federal government to expeditiously apply the same CAAA requirements to federal facilities and motor vehicle fleets that are required for state facilities and fleets.
NCSL further believes that national efforts to fully implement the CAAA, to maintain and enhance air quality at the local, state and national level requires Congressional action on multi-pollutant legislation.
NCSL urges Congress to act expeditiously on multi-pollutant legislation to provide certainty in a time of limited federal and state resources and to enhance the impact of this federal program which is implemented at the state level. New legislation enacted by Congress should ensure the ability of all stakeholders to move forward with air pollutant emission reductions, enhance the environment and protect public health while providing a stable planning environment for energy providers and consumers.
NCSL recommends that:
- New federal standards should maintain and renew the commitment to statutory authority for states to enact state environmental standards that are more stringent than their minimum federal counterparts.
- New federal standards should acknowledge the existence of state programs and agreements in accord with these standards and should not preempt their continued implementation.
- New federal standards should be accompanied by adequate federal funding and technical assistance that are essential to state efforts to implement complete and adequate state programs that fully comply with these standards.
- New federal standards should provide states with maximum flexibility to apply the law effectively to all sources of emissions and ensure achievement of clean air goals in the most cost effective, timely and efficient manner for each state.
- New federal standards should allow states to maintain all of the enforcement tools available to states under the CAA to ensure compliance with state implementation of federal regulations.
- New federal standards should permit states to allow sources to trade emissions reductions and protect state authority to restrict which emissions may or may not be traded within a state's borders.
- New federal standards should allow for regional air planning coordination among states whenever they agree to address and act on issues with regional air quality implications.
- States should not be sanctioned for non-compliance if state's failure to comply was the result of EPA's failure to adhere to CAAA deadlines for promulgation of regulations or technical guidance that provide details and requirements of state programs.
- EPA should have the authority to waive sanctions on states that EPA determines are making reasonable good faith efforts to comply with CAAA requirements and deadlines.
New Source Review Program
NCSL urges the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reform the NSR program to achieve improvements that enhance the environment and increase production capacity, while encouraging efficiency, fuel diversity and the use of resources without weakening the requirements intended to reduce emissions from new or modified sources of air pollution. Routine maintenance, repair or replacement activities which are not major modifications should not trigger NSR requirements.
Motor Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance
NCSL believes that:
- States should be granted flexibility to design inspection and maintenance (I/M) programs that achieve air quality targets and should receive full credit for emissions reductions those programs achieve.
- Congress and EPA should not require the states to use specific I/M technologies. Such rigid federal requirements may fail to account for technological advances in emissions testing programs and equipment.
Alternative Fuels and Alternatively Fueled Vehicles
NCSL urges the federal government to encourage an increase in the research, development and promotion of alternative fuels derived from domestic sources and alternatively fueled vehicles, including their commercial production and use, and to devote federal funds to evaluate the environmental and economic impacts of alternative fuels and alternatively fueled vehicles. The primary purpose of these efforts should be reducing the level of air pollutants and other emissions, reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and providing a low cost, reliable energy source. NCSL further urges Congress to develop policies to encourage domestic manufacture of the infrastructure and equipment necessary to produce alternative fuels.
NCSL recommends the exploration and evaluation of all forms of alternative domestic fuels and alternatively fueled vehicles in order to reduce the incidence of toxic air emissions. NCSL recommends caution in promoting the replacement of traditional fuels with alternative fuels that could result in other pollution problems.
NCSL supports a federal Clean Alternative Fuels program that includes but is not necessarily limited to methanol, ethanol, or other alcohols, reformulated gasoline, ultra-low sulfur diesel, biodiesel, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, and hydrogen or other power source (including electricity). However, NCSL recommends that this program take into account other uses of source products, i.e. grains, when making recommendations for fuel usage or setting new national standards. Furthermore, NCSL urges Congress to improve the availability of source materials from our federal lands in accordance with multiple use mandates.
NCSL is concerned that the further development of alternative domestic fuels, alternatively fueled vehicles and conservation devices will depend, at least in the near future, upon the continued availability of tax credits designed to encourage investment in these technologies.
While tax credits and exemptions are important to the creation of an alternative fuels market, NCSL recognizes their negative fiscal impact on the overall federal budget, as well as inequities in the Highway Trust Fund. Consequently, NCSL urges Congress to:
- Encourage the use of alternative fuels through incentives that will increase the production and development of new vehicles with alternative fuels capability and vehicle conversion, in lieu of alternative fuels tax exemptions.
- Make federal tax credits available to alternative fuel production facilities should be extended for a limited time.
- Phase out the tax credits for the research and development of alternative domestic fuels and alternatively fueled vehicles when the technology or changing policies relating to petroleum-based fuels makes the product competitive in the market place.
- Retain state taxing authority to ensure that alternative fuels are competitively priced in an effort to mitigate the state-specific impact of these and other federal policy changes.
NCSL believes that there should be no warranty invalidation incurred by a provider if ASTM standards are met for the fuel and the vehicle is approved for that fuel.
In areas required under CAAA to utilize reformulated gas (RFG) or oxygenated fuels, selection of alternative fuel additives should be left to the discretion of the affected state, where costs, safety, and economic and environmental impacts can be considered.
With regards to fuel additives, NCSL recommends the following:
- Prior to approval of fuel additives, U.S. EPA should examine public health benefits and cross-media implications.
- Any fuel requirements should be in the form of performance-based goals. No specific chemicals or other additives should be prescribed in order to maximize state flexibility to achieve the goals.
- Any fuel requirement should be based on anticipated air quality benefits.
Low Emission Vehicles and Zero Emission Vehicles
NCSL believes that:
- EPA should maintain national Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standards, referred to as the 49-state car, that are stricter than the law requires. States should be allowed, but not required, to adopt Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) requirements.
The NCSL supports the priority given to diesel retrofit projects under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program. NCSL believes that, due to the cost-effectiveness of diesel retrofit projects, funding should be substantially increased and provided for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Program administered by the EPA and that this funding should not jeopardize the availability of retrofit funding through federal supplemental environmental projects. NCSL further believes that the EPA should maximize efforts to ensure that diesel-fueled vehicles entering the United States from bordering and other foreign countries should meet or exceed U.S. and state environmental standards.
Transportation Conformity with State Air Quality Plans
NCSL supports the principles underlying transportation conformity provisions of the Clean Air Act that requires new or revised state transportation implementation plans (TIPs) to conform to the purpose of state air quality plans, also referred to as state implementation plans (SIPs).
Furthermore, NCSL believes that:
- Adequate funding should be made available to cover the cost of the resource-intensive requirements for development, revision and implementation of conforming TIPs.
- In evaluating the emissions budgets submitted by states, EPA should ensure state flexibility in balancing the burden of reduction among all air pollution sources.
Conformity requirements should be limited to nonattainment areas and areas at risk of becoming nonattainment.
Airport Infrastructure Funding
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) fully supports the goal of ensuring that airports have sufficient funding to meet their infrastructure needs, both to restore or replace critical facilities that are coming to the end of their useful lives and to build new infrastructure to enhance safety, security, and capacity to allow for expansion of air service and increased opportunities for competition among airlines. To achieve this goal, it is essential that Congress maintain existing levels of federal grant funding, and raise the federal cap on Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) user fees, which are locally imposed and dedicated to capital improvements within the local airport system. Therefore, NCSL believes that Congress should continue to fully fund the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) at authorized levels annually on a multi-year basis and increase the federal limit on individual Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) user fee to keep up with inflation, to help ensure that airport operators have sufficient funding to implement needed safety, security, capacity and noise projects at their airports.
Animal Agriculture Production
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) believes a strong animal production agriculture capacity is imperative in maintaining domestic and international consumer confidence in the safety of the United States meat supply.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) believes a national animal identification, if properly implemented in cooperation with the states and territories, could be beneficial in maintaining consumer confidence in meat from the United States, an invaluable tool in reducing and tracking future outbreaks of infectious disease, and serving as a important firewall against any attempted terrorist attack on the food production system in the United States.
Any future effort by USDA to develop a national animal identification program must be designed and implemented in full consultation with state legislatures to ensure proper attention to public interest and financial considerations. Any program must be designed and implemented in cooperation with the departments of agriculture of the states and territories. USDA must work to ensure that any animal identification system is compatible with the current inspection and enforcement systems of the state governments. Any applicable federal program should not be applied to animals involved in intrastate commerce without state consultation.
Equine Industry and USDA Inspection of Horse Meat
The processing of horses has become a controversial and emotional issue, resulting in the closure of the last horse processing facility in the United States. Without affordable and economic alternatives, unwanted horses are abandoned. The nation’s inadequate and overburdened horse rescue and adoption facilities cannot begin to handle the influx. These additional unwanted horses will compete for adoption with wild horses that are currently fed and sheltered at a public expense. In the Western United States (US), the additional pressure on public lands from horses turned out to run wild is only intensifying the over-population, over-grazing, and ultimate destruction of the ecosystem.
NCSL urges members of Congress to:
Recognize the need for humane horse processing facilities in the United States.
Not to interfere with State efforts to establish facilities in the United States. State livestock programs that were once able to recoup the costs of caring and feeding for abandoned animals by marketing them, are now forced to greatly increase their budgets at the expense of taxpayers.
Recognize the positive economic impact of willing market for the US horse industry. These, and ethnic markets inside the US would appreciate an additional source of high quality protein untainted by disease concerns of other species of livestock.
Oppose legislation that would restrict the market, transport, processing, or export of horses. Horse processing in the United States is particularly tightly regulated, and the horse is the only animal whose transportation to processing is regulated. Horse processing facilities in the United States are required to have United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinarians supervise the euthanasia, and the euthanasia method is humane, according the American Veterinary Medical Association and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Oppose limitations under federal appropriations law prohibiting the use of federal dollars to be spent on the salaries of inspectors for ante-and post mortem inspections.
Interstate Sale of State-Inspected Meat and Poultry
The Farm Bill program authorizes USDA to promulgate rules to establish the parameters of the state programs. The proposed draft rule would allow these states to establish an interstate meat shipment program and request selected establishment status for those businesses who wish to remain state inspected, but wish to market products in interstate commerce. The creation of interstate sales of state-inspected meat and poultry programs will level the economic playing field for small business, spur more competition in the marketplace, create a more uniform inspection system, and enhance consumer confidence in the food supply—all of which will benefit farmers, ranchers, processors, small business, and consumers.
The National Conference of State Legislatures supports the establishment of interstate shipment of state-inspected meat and poultry programs in qualifying states, and urges USDA to create rules that facilitate the program.
Aviation is a key component of a balanced transportation system and is vitally linked to regional growth and economic development efforts. The development and preservation of a balanced system of airports, which is responsive to the needs of all sectors of the nation, is the mutual responsibility of federal, state and local governments. Given this mutual responsibility, NCSL urges Congress and the administration to actively engage state legislatures in discussions on the development and preservation of our system of airports and to avoid federal mandates, preemption of state authority and where possible provide states maximum flexibility.
The following recommendations regarding aviation financing are to be viewed as a comprehensive package and not as individual parts to be implemented piecemeal.
Recognizing the safety, security, economic, and other broad public benefits of the services provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, NCSL supports efforts to:
- continue a General Fund contribution, due to military and federal usage of airport facilities and services. Maintain the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, financed by existing dedicated user taxes and charges, as the primary method of funding federal-aid aviation projects. Any federal aviation fees collected from airline ticket taxes that are diverted to non-aviation purposes should be rededicated or repealed. NCSL supports federal grant assurance provisions barring diversion of airport revenue to non-airport purposes;
- maintain the current structure of federal aviation taxes which equitably distributes the financial burden on all users;
- continue to fully fund the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) at authorized levels annually on a multi-year basis to help support needed safety, security, capacity and noise projects;
- authorize states to use Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds for increased security measures required by federal law at a 100-percent federal share;
- provide states maximum flexibility in the prioritization and administration of trust fund allocations, this includes aviation-related planning activities being an allowable expense;
- remove the Trust Fund from the federal unified budget;
- create a mechanism to guarantee that all revenue dedicated to the Trust Fund is spent each year for its intended purpose and that Trust Fund revenue is classified as "mandatory" spending and operate as a "pay-as-you-go" program;
- remove statutory or regulatory barriers to state and locally-generated revenues that support airport activities;
- reduce aircraft noise and a continued set-aside of AIP funds for noise abatement projects;
- continue the Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) as a supplementary revenue source to finance airport needs;
- exempt from federal tax laws airport municipal bonds; and
- allow the use of innovative financing methods, such as state infrastructure banks and revolving loans, whenever possible to enable states to meet the funding needs of smaller airports.
State Block Grant Program
The state block grant program should be extended and expanded so that all states are eligible to participate. NCSL believes that the program should be structured to allow states the maximum flexibility in the administration of grants.
NCSL supports a coordinated national plan of development as long as state plans for investment are included. As part of the development of the National Airspace System Architecture, the FAA should make every effort to consider state input. The economies of many parts of the country are dependent on the modernization of the nation's aviation system. Federal policies should support state efforts to address capacity problems through expansion. NCSL supports the increased use of former and current military airports to provide immediate capacity relief for the aviation system.
NCSL supports efforts to increase airport capacity and competition within the airline industry. However, NCSL remains concerned over the preservation of state authority over certain airline actions and practices. An examination should be made of other provisions of law that pertain to the ability of the state to regulate or enforce airport safety standards and practice.
NCSL supports the Essential Air Service (EAS) program and urges the federal government to honor its commitment to EAS. Where EAS is terminated, proper and adequate notification to the affected community should be required and transition plans implemented.
Federal support for research and development of facilities and equipment is critical to meet the demands of the next century's air travelers. Reforms in the FAA technology procurement process should be considered.
NCSL urges Congress to act expeditiously on program reauthorizations so as to ensure continuity and to minimize negative effects bred by short-term extensions of critical programs.
Climate Change Policy Resolution
NCSL urges the federal government to consult with state elected officials, their national representative organizations and existing interstate partnerships in developing a federal program. As Congress and the administration examine proposals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the National Conference of State Legislatures encourages the federal government to always take the following principles into account:
- Federal action should be flexible, allowing for a range of complementary strategies at the state and federal level maintaining a strong role for state, local and tribal government in any federal action.
- Federal legislation should provide states the authority and flexibility to work within a overall framework; to apply the law effectively to all sources of emissions and ensure achievement of climate change goals in the most cost effective, timely and efficient manner for each state.
- Federal legislation should not preempt state or local governments from enacting policy options that differ from federal choices or from enacting stricter or stronger measures within their jurisdiction.
- Federal legislation should afford states the flexibility to form regional cooperatives and implement innovative policies that advance federal efforts to reduce the effects of climate change.
- Congress must authorize and appropriate sufficient funds for federal, state and local governments to implement any federal legislation. These funds should be newly authorized appropriations, not reprogrammed resources.
- Federal legislation should ensure state legislative authority in any federal climate change legislation and affirm the active role played by state legislatures in both fiscal and substantive aspects of state policymaking.
- Federal legislation providing for the allocation of greenhouse gas reduction programs to states should include language making decisions related to such allowances subject to state legislative approval.
NCSL urges the federal government, should it choose to act on this issue, to take into account the following principles regarding program design components:
- Any national system must include short, medium and long-term goals and incorporate a rigorous oversight program that provide for ongoing study and analysis of the system to ensure it is achieving intended goals.
- A new national program should serve to address uncertainties that are hampering investment in generation, transmission and distribution and enhance the likelihood that appropriate technologies will be developed and other solutions implemented so as to achieve the desired reductions in GHG emissions in the most economical manner possible.
- Federal legislation should be designed appropriately to balance competing criteria, including, but not limited to, equity, economic efficiency and ease of administration.
- Revenue derived from a greenhouse gas reduction program should be directed to complimentary policies focused on mitigating climate change consumer costs including but not limited to energy research & development, weatherization, conservation and energy efficiency activities.
- A national program to reduce GHG emissions must also address adaptation issues.
- Auctioning of allowances may be the most economically efficient mechanism for achieving a GHG emissions reductions goal. However, the allocation of emissions allowances at no cost can serve as an appropriate transition measure necessary to ensure continued reliability, minimize economic dislocation resulting from the carbon intensity of the existing infrastructure, and allow for development and deployment of needed new technologies and measures to reduce emissions.
- Priority distribution of allowances at no cost should be to those entities in affected sectors where existing regulatory structure provides the necessary oversight to ensure that the value of such allowances is accounted for in establishing price rates for consumers.
- The allocation of greenhouse gas reduction program to states under a federal greenhouse gas reduction program should include language making decisions related to such allowances subject to state legislative approval.
- The establishment of any new federal program should include provisions for transparent reporting and accountability and incorporate the use of third party verification to ensure reported outcomes are verifiable.
NCSL believes that federal legislation regarding the reduction of greenhouse gases should take into account the implications of actions and/or inactions on economic development, energy security, and those most vulnerable citizens. Evaluation should include the life cycle impacts of policy options including ancillary impacts.
NCSL believes that federal legislation should require continuing assessments of the potential impacts to the United States of climate change, by state or region including effects on water resources, agriculture, infrastructure, natural systems, environmental quality, public health, biodiversity and the cultures of our native peoples. Such an assessment will support the development of domestic and international adaptation-mitigation strategies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should provide funding and assist states in developing assessments and adaptation plans at the state and regional level.
NCSL also urges the federal government to fully consider how legislation will affect low-income households that already struggle to balance needs and expenses. NCSL encourages the federal government to expand and enhance long-term funding for the Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program and to ensure that any new federal program does not undermine existing federal, state and private sector energy assistance and outreach programs that assist our most vulnerable citizens.
Research and Development
NCSL strongly urges the federal government to authorize and appropriate funding and provide other incentives to spur expanded research and development (R&D), as well as advance the demonstration and deployment of new and existing technologies to improve energy efficiency, advance mitigation strategies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
NCSL urges the federal government:
- To ensure that legislation not limit the diversity of technologies supported, as future advancements cannot be predicted.
- To take into account state and regional differences, and not limit or specify the technologies used in each state and ensure sufficient flexibility for each State to determine how to best achieve nationally-set goals.
- To promote current and future innovations and expand the use of such technology through R&D transfer agreements with other countries.
Expires August 2015
In order to fully secure the further benefits that only a national energy policy can ensure, NCSL urges Congress to direct the U.S. Department of Energy through the national laboratories and technology centers to develop a national energy strategy for moving the United States toward independence from non-North American energy sources. The development of this strategy should be done in partnership with state governments and universities to leverage the work which has already been done and should encompass short, medium and long-term goals designed to help transition the nation to a more secure and financially stable future configuration that is drastically more independent of non-North American energy sources
The NCSL believes a considerable effort needs to be undertaken at the federal level in partnership with state, local and tribal governments to help bring about a more secure and sustainable energy future. To that end NCSL urges action by Congress and the administration to:
- Promote enhanced efficiency and conservation in the use of our energy resources.
- Establish a diversified national energy.
- Encourage and assist in the development of enhanced oil and gas refining capacity and technology.
- Support domestic energy production and reduce imports.
- Regularly reviews and updates CAFE standards.
- Accelerate research and development of advanced clean energy technologies.
- Promote the development of an infrastructure to support the distribution of clean energy technologies.
- Ensure energy resources are used in a sustainable and environmentally sound manner.
- Support investment in the national academic and job training systems to advance science and engineering curricula for the purpose of creating a highly skilled and trained workforce.
- Address the limitations of the visa system that restricts entry to the United States of leading scientists and engineers from around the world.
- Address the capital, material and labor deficiencies affecting our ability to manufacture and deploy advanced clean energy technologies.
- Accelerate the deployment and use of alternative transportation fuels to begin to eliminate the nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil.
The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should work in partnership with states to:
- Develop and implement state and federal energy policy planning processes.
- Deploy new energy efficiency and other demand-side options, as well as deploying new and conventional supply-side technologies.
- Provide sufficient funding to states as they develop energy policies on an individual or regional basis.
- Provide assistance, when requested, as states attempt to solve their energy problems.
States should have the option and authority of being represented in Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) on a voluntary basis. Such participation should not supersede nor alter state jurisdiction, unless agreed to by the state.
Congress should facilitate the development of state-created regional mechanisms like interstate compacts and regional reliability boards designed to address transmission reliability, problems related to the interconnectedness of the energy grid, environmental impact of generating electricity, and other regional energy.
Energy facility siting should remain under state jurisdiction devoid of federal mandates and preemption; Electric facility siting authority should remain under state authority.
The federal government should not exercise its power of eminent domain in its pursuit of constructing energy facilities or related purposes.
To the extent to which federal activity has restricted state authority over electric facility siting, specifically electricity transmission lines, the federal government should work together with the states to ensure a seamless system of regulatory action and minimize the necessity for the federal backstop to be used.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) urges the federal government to renew its commitment to the state-federal partnership for environmental protection.
State governments, acting in partnership with the federal government, play an indispensable role in our mutual effort to protect natural resources and combat environmental degradation and pollution. State implementation of federal law is the cornerstone of our current system of environmental protection. States are particularly dependent upon federal pollution control laws to address the interstate migration and affects of pollutants. Given the increasing trend of delegating more authority to the states, it is essential that the federal government not abandon its commitment to uniform minimum federal standards, the state-federal partnership and the very laws and agencies that guarantee the success of our partnership.
In furtherance of the above, the following principles should guide NCSL's federal lobbying efforts with respect to the state-federal environmental partnership:
- NCSL supports the prevention of pollution at its source and believes that federal legislation and regulation, through delegated authority to the states, should encourage the implementation of activities designed to minimize the generation of hazardous pollution by regulated entities.
- NCSL further supports federal funding of pollution prevention research and development, training, technical assistance, and regulatory guidance for states.
- The present level of commitment and funding for natural resource and environmental protection efforts should be enhanced; specifically, the federal government should prevent efforts to further erode its commitment to provide technical support, research and financial assistance to states and avoid further cost shifts to the states.
- The federal government should provide funding to the states in the form of block grants that provide for maximum state flexibility to use federal monies in the manner which they deem proper and in a manner which is consistent with their intended purpose.
- Environmental protection should be based on a holistic comprehensive, flexible and integrated program that addresses environmental issues, the nation’s broader economic prosperity, and policies that ensure long-term energy affordability & reliability.
- Uniform minimum federal standards for environmental protection should be preserved and strengthened.
- Statutory authority for states to enact state environmental standards that are more stringent than their minimum federal counterparts should be maintained and renewed.
- Within the framework of uniform minimum federal standards, states should have maximum flexibility in devising approaches and methods for obtaining compliance with such standards. The federal government should adopt performance-based standards which prescribe the end to be accomplished and leave the means of obtaining the end up to individual states. In return for this new level of autonomy, the federal government should adopt a system of performance audits and objectively quantifiable benchmarks that would allow the federal government to certify state performance results in meeting uniform minimum federal standards.
- Implementation schedules established under the framework of uniform minimal federal standards should ensure that the time to deploy emissions control technology reflects normal construction industry experience, technology availability and practices that maximize order and efficiency to avoid wasteful financial expenditures and any risks to energy reliability.
- Within this framework, states should have the flexibility to work with utilities to coordinate the closure and retrofitting of existing power generation stations in a manner that will ensure the continued supply of electricity and that will allow power generators to upgrade their facilities in a manner that provides reasonable cost while attaining environmental compliance. State flexibility should allow for regulatory options for units that are necessary for grid reliability, that commit to retire or repower and establishing interim progress standards that ensure generation units meet EPA regulations in an orderly, cost-effective manner.
- There should be consistent, uniform and vigorous federal enforcement of environmental laws to deter non-compliant behavior and to reward those who are acting in compliance with such laws. The federal government should continue its present role of overseeing the efficacy of state efforts to enforce uniform minimal federal environmental protection standards.
- In light of the Supreme Court rulings in Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida and Alden v. Maine, which suggest that citizens will no longer be able to sue states in federal court for violations of federal environmental protection laws, the federal government needs to allocate adequate resources to ensure compliance among the states.
- Cost-benefit analysis should be performed in environmental decision making. Sound public policy decision making demands that benefits should be proportionate to costs, after factoring in the totality of the circumstances. However, cost-benefit analysis should not be the only determinative factor in any environmental decision making process. Rather, such an analysis should be one of the many tools that inform decision makers in formulating sound public policy. In the face of uncertainty in devising analytical methods, any default assumptions that are employed should favor enhanced environmental protection.
- In order to finance environmental protection efforts, Congress should create funding mechanisms that consistently generate revenue solely for such uses. All monies from such funds should be fully appropriated for their intended uses.
- NCSL supports a citizen's right to access public information. NCSL supports "right-to-know" laws and other statutory and regulatory mechanisms that readily provide public access to public information while acknowledging the need to balance this right with security concerns relating to the distribution of sensitive material such as water security information regarding water infrastructure and sources of supply.
- NCSL supports the preservation of state authority to enforce chemical security standards that are more stringent than those established by the federal government; finally.
- NCSL opposes any attempt to preempt or circumvent the authority of state courts and local administrative bodies. Proposed federal legislation that would centralize decision-making in the Federal courts for compensation for land use and other regulatory actions represents a major threat to our Constitutional system of federalism. Improving the efficiency of the state and local judicial process is an issue for state legislatures, not Congress. Land use and regulatory policy must remain a primary responsibility of the states. The authority of state courts must be preserved.
- In acknowledgement of the unique needs and concerns of the arctic ecosystem that is undergoing rapid environmental change and extensive exploration for natural resources, the NCSL urges ratification of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea, negotiated in 1982, and of the Treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants, adopted by the U.S. in 2001 but never ratified.
- NCSL believes federal environmental health regulations require more and better data about the unique exposure patterns and sensitivities of children who are uniquely vulnerable to environmental exposures because they are in a dynamic state of growth, with many vital systems not fully developed upon birth.
- NCSL supports consideration of the sensitivity of children to environmental contamination in all federal environmental policy, legislation, and regulation.
- NCSL supports federal funding for health research on the effects of exposure of children to environmental toxicants, and consistent reporting and tracking of birth defects, cancer, and other relevant diseases in children.
Federal Chemical Policy Reform
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 provides the US EPA with authority to require reporting, record-keeping and safety testing of chemical substances and/or mixtures. TSCA also gives EPA the power to restrict the use of chemicals. Certain substances are generally excluded from TSCA, including food, drugs, cosmetics and pesticides.
Since its enactment, increasing evidence linking toxic chemicals to adverse human health effects has eroded the public’s confidence in the safety of consumer products containing toxic chemicals, prompting many state legislatures to act. In the absence of Federal action, states have passed legislation to regulate individual chemicals. States have also begun to develop comprehensive state chemical policies that aim to establish broad and permanent frameworks to systematically prioritize chemicals of concern, close data gaps on those chemicals and restrict their uses in those states. Appropriate modifications to federal law will help enhance public confidence and the efforts of the state governments.
Current federal chemical policy has not kept up with modern science. The science of testing chemicals and understanding their health or environmental effects has improved considerably since TSCA was enacted. NCSL believes TSCA should be updated to reflect the advances in science and technology to better evaluate and regulate chemicals.
TSCA’s failures have caused the United States to fall behind our trading partners in the quality of our public health and environmental standards, and these failures now threaten the competitiveness of our manufactured products in a world market that increasingly demands safer chemicals and products.
Modernizing TSCA can help assure that we protect the nation’s interest in a strong American business of chemistry – and assure that the United States produces products that save lives, protect our children, make our economy more energy efficient, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Reform
NCSL encourages Congress to reform and modernize The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. At a minimum, NCSL believes proposed TSCA reform legislation should embody these policy elements:
Act on the Harmful Chemicals First and Promote Safer Alternatives
Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals (PBTs) are uniquely dangerous and should be phased out of commerce except for critical uses that lack viable alternatives. Exposure to other toxic chemicals, like formaldehyde, that have already been extensively studied should be reduced to the maximum extent feasible. Research into chemicals and chemical processes designed to reduce or eliminate negative environmental impacts of chemicals should be expanded, and safer chemicals favored over those with known health hazards.
Ensure Broad Access to Mandatory Safety Data on All Chemicals
Chemical manufacturers should bear the burden of proof of safety of their products, and should be required to provide full information on the health hazards associated with their chemicals, how they are used, and the ways that the public or workers could be exposed. The public, workers, and businesses should have full access to such information.
Protect All People, and Vulnerable Groups, Using the Best Science
All chemicals should be assessed against a health standard that protects all people and the environment, especially the most vulnerable subpopulations, including children, low-income people, racial and ethnic minorities, workers, and pregnant women. EPA should adopt the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences for reforming risk assessment. Biomonitoring by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be significantly expanded and used by EPA to assess the effects of pollution on people.
State governments play a critical role in environmental regulation. For nearly all federal environmental statutes, there are provisions to extend the reach of the federal government by delegation of program authority and/or provision of federal grants to support state implementation of environmental requirements in lieu of or in addition to the federal requirements. Any reform of TSCA should preserve state rights to manage chemicals, and resources should be provided for state level implementation.
Toxics Release Inventory Reform
NCSL urges the EPA to continue to provide appropriate contextual materials to affected communities to accompany Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reports to assure particularly that emergency response agencies will understand and be able to respond safely to chemical releases to protect the people who live in the vicinity of facilities required to file TRI reports.
The EPA and the reporting industries should continue working to ensure that the reported TRI data are communicated to the public in an understandable manner that includes a description of the risk of release specific chemicals posed to the public and emergency response teams, how these materials are managed to control release, and an assessment of the risk to public health and welfare in the event of regulated or accidental releases.
Hazardous Materials Transportation
While the federal law embodies the notion of a state-federal partnership in hazardous materials transportation safety, the National Conference of State Legislatures believes that efficient regulation of hazardous materials transportation should be accomplished through a clear delineation of regulatory authority and responsibility at each level or branch of government. The state and federal government must work together to develop and implement requirements that improve public safety. NCSL supports a federal role to:
- coordinate the national regulation of hazardous materials transportation;
- provide technical guidance to states; and
- mediate disputes among states, while states retain authority to mediate disputes among their political subdivisions.
NCSL also supports an increased federal programmatic coordination of regulatory, training and data collection activities.
Uniform Federal Standards
Uniform standards for technical requirements, routing, rerouting and notification should be developed by the federal government, in consultation with states. Federal law should not preclude state regulations that exceed the federal requirements and provide for an equal or greater degree of safety. In the absence of federal regulation in any aspect of a uniform subject, states must retain authority to regulate. States may adopt federal regulations or state requirements that are substantively the same as federal requirements. States should be allowed, through a waiver process, to establish standards that do not conform to the federal regulations.
Determination of Preemption
NCSL finds the preemption determination process to be an improvement over the preexisting "inconsistency ruling" process. The utilization of the "substantively the same as" standard in assessing state conformance with federal requirements should ensure that the effect of a state requirement does not vary in effect with the federal standard. At no point during the administrative preemption determination proceedings should a state's option to seek judicial relief be denied.
The federal government has a responsibility to fully fund any activities administered or implemented by the states that are a result of federal requirements or federal preemption of state authority.
States should have the ability to levy and retain fines for transporters without federal registration credentials.
NCSL supports states ability to retain a percentage of the proceeds resulting from successful state enforcement of the federal registration program.
States' fiscal autonomy in the regulation of fees and penalties and the expenditures of such fees and penalties should not be restricted in any manner.
Federal Registration and Permitting
Federal registration and permit programs should be reviewed for consolidation and administration by better established state programs. NCSL finds that the parallel federal programs, which questionably enhance the overall safety of hazardous materials transportation, are an unnecessary duplication of ongoing state programs and an ever-present threat to the autonomy of state-administered programs.
NCSL continues to support the recommendations of the Alliance for Uniform Hazmat Transportation Procedures to facilitate uniformity in state permitting and registration requirements. NCSL urges the U.S. DOT to provide adequate incentives to states to participate in the program, but a state should not be forced into participation by either the U.S. DOT or Congress.
The ability of states to incorporate administration of federal permit and registration requirements should also be examined for possible consolidation of dual government programs. Under current law, both state and federal programs are duly authorized.
Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA)
The Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) provides for perpetual federal retention of publics lands unless it is in the national interest to dispose of a particular parcel.
Ninety-three percent of all lands under federal jurisdiction in the United States are located in the West, and over sixty-three percent of the land area in the twelve western states is federally controlled. Further, many federal and non-federal lands are intermingled. This limits the western states' prerogatives in managing the uses of their own land and further limits the potential base of the states' economies. Units of governments whose property tax revenue bases have been reduced by large federal land holdings also require adequate funds to help make up the shortfall. With perpetual federal retention, Congress must assure state payments in lieu of taxes in perpetuity.
Federal-state relations regarding federal agency land planning vary widely and suffer from a lack of specificity on how and when cooperation should take place. No meaningful mechanism currently exists in the wilderness review process for the involvement of legislatures as the state policymaking bodies.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) urges all federal agencies involved in the management of public lands to incorporate within their policies and regulations provisions for a continuous and cooperative involvement of state governments in public lands policy and public lands management. Furthermore, NCSL supports remedial legislation which will guarantee a state and tribal role in public lands management and establish procedures for designations, disposition, or use of certain public lands found to be excess property.
Federal agencies managing federal land should assure that uses, both on-site and off-site, do not cause adverse environmental impacts on the federal land or other adjacent lands or waters and provide special protection for wetland resources in light of the goal of no loss of wetlands.
As Congress considers funding for federal agencies with public land management responsibilities, NCSL recommends that Congress assure appropriations sufficient for the full and proper execution of the agencies' legislative mandates to process lease applications properly and expeditiously and protect the environment during increased energy development.
If a federal wilderness designation occurs, state and/or tribal "inholdings" in wilderness areas should be purchased, or exchanged with lands of equal or greater value outside of these areas as designated by FLPMA.
NCSL also urges the establishment of an interagency coordinator or coordination program to facilitate tribal governments, state agencies and communities to address all relevant agencies in a "one stop" manner.
Takings and Land Use Authority
NCSL strongly opposes any federal legislation or regulation that would: 1) attempt to define or categorize compensable "takings" under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution; (2) interfere with a state's or tribe’s ability to define and categorize regulatory takings requiring state or tribal compensation; (3) preempt state or tribal eminent domain constitutional provisions or statutes; or (4) infringe on state or tribal sovereignty under the Eleventh Amendment. NCSL supports collaborative examinations of state, tribal and federal use of eminent domain authority.
NCSL urges Congress to enact legislation to make permanent the tax deduction for charitable contributions by individuals and corporations of real property interests for conservation purposes through conservation easements.
Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative
The Department of Defense (DOD) Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) enables DOD to work with partners to protect valuable habitat and avoid land use conflicts in the vicinity of priority installations. Maintaining availability, accessibility and capability for realistic training, live fire testing and other operations is crucial to ensuring a trained and ready force to support the DOD mission to fight and win the nation's wars.
REPI provide significant and long term benefits to the people and the landscape in communities surrounding military installations. It enhances military readiness; protects high value habitat; strengthens military/community relations; and provides the opportunity for partnerships among key stakeholders, such as state, tribal and local governments and the military. NCSL supports REPI and believes there is a limited window of opportunity for REPI partnerships to protect land and habitat in support of military training and testing. In addition, the increasing numbers of willing sellers in the existing real estate market present significant near-term opportunities to leverage REPI funding with state, tribal and local partners.
NCSL applauds the United States Congress for recognizing the critical need to protect DoD bases and the limited window of opportunity to do so, and for continuing its strong bipartisan support for REPI.
State-Federal Partnerships In Land Management Around Federal Facilities
The NCSL calls on Congress and the Administration to enable and encourage federal agencies to enter into formal partnerships with state or tribal governments to enable the better management of land in and around military and other federal facilities. Such partnerships will enable states, federally recognized tribes, local communities and the federal facilities, ranges, and training air/sea/land space they serve to work jointly on matters of importance to all stakeholders. The adoption of memorandums of understanding or other agreements between federal agencies, tribal governments, and/or state wildlife, parks, and environment agencies will establish a mechanism for the federal agencies to:
- assist tribal governments and state agencies to acquire landowner agreements around military facilities ;
- assist tribal governments, communities and states to be better prepared for the next BRAC round by ensuring mission capabilities at military facilities; and
- identify within the federal agency the person or office to whom tribal governments, state agencies and communities may contact for assistance in coordinating conservation easement/contracts or other appropriate negotiated transaction.
In partnering with such agencies as the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Interior (Interior), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) states, tribal governments and local communities will be able to:
- protect water resources benefiting tribal governments and local communities and federal facilities ranges, and training air/sea/land space;
- improve wildlife habitat around federal facilities, ranges, and training air/sea/land space and throughout the state;
- expand public understanding of how critical tribal and state land conservation actions are to protect the mission and economic welfare of federal entities;
- expand public support for federal assistance of state efforts to acquire permanent conservation easements, contracts or other appropriate negotiated transactions and long term leases with landowners to protect federal installations from civilian encroachment that will adversely impact mission capabilities and economic benefits to communities, and increase land for contract training;
- expand state agency, private landowners, and DoD facilities' ability to develop longitudinal training capabilities through partnerships that expand training opportunities in combination with preserving agricultural lands; and that permit federal and national guard training areas to be linked for expanded joint training; and
- encourage tourism to the conservation lands acquired by state agencies.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) believes that maintaining a strong production agriculture capacity is critical to our nation’s strength and is a matter of national security. NCSL recognizes that decisions affecting American agriculture must reflect a working partnership of the federal government with the states in both the formulation and implementation of policy.
Agricultural Fiscal Policy
The National Conference of State Legislatures urges federal efforts designed to enhance farm income while increasing agricultural exports. Monetary policies must be implemented which promote low interest rates and maintain dollar exchange rates which enhance the potential for sale of this nation's commodities in international markets. The federal government must also maintain a stable financial network capable of supplying adequate amounts of affordable credit to the agricultural industry. The government must also continue to search for innovative financing tools which enhance the ability of agricultural producers to manage risk and stabilize income. In addition, any domestic farm program must work in conjunction with a strong, aggressive export program which protects and expands our export markets.
State legislators should be represented on any working or study group for the purpose of addressing long term agriculture lending and payment needs established by Congress or the executive branch. NCSL urges Congress to review the existing payment limitations for individual farmers and program eligibility requirements to ensure that they provide support to economically efficient farming operations and promote the preservation of the family farm. In addition, the Conference recommends that all federal agricultural adjustment payments, price-support program loans, payments and other benefits not related to soil conservation efforts be limited to citizens of this country or aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence.
Secondary Market for Long-Term Loans: NCSL urges the federal government to work with states to assure that the provisions of the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987 continue to be fully implemented.
Bankruptcy law: NCSL supports federal legislation to permanently extend allowing farm operations to declare Chapter 12 bankruptcy.
Farm Credit System (FCS): The National Conference of State Legislatures encourages farm credit institutions to work with farmer-borrowers to restructure debt. NCSL urges that any disposition of land and assets held by the System or its units be conducted in an orderly fashion so that such disposition does not adversely affect the value of those assets or of other property within the community. NCSL also urges that FCS institutions continue to work with producers to provide necessary financing for changes in payments and crops resulting from adjustments to federal programs.
Commercial Lending Institutions: NCSL believes that as federal financial assistance is provided to member institutions of the FCS, assistance should also be provided to commercial lending institutions that provide credit to agriculture. Furthermore, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) policies and federal bank regulation procedures must be reviewed to ensure that the maximum assistance is being provided to troubled borrowers, without compromising the safety and soundness of the institution or the assets of the FDIC.
Agricultural Bonds: NCSL supports exempting agricultural bonds from the federal volume cap placed on industrial revenue bonds in each state. Furthermore, NCSL recommends that the President and U.S. Congress amend the federal Internal Revenue Code to make the use of agricultural bonds more attractive to banks and other financial institutions. NCSL also recommends that the federal government permit deductibility for loans financed by issuers that are not necessarily small issuers as defined by the Internal Revenue Code.
Crop Insurance: NCSL supports a state-federal partnership to develop a fair and affordable crop insurance program that complements other risk management tools available in the marketplace for all crops. NCSL supports an efficient program that promotes informed production and management decisions. NCSL also supports federal efforts to encourage private-sector development of innovative risk management tools. However, any plan for crop insurance must not adversely impact a state's ability to levy premium taxes, regulate the business of private insurance and set solvency standards for private crop insurers.
The National Conference of State Legislatures seeks a federal policy that will sustain a vibrant agricultural marketplace and strong farm economy while providing for competition and fair practices. The federal government should cooperate fully with states' efforts to supplement private sector marketing programs by providing comprehensive marketing, promotion and market development activities. These should include, at a minimum, sustained commitments to the provision of data on market trends and consumer demands, technical assistance, financial assistance and public education campaigns.
Special emphasis must be placed upon the development of new markets through the creation of demand for new crops or products or additional sources of demand for existing commodities and products; the improvement of linkages between buyers and sellers; a shift toward the sale of processed, not raw, commodities and high value cash crops; and the identification and analysis of potential markets. All parties, both public and private sector, must work together to develop effective strategies to exploit those opportunities fully and to maintain an ongoing ability to respond to changing consumer demands.
Direct Marketing Arrangements: NCSL recommends that Congress review the Packers and Stockyards Act as a mechanism for addressing unfair practices that may occur under direct marketing arrangements, monitor activities in this area, and enact appropriate and timely legislation to safeguard the welfare of producers. NCSL urges Congress and USDA to strengthen and diligently enforce the provisions of the Packers and Stockyards Act in concert with the clear intent of the Act to curb monopolistic abuses in the concentrated meatpacking sector.
Family farmers ultimately derive their income from the agricultural marketplace. Congress must set rules to improve the competitive environment of agriculture so that farmers are able to retain a greater portion of their income.
Natural Resource Conservation
All federal government actions affecting natural resources should be conducted in close cooperation and only after consultation and coordination with the states. A strong commitment to conduct research, in the area of improved methods of natural resource conservation and protection, must be maintained. The federal government should work with state and local governments to develop agricultural land use policies, but should leave the responsibility for establishment of these policies to the state and local governments. NCSL favors a block grant approach that gives states maximum flexibility. Fundamentally, NCSL believes that states must be given a much stronger voice in ensuring that federal wetlands, endangered species, and land management policies respect the rights of local landowners and states.
Wetlands and Endangered Spieces: The federal government should delegate authority to states for the development, administration, and enforcement of wetlands protection and endangered species programs. The national government, acting through USDA, should set broad national goals and standards for wetlands protection and preservation of endangered species, but states should have the flexibility to meet those goals. The federal government, furthermore, should provide financial and technical assistance as incentives to encourage states to assume primacy over wetlands and endangered species programs.
Land Management: Devolution of authority to states should also be a goal of federal land management policies. Demonstration projects should be established to determine if state administration of national forests, grasslands, parks and other federal property will result in cost savings to taxpayers and greater sensitivity to the concerns of local citizens and property owners. NCSL, moreover, encourages Congress and federal agencies to hold hearings and public meetings in order to hear the concerns of state and local officials and of ordinary citizens and property holders regarding the impact of federal landownership and regulation.
Soil Conservation: NCSL supports an ongoing education program to make certain that producers are fully aware of the need for proper soil conservation practices and of the best methods to use in their implementation. Diligent efforts must be made by the federal government to ensure that proper soil conservation practices are adopted and that fragile, erodible land is protected.
The National Conference of State Legislatures supports existing law which requires that each farm have and follow an approved soil and water conservation plan in order to obtain government assistance. Benefits may be denied if that crop is grown in violation of this requirement. Further, NCSL supports continued extension of the Conservation Reserve Program.
Research and Development
NCSL supports the state-federal partnership in agricultural research at state universities. Furthermore, funds must be made available to support research and development of innovative products. Funds should also be used for dissemination of information about research discoveries both domestically and abroad. It is particularly important that the land grant universities maintain their commitment to agricultural research and development.
NCSL urges the federal government to maintain a strong research program for the development of adequate, cost-effective and environmentally sound control measures to ensure the eradication of all insect and plant pests and animal diseases should be done in close cooperation with the states. Using existing mechanisms and institutions, the federal government should work with the states in providing the basic training and retraining opportunities necessary for the successful operation of an agricultural enterprise and for the continuing adjustment of producers to changing conditions in agriculture.
Intellectual Property Rights in Publicly Funded Research: The National Conference of State Legislatures calls on Congress to review the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 and subsequent amendments for its impact on encouraging concentration and vertical integration within the agricultural sector, and for its consistency with the mission and purpose of the Land Grant College system. Further, Congress should increase federal support for agricultural research, and retain through grant and contract provisions greater portions of technology arising from such research within the public domain. Congress should also affirm as objectives of the Land Grant Colleges’ agricultural research mission to achieve broad dissemination and producer access to crop technology, and preserve and enhance the income and economic opportunities of producers.
Beginner Farm Programs
The National Conference of State Legislatures supports a state-federal partnership to confront challenges faced by farmers and beginner farmers, including the use of federal tax incentives to support state-based development and loan programs. NCSL supports changes to the federal Internal Revenue code that reduce borrowing costs to qualifying farmers and strengthen state beginner farmer programs. Furthermore, NCSL supports raising the total volume of state bonding authority to free resources for beginner farmer programs if achieved in a manner consistent with a balanced federal budget.
NCSL believes that the USDA should be the lead federal agency to examine regulatory issues as they develop for the algaculture (Farming Algae) industry.
Support State Regulation of Agricultural Biotechnology
NCSL supports the responsible use of the beneficial qualities of agricultural biotechnology such as in improved crop production techniques, pharmaceuticals, anti-immune disease control, biodegradable plastics, and other potential benefits to people in their states, the nation, the world and the global environment. NCSL supports the continued regulation of agricultural biotechnology through state and territorial governments working in close collaboration and partnership with the Coordinated Framework of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Motor Carrier Regulation
The federal government is primarily responsible for the regulation of interstate transportation and commerce, including safety and security, while states play a critical role in administering interstate motor carrier regulations and regulating intrastate commerce. The National Conference of State Legislatures believes that the most effective way to achieve safer highways for all drivers is to involve states in the decision-making process, to treat states as equal partners with the federal government, to avoid unnecessary and burdensome federal mandates and requirements, and to promote incentive-based regulation instead of imposing federal sanctions.
NCSL encourages the continued incorporation of computerized record-keeping for motor carriers. However, any revisions to the paperwork requirements should neither usurp state taxing authority nor undermine the long-standing exercise of state constitutional police power to promote and preserve public safety.
NCSL supports states retaining the unburdened authority to regulate intrastate commerce, and opposes preemption of state regulation of intrastate motor carrier operations based on an affiliation with, or integration of other modes of carriage.
NCSL believes that the formulation of any proposed changes or expansion of uniform national standards for regulation of interstate commerce:
- should be based on recommendations from state officials;
- must provide state legislatures with sufficient time to fully assess any proposed changes in state law; and
- should involve states in any changes to the federal regulatory scheme for interstate motor carrier registration, proof of insurance filing, and collection and payment of fees.
On state roads and streets connecting to Interstate and National Highway system truck routes, NCSL supports state authority to:
- define "reasonable access" for larger vehicles;
- consider design and operating characteristics of commercial vehicles when designating routes; and
- issue permits on a case by case basis for certain oversize and overweight carriers under appropriate conditions set and monitored by state agencies. NCSL opposes federal requirements to increase state size and weight enforcement.
NCSL believes that states are in compliance with Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 relative to commercial drivers licenses and:
- should be granted continued latitude in conforming existing state licensing, testing and penalty provisions to those stipulated under federal law; and
- should have the opportunity to grant waivers of certain requirements where warranted.
NCSL recognizes that security measures may be undertaken by the federal government with regard to individuals charged with the transport of commercial merchandise and hazardous materials. NCSL is opposed to unfunded federal mandates regarding transportation security that would create excessive burdens for the individuals seeking commercial driver’s licenses and on the state governments in security checks.
NCSL opposes any federal restrictions on the right of the states to establish the rate of state highway use taxes based upon registration, fuel purchase and use, and weight and distance considerations. NCSL rejects the premise that the incidental impact of a regulatory tax imposed by a state necessarily poses a burden to interstate commerce. Where state tax methods have been ruled unconstitutional, NCSL supports prospective calculations of court-ordered restitution. NCSL supports state administrative reforms and joint state-federal efforts to curb the evasion of highway taxes.
Vehicles operating on public highways at a gross weight of 55,000 pounds or greater must demonstrate payment of the annual federal heavy vehicle use tax (HVUT) to state departments of motor vehicles during the registration renewal process, but the IRS does not presently offer an electronic verification process creating paper-laden administrative burdens for state agencies and costly processing delays for motor carriers. NCSL encourages the IRS to cooperate closely with the states as it automates this electronic verification process to maximize carrier usage of and compliance with the IRS’ system while minimizing duplication and state costs to link into the system. Closer state-federal cooperation on this issue will improve efficiencies and economize state administrative costs.
The National Conference of State Legislatures urges the federal government to continue working cooperatively with state, local, and tribal governments to develop, implement and maintain an expansive, integrated, environmentally-sensitive and cost-effective national energy policy.
NCSL believes the following principles should guide the development and implementation of a national energy policy:
- Promotion of the most efficient and economical use of all energy resources.
- Promotion of energy conservation and efficiency and the development and use of alternative and renewable energy supplies.
- Promotion and provision of incentives for the development and optimal use of all energy resources and new facility infrastructure.
- Assurance that various domestic energy sources are continually developed, maintained and stored to prevent supply emergencies and promote energy independence.
- Consideration and assessment of environmental costs and benefits for all energy resources, fuels and technologies in rendering legislative, regulatory and market decisions regarding energy production and use.
- Provision of an affordable and reliable energy supply for all citizens.
- Examine the feasibility of, and where feasible, promote statewide or regional minimum storage level requirements for heating oil for states dependent on this fuel.
- Specification and balancing of clear lines of local, state and federal regulatory authority.
- Promotion of continued investments in electric power grid infrastructure to make it more efficient and resilient and recognize the value of the electric power grid as an asset that must be maintained, improved and supported by all of those who use and operate the grid.
- Development of both short- and long-term strategies to provide adequate energy supplies, efficient utilization of those supplies and optimum cost effectiveness.
- Promotion of the education of school-age children regarding energy resources, consumption, conservation, and production and regarding environmental protection, safety and risks in energy production.
- Assurance of expanded energy research and development and broadening of the citizenry’s access to energy-related information.
- Assurance of participation of state and local officials in the development and implementation of a national energy plan and strategy.
- Avoidance of mandates, particularly unfunded mandates, upon state and local governments as well as avoidance of pre-emptive federal laws in developing a national energy policy.
NCSL believes development of a national energy strategy should contain at a minimum these components:
- An assessment and forecast of our nation’s energy future and its impacts.
- An evaluation and ranking of short and long-term energy options available to the nation.
- An evaluation of possible energy futures which provide greater benefits to our citizens.
- The development of recommendations for energy options and energy futures that the nation should pursue, with the establishment of national targets or goals.
- An evaluation and recommendation of implementation mechanisms including, but not limited to, incentives, technical assistance, educational programs, regulatory standards or guidelines to achieve the targets or goals.
- Considers energy sources based on the lowest cost, cost benefit analysis, revenue loss, cost to consumers, reliability, and environmental or other impacts. Additionally, energy policy alternatives that would improve our energy security without imposing significant new costs, while balancing the need for environmental protection, should be implemented.
- A coordinated effort between state and federal government in the development of producing a national energy policy where the federal government consults closely with state legislatures, devising mechanisms to bring state legislatures into the energy decision-making process as full participants on a continuing basis and ensuring the inclusion of representatives of the legislative branch of state government in all state-federal working groups dealing with energy policy.
Conservation and Energy Efficiency
NCSL supports a national energy policy that promotes energy efficiency in a variety of ways including both setting and strengthening policies as technologies improve while recognizing the significance of economic costs on various segments of the population including rural areas. NCSL supports the use of:
- Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards for automobiles and light duty trucks, including sport utility vehicles and minivans.
- Energy efficiency provisions in model building codes (including lighting efficiency standards and weatherization).
- "Whole-building" and life cycle costing approaches to construction and retrofitting that integrate energy efficiency technologies and practices.
- home appliance and heating and cooling unit efficiency standards.
- Waste recycling and reduction standards for industrial manufacturing.
- Standards for conservation in electrical production and supply including cogeneration.
- Use of alternative energy.
- A national transportation policy that emphasizes various modes of transportation, including passenger rail and transit, as well as promoting energy efficiency.
New Source Review Program (NSR)
NCSL urges the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reform the NSR program to achieve improvements that enhance the environment and increase production capacity, while encouraging efficiency, fuel diversity and the use of resources without weakening the requirements intended to reduce emissions from new or modified sources of air pollution. Routine maintenance, repair or replacement activities which are not major modifications should not trigger NSR requirements.
Government Support for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficient Products and Industries
NCSL believes that federal and state governments’ leadership role in the purchase and use of new energy efficient and renewable energy technologies and products should be expanded and supports incentives for consumers to purchase energy efficient products. The federal government should continue to establish incentives for energy efficient fleet procurement industries and manufacturers of energy efficient products as well as continue to encourage the use of innovative financing technologies to increase energy efficiency in buildings such as performance contracting and long-term leasing and purchase agreements for energy efficient products. All government-owned buildings should make use of economical energy conservation programs, demonstrating state of the art efficiencies whenever possible.
NCSL believes that in recognizing a spectrum of renewable energy resources including, but not limited to geothermal, hydropower, biomass, wind, photovoltaics and solar, the federal government should institute a long-range, stable Renewable Energy Development Program which identifies and supports development of renewable energy sources from research and development through demonstration projects and commercialization in a cooperative effort among industry, higher education, and national laboratories.
NCSL recommends that:
- Federal action should be flexible, allowing for a range of complementary strategies at the state and federal level maintaining a strong role for state government in any federal action.
- Federal legislation should provide states the authority and flexibility to work within a overall framework that affords states the ability to chose from a range of options & apply the law effectively in the most cost effective, timely and efficient manner for each state.
- Federal legislation should not preempt state governments from enacting stricter or stronger measures within their jurisdiction.
- Congress must authorize and appropriate sufficient funds for state and federal governments to implement any federal legislation. These funds should be newly authorized appropriations, not reprogrammed resources.
Energy Emergency Preparedness
NCSL believes that the federal government should support and enhance energy emergency preparedness in order to reduce the potential impact of petroleum supply disruptions.
A national energy emergency preparedness program should include the following principles:
- Initial efforts should focus on strategies to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil to avoid future emergencies.
- Voluntary conservation, is preference to mandatory measures, wherever possible.
- When any mandatory responses are required, they should be phased in, beginning with the least stringent measures, with gasoline rationing reserved for only the most severe shortage.
- Minimize undue hardships on states and regions heavily dependent on motor vehicle transportation with rationing allotments and allocation plans being based on state and regional needs and strategies rather than on national averages.
- Priority shall be given to home heating needs including home heating oil and propane, provided homes are adequately insulated.
NCSL believes changes need to be made at the national level to ensure that the country has sufficient, affordable supplies of energy, by encouraging more efficient use of energy to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil. As such, federal investments in both energy efficiency and research in developing new and alternative energy technologies should figure significantly in a national energy policy.
NCSL believes the federal government should support the efficient, responsible production and utilization of the United States vast resources of coal, largest reserves of any nation in the world, and the strategic global economic advantage it provides.
- Provide continued support for Clean Coal Technology research, in partnership with the private sector. Such support, through additional research and technology development in clean coal usage, should include work in pre-combustion, combustion, post-combustion, and coal conversion areas with desulfurization efforts a top priority.
- Jointly address transboundary environmental issues with Canada and Mexico.
- Continue to support the acid rain program of the Clean Air Act of 1990 that phases in reductions in emissions from coal burning power plants.
- Seriously consider coal gasification as an alternative to the use of coal in a conventional manner.
- Concurrently reclaim and restore mined lands to an environmentally appropriate condition.
- Consider the effects on local infrastructure needs and the costs of prime farmland protection and land reclamation in the development of a national coal program.
- Accelerate the financing of activities under the abandoned mine reclamation fund and a federal commitment to reclamation should be strengthened.
- Avoid adopting federal policy that has implications for land development or management without accommodating the laws and policies of affected states.
NCSL believes the federal government should promote and encourage domestic production of crude oil in an efficient and environmentally sound manner in order to both supply United States consumers with a secure source of petroleum as well as provide a stabilizing influence to the world price of crude oil. As such, the extraction and transportation of crude oil must be done only with safeguards for the protection of the environment. The federal government should consider incentives for domestic exploration, maintenance of stripper wells, but excluding other extractions, and technological research for methods of enhanced oil and gas recovery that are environmentally safe and in accordance with state policy as well as an increase in research and development in the area of new energy generating technologies including but not limited to biofuels, electric cars, fuel cells, hybrid engines, and alternative fuels particularly for transportation.
The federal government should manage United States imports by diversifying import suppliers, pursuing a Pan American Energy Alliance with Western Hemisphere producing nations, and expanding a dialogue with suppliers worldwide.
Oil Overcharge Settlement Funds
NCSL is appreciative of administrative and congressional action to disburse authorized unclaimed overcharge monies to the states, via the oil overcharge settlement funds.
NCSL believes that the refunded oil overcharge money disbursed to states should be used for energy-related purposes. As emerging federal and state emphasis on conservation and energy efficiency programs has created a state need for additional funds to develop and implement new programs, some states are unable to meet the growing demands of their energy programs with state money alone. Therefore, NCSL strongly supports expeditious pass-through of oil overcharge settlement funds by the Department of Energy to states only to supplement, and not supplant, energy related programs. NCSL opposes efforts to reduce or eliminate or take credit for federal funding of existing energy related programs such as the Weatherization Assistance Program, the Institutional Conservation Program, the State Energy Conservation Program, and programs authorized to be funded by the Energy Policy Act of 1992, based on the receipt of oil overcharge settlement monies. NCSL also opposes the diversion of oil overcharge monies from their intended energy uses.
Additionally, as oil overcharge and settlement funds are depleted, Congress is encouraged to appropriate replacement or supplemental funds to facilitate continued state involvement in worthwhile energy programs.
NCSL believes the United States should encourage domestic production of natural gas in an environmentally sound manner. The federal government should adopt legislation that funds and authorizes states to assume a more prominent role in the regulation of pipeline safety. A partnership with the federal government will enhance the safety of pipelines and the protection of residents by decreasing the risk of pipeline accidents.
State Primacy in Regulation of Oil and Gas and Production Wastes
Since oil and gas exploration and production occur in several different states in distinct regions, NCSL believes that primary responsibility for the regulation of used oil and of oil and gas exploration and production wastes is best handled by the affected state to accommodate site-specific conditions and environmental considerations should not be preempted by federal legislation or regulation. As such, NCSL supports the continuation of exempting used oil and waste generated in oil and gas exploration and production from classification as hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
Revenues from On-Shore and Outer Continental Shelf Drilling
The Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act of 1982 (30 U.S.C. 1701 et. seq.), requires 50 percent of the revenues from federal on-shore drilling is paid to the state in which the lease is located and ensures that state legislatures shall direct the use of these funds.
- NCSL supports the state legislatures' role in the appropriation of these funds.
- NCSL opposes any effort by Congress or the Administration to reduce the revenue share paid to states in an effort to off-set federal expenditures on a temporary or permanent basis.
NCSL does not support or oppose additional exploration or production on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). However, to the extent that mineral extraction occurs, Congress is urged to:
- Authorize and appropriate 50 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) revenues to the states.
- Ensure the state legislatures' participation in the appropriation of these funds.
- Provide state lawmakers the flexibility to target these funds to their respective state's natural resource priorities.
- OCS revenue sharing with the states should be in addition to and not replace other Federal funding programs.
- Preserve state authority to impose moratoriums on or allow for mineral exploration, development and production activities on the OCS.
- Lift federal fees charged to states for use of sand, gravel and shell resources taken from the OCS for use in beach nourishment and other coastal erosion mitigation activities.
- Give states full review of development and production of mineral resources on the OCS.
NCSL believes that,
- Nuclear Energy generates an essential share of the nation’s clean, non-emitting, zero carbon baseload electricity.
- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) should provide strong, independent oversight of all commercial nuclear plant operations, including plant licensing (both license extensions, where appropriate, and over the ongoing construction of new reactors) and used fuel and radioactive waste management, transportation and disposal, to ensure public health and safety. The rigorous NRC safety review process already employed in certifying new reactor designs should be maintained as additional designs are considered.
- The federally-supported public-private partnership that is pursuing the design, development and licensing of Small Modular Reactors should focus on maximizing the economic development and positive trade balance potential of this emerging technology. The federal government should assist the ongoing efforts of various states to establish U.S. leadership in this promising market.
- A federal government program for the long-term treatment and disposal of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, already funded by nuclear utility ratepayers, should be pursued with the highest priority given to the safe reprocessing or transportation of waste and to the safety and technical suitability of storage or disposal sites. Such a program should be developed in full consultation with all of the affected states.
- Meaningful and effective state participation is necessary in public safety planning and transportation of commercial used nuclear fuel and high-level waste.
- The recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future appropriately comport with the longstanding position of NCSL in favor of a path forward for used fuel. In particular, NCSL favors: creation of a public-private partnership to manage the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle; assurance that ratepayer contributions to the Nuclear Waste Fund be available solely for their intended purpose; establishment of one or more NRC-licensed centralized interim used fuel storage facilities in willing host communities and states (with consultation of all state, local and tribal officials and other interested parties).
- States must continue to have the right to monitor operating conditions at nuclear power plants, waste storage and disposal facilities, and to exercise regulatory authority where consistent with federal law.
- Federal funding should complement private sector investments in the areas of waste management technologies, nuclear fusion, and plant retrofit and life extension.
- The tax treatment of decommissioning funds should be updated to ensure that existing funds are treated in the manner intended by the tax laws and to reflect new business conditions.
The Electric Power Grid
NCSL believes that:
- Reliable electricity supply depends in part upon modernization of the electric power grid. In order to meet current and future demands for electricity, investments in the electric power grid will need to be made.
- Electric power grid investments funded wholly or in part by retail ratepayer dollars should be just and reasonable, and properly balance the needs of all consumers, as well as the needs of electric utilities and grid operators.
- Electric power grid investments provide benefits to consumers. NCSL recognizes the potential for electric power grid investments to provide for a more resilient power system, increase operational efficiencies, increase electric grid reliability, reduce outages, reduce outage restoration time, improve power quality, reduce peak demand, improve overall system efficiency, provide consumers with new information and tools to voluntarily control their own energy costs, integrate an increasingly diverse set of energy resources and enable economic growth and innovation.
- Electric utilities are responsible for ensuring that electric power grid technologies are deployed in a manner consistent with reasonable and effective cyber and physical security best practices. Systems should be designed to mitigate risks and enhance the resiliency of the electric power grid, and preserve the accuracy, integrity and privacy of data.
NCSL believes that the federal government should promote
- Energy efficiency and conservation to lower the demand for electricity.
- The development of sources of electric energy that are sufficient to meet national needs, secure from external threat, reliable in availability and delivery, safe relative to people and the environment, and efficient for use in homes, businesses, industries, and as an alternative vehicular fuel.
- The implementation of aggressive efficiency and conservation programs are implemented.
- Legislation that recognizes the tremendous regional diversity, especially with regard to capacity of the electricity sector
NCSL believes that:
- States should maintain the authority to require public benefits programs on a nondiscriminatory basis, including those that support reliable and universal service, energy efficiency, renewable technologies, research and development, and low-income assistance. Additionally, existing federally sponsored public benefits programs should be maintained in a restructured market and electric industry restructuring should be consistent with any federal environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act.
- Implementation of federal legislation that fails to recognize market mechanisms inevitably penalizes one region or state or another and that mandate programs are counter to the concept of restructuring, which encourages the efficiencies of market competition.
- As states are in the best position to evaluate market force considerations, Congressional legislation should not limit, through the use of mandates or otherwise, state flexibility in addressing market mechanisms in electric restructuring plans.
- Nontraditional energy production should be encouraged and that the federal government must maintain and increase its commitment to cost effective energy conservation and efficiency while maintaining adequate and reliable energy. As such, power providers, equipment and appliance manufacturers, and consumers should be given legislative and regulatory incentives to promote these goals.
Consumer Protection and Education:
NCSL believes that:
- The safety, reliability, quality, and sustainability of services should be maintained or improved and that all consumers should have access to adequate, safe, reliable, and efficient energy services at fair and reasonable prices, as a result of competition.
- States should retain the authority, with the assistance of the federal government as needed, to protect consumers from anticompetitive behavior, undue discrimination, poor service, market power abuses, and unfair service practices.
- States should maintain the authority to establish or require comprehensive consumer education and outreach programs to minimize public confusion and provide information so consumers are able to make informed choices and participate effectively in a restructured market.
State regulatory bodies are close to consumers, utilities, industries, and concerned for state environmental and economic well being. State regulatory bodies are in the best position to evaluate consumer needs, and address questions relative to fuel choice, economic development implications, and system reliability.
NCSL strongly supports and urges the continuation of the state legislative oversight for the approval and siting of all major energy conversion facilities, subject to minimum federal standards established only after the fullest consultation with state governments, both executive and legislative branch. State authority over the siting of energy facilities should not be preempted by federal law.
NCSL acknowledges the need for a robust national transmission system that can support new technology and allow for additional power production to be brought onto the grid. NCSL urges Congress to allow provisions included in the 2005 Energy Policy Act relating to state authority of liquefied natural gas terminal siting to be implemented and studied before any attempt is made to expand the preemption to further limit the state role in siting of these energy infrastructure components. NCSL opposes any such expansion of these provision but urges Congress at a minimum to allow for the complete implementation of the new standards before reopening the issue.
Research and Development
NCSL believes that the cornerstone of a national energy policy should include a broad research and development component. Specifically, federal government research and development funds for clean coal, nuclear research, basic science and related efforts ought to be continued. However, these efforts should be supplemented with increased long-term incentives and federal funding for research and development projects emphasizing emerging technologies, including, but not limited to, renewable resources, energy conservation, efficient use of energy, alternative fuels, oil and gas recovery, superconductivity, and fuel cell technology and should be designed to encourage private sector participation with federal and state representatives. NCSL urges Congress to provide explicit recognition in the Internal Revenue Code that sustainable energy (conservation, efficiency and customer sited renewable) is a private activity serving a public good.
Renewable Energy R&D Market Support
NCSL encourages federal development of alternative technologies that improve renewable energy efficiencies, cut costs, and assist in integrating renewable energy into existing energy systems. The implementation of federal standards for the deployment of these new technologies should not undermine established programs at the state level to integrate these resources into existing energy systems. NCSL also believes in the need for a translation and distribution system for international technical and marketing papers on renewable energy and that the U.S. should strive for excellence in the use, manufacturing and marketing of renewable energy resources and technologies.
Wave Energy and Tidal Energy
NCSL strongly believes that the United States should increasingly encourage all forms of renewable energy, including avenues of renewable energy that are not currently in the forefront; specifically wave energy, wave farms, and tidal energy.
NCSL requests that the federal government demonstrate global leadership and:
- Recognize the importance of wave energy and tidal energy to the future of the United States;
- Support the research and development of advances in wave energy and tidal energy technology, including the ability to tow and set up the equipment in the oceans through loan guarantees, grants and tax incentives;
- Research and create a “Wave Hub,” or similar infrastructure necessary for integrating wave- and tidal-energy production facilities into the national grid; and
- Encourage the demonstration and deployment of wave energy and tidal energy beyond the limited scope of R&D to ensure competitive and equitable access for wave- and tidal-energy projects and provide a fair opportunity to supply the nation with a reliable and renewable energy.
Education and Information
NCSL believes that it is essential that the nation, including its elementary and secondary school-age children, be made fully aware of energy use and costs, production processes, alternative energy resources, the importance of energy efficiency and conservation and the impact energy usage has on our environment. NCSL recommends that public and private sector education efforts be initiated, expanded and appropriately funded.
The federal government should promote both energy conservation education and fund research into conservation technologies while federal funding of energy conservation programs, including grants to states, should be enhanced. Such efforts should emphasize that significant economic and environmental benefits can be achieved through increased efficiency and conservation.
NCSL also believes that an essential step in formulating a balanced energy policy is to develop the necessary data and employ analytical methods and models to assess the efficiency, productivity costs and risks of the various energy choices available to the nation. As such, NCSL recommends the development of this analytic base by the Department of Energy, with assistance from the Departments of Defense, Treasury and State, and the Office of Management and Budget, in conjunction with the states.
NCSL believes that national transportation strategies must include public policy initiatives directed at broadening the efficient use of our energy resources. As such, policy initiatives should include, but not necessarily be limited to:
- Incentives and adequate funding for mass transit, high speed rail, magnetic levitation and other emerging transportation technologies.
- Fuel economy standards; and other market incentives for improving the energy efficiency of automobiles and light trucks.
- Federal, state, and local procurement policies favoring efficient vehicles.
- The encouragement of public-private partnerships.
Pollinator Health (Resolution)
A resolution of the National Conference of State Legislatures Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee, recognizing the importance of pollinators, stressing the negative ramifications of continued pollinator loss, and expressing support for federal efforts to protect pollinators.
WHEREAS, farmers depend on pollinator species such as bees, ants, butterflies, birds and bats to successfully produce approximately one third of all United States agricultural output; and
WHEREAS, in addition to food, pollinators also are vital to the production of fibers, edible oils, medicines, and other products; and
WHEREAS, urban and rural beekeepers play an important role in state and federal agricultural production; and
WHEREAS, agriculture is a key driver of rural and state economies and the tremendous productivity of United States farmers benefits the national economy and the country's international trade balance; and
WHEREAS, pollinator loss poses a significant threat to United States agriculture and the ability of our farmers to feed a growing world population; and
WHEREAS, pollinators are essential organisms in the ecosystems that provide biodiversity, recreation and enjoyment for people and habitat for wild plants and animals; and
WHEREAS, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recognizes the serious threats posed by pollinator loss and the key roles that the federal government plays as landowner and manager, regulator of pesticide products, and financial and technical assistance provider to farmers and other private landowners; NOW, THEREFORE,
BE IT RESOLVED by the NCSL Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee that it fully supports recent federal efforts to: develop best management practices and enhance pollinator habitat on federally owned or managed lands; incorporate pollinator health as a component of all future federal restoration and reclamation projects; revise guidance documents for designed landscapes and public buildings in order to incorporate pollinator-friendly practices; increase both the acreage and forage value of pollinator habitat in the Conservation Reserve Program and other federal conservation programs; provide technical assistance in collaboration with land-grant university-based cooperative extension services to federal departments and agencies, state, local, and tribal governments, and other entities and individuals including farmers and ranchers; assist states and state wildlife organizations, as appropriate, in identifying and implementing projects to conserve pollinators through the revision and implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans; assess the effects of systemic pesticides and parasites on bee and other pollinator health and take corresponding action, as appropriate, to protect pollinators from pesticides and parasites; and take immediate measures to support pollinators with proper habitat and nutrition during the current growing season and thereafter, including planting pollinator-friendly vegetation, increasing flower diversity in plantings, limiting mowing practices, and reduce or avoid, when necessary, the use of pesticides in sensitive pollinator habitats through the use of integrated vegetation, pest and colony management practices.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that states work closely with affected individuals and serve as laboratories of innovation in problem solving and policy making. Federal agencies should work closely with the states to align pollinator protection efforts and share best practices.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that NCSL and the states are willing partners in the federal government's pollinator protection efforts and will closely monitor federal actions and progress on these and related efforts of utmost importance to the states and our nation's food supply, urban and rural agriculture economies, environment, and natural resources.
Expires August 2015
Radioactive Waste Management
The federal government should work with NCSL and similar organizations in an effort to ensure that state legislators are included in all aspects of nuclear waste management strategies.
Low-Level Waste NCSL maintains that states are best prepared to license and regulate low-level waste disposal facilities that operate within their borders in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens. NCSL urges the federal government to continue to provide states both with support and flexibility in their efforts to dispose of low-level radioactive waste. States and state compacts should have authority to limit/allow the import and export of waste to and from their state or region. The federal government should adopt policies that clarify the responsibility of the federal government for federal waste, identify any federal waste that might be disposed at compact facilities, and ensure that any federal waste disposed of at compact or unaffiliated state facilities is subject to negotiation and the same laws, regulations, fees and requirements as nonfederal waste. The federal government should adopt clear policies with regard to naturally occurring and accelerator produced radioactive material waste and mixed wastes that respect states’ authority to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens. NCSL encourages the federal government to work with NCSL toward these ends.
High-Level Waste and Used Fuel Management
NCSL urges the federal government to expeditiously research, develop and license a high-level waste/used nuclear fuel disposal and consolidated interim storage facilities at technically and scientifically suitable sites. NCSL favors the creation of a public-private partnership to manage the back end of the nuclear cycle. The federal government should consult with states at each step of the process to ensure they play an integral role in the development of high-level waste/used nuclear fuel storage and disposal policies and obtain state, local and tribal government informed consent before locating permanent disposal or consolidated interim storage facilities. The federal government should provide fair and equitable compensation to state and local governments of host states. This should include funding of independent oversight activities by state executive and legislative branches so that the host state may participate in and conduct its own assessments of a proposed waste repository site and disposal technology. The federal government should comply with state laws and regulations during the process of site selection and characterization, and the construction, operation and decommissioning of permanent disposal or consolidated interim storage facilities.
Consolidated interim storage facilities should be licensed for a specific, limited period of time not to exceed 25 years. High-level waste/used nuclear fuel recycling should be a priority waste management strategy.
Annual funding from the Nuclear Waste Fund should be used for nuclear waste management and not subject to non-related federal discretionary spending. These funds should be isolated for developing permanent disposal and consolidated interim storage facilities.
Transportation of Radioactive Waste and Used Nuclear Fuel
NCSL urges the federal government to ensure safe and reliable modes of transportation of radioactive wastes. DOE should seek to enter into a memorandum of understanding with each corridor state to spell out responsibilities, liability, compensation, response time, cleanup, shipping, planning and other duties connected with emergency situations. State, local and tribal governments should be given funding and technical assistance for ongoing emergency preparedness, independent safety inspections of drivers, vehicles and shipping containers, training of state and local public safety officials along radioactive waste transportation routes, and state emergency management communications centers. State, local and tribal governments should be involved in a meaningful manner with regard to radiation emissions standards, cask designs, support facilities, transportation equipment and other elements of the transportation system. The federal government should respect state and tribal authority to assess reasonable fees which fund activities connected to the safe routine transportation of high-level waste/used nuclear fuel shipments. The federal government should assure transportation accident prevention through the use of superior drivers; carrier compliance with shipping contracts and all applicable federal, state and local regulations; independent safety inspections of drivers, vehicles and shipping containers; designation of safe parking areas during abnormal conditions; advance notice to the appropriate state and local agencies regarding shipments; and state access to information on shipments' status (i.e. real-time shipment tracking information where appropriate). Special criteria should be applied to the shipment of high-level waste/used nuclear fuel, including the development of guidelines for routing when shipping by rail, the use of dedicated trains moving at safe speeds for rail shipments, safety inspections at origin and enroute, and full-scale testing of casks used for used fuel transport.
Defense-Generated Transuranic (TRU) Waste
NCSL urges the federal government to appropriate adequate funds and expedite its responsibilities with regard to disposal of defense-generated transuranic (TRU) waste.
The federal government should implement a compensation program that recognizes equity considerations for state and local governments hosting a TRU waste repository and the federal government's obligation to provide such compensation. Host communities should be given assistance to subsidize and maintain an independent environmental monitoring and analytical laboratory to assure the character of the waste and ensure public confidence and safety.
Federal Facilities Cleanup
The states insist that the cleanup and disposal programs at the federal government’s network of nuclear weapons production facilities and national research labs advance in a safe, cost-effective and expeditious manner. The U.S. Department of Energy, the Department of Defense and any future owners should be subject to all state laws governing the cleanup of hazardous and radioactive waste materials. States are also committed to the cleanup and conversion of closed military and other federal facilities containing hazardous and radioactive waste materials to other beneficial uses as soon as possible. NCSL encourages the Department of Defense to lessen the impacts of closing these facilities by entering into partnerships with business and other private interests in order to turn them into sites of commerce and development.
All federal cleanup efforts must be conducted in full consultation with the affected state, tribal and local governments. An ongoing dialogue with the states should be maintained to ensure effective state involvement in critical cleanup related decisions. Cleanup work must be accomplished in strict compliance with federal facility agreements and federal and state laws governing the cleanup of hazardous and radioactive waste materials. The federal government should give state and federal regulators complete enforcement authority necessary to ensure such compliance.
The federal government should continue to use the contract review process to provide effective oversight and to evaluate integrated contracts for cost accountability. Cost-effective solutions must be developed and implemented by federal agencies to meet cleanup standards that protect human health and the environment. State, tribal and local governments must have a continuing, substantive role in the planning and oversight activities of the waste-management effort. The Department of Energy must recognize that cultural resources and artifacts may be present on DOE sites, and must partner with affected Indian tribes to identify and mitigate impacts to those resources.
Pollution prevention practices should be followed and whenever possible recovered materials should be recycled or reused. Action should be taken to manage federal radioactive, hazardous, and mixed waste sites as soon as possible, but safety and quality cleanup must remain the priority. Federal cleanup efforts should enforce priorities and meet milestones set forth in federal-state consent orders regarding the cleanup of specific sites. A fully funded and comprehensive long-term stewardship program for all of the federal facilities must be developed to ensure that communities are protected in perpetuity.
NCSL urges Congress and the administration to continue to work with NCSL and its members on alternatives to the REAL ID. NCSL supports efforts to extend existing deadlines until obstacles to implementation are addressed. In addition, NCSL supports the use of waivers by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, for states that have adopted other forms of compatible identification.
NCSL urges Congress and the Administration to work with NCSL and its members to adjust Title II of the REAL ID Act and develop solutions in conjunction with NCSL that recognize national security but do not impede the sovereignty of state licenses or place a federal agency or agent as a permanent and ongoing authority for determining state license uses and requirements.
A State-Federal Partnership
NCSL believes a vibrant state-federal partnership to strengthen rural America is essential. Therefore, NCSL encourages Congress and the Administration to support programs that:
- Build community capacity by strengthening state and regional programs to enhance the economic competitiveness and social viability of small-town and rural America.
- Leverage technology to overcome the obstacles to economic growth resulting from physical isolation of rural areas.
- Improve infrastructure by strengthening federal programs that support physical development, protect the environment and diversify rural economies.
- Provide job opportunities in small-town and rural America by increasing federal investment in revolving loan funds for small business development, making Small Business Administration loan programs and Economic Development Administration grants more accessible for rural businesses, and expanding programs that encourage the export of agricultural and other rural products.
- Improve rural living conditions by increasing residents' job skills, improving existing housing, encouraging homeownership, protecting the environment, providing human services programs for all ages, and assuring adequate health care for all rural citizens.
- Assist communities in transition by providing federal technical assistance and financial aid to regions impacted by federal government policies that produce sudden and sever economic dislocation, base closures, natural disasters, emergencies, long term economic and population decline, and inordinate or unanticipated growth.
- Support coordination of programs by encouraging collaboration among all federal, state, and local service providers.
NCSL believes these goals are best accomplished in the context of an integrated regional framework encouraging innovation and collaboration across economic sectors, political boundaries and program lines. A regional approach recognizes the importance of regions in global competitiveness and of leadership within regions. Federal investments should build on existing regional assets and take into account the diverse economic, demographic, geographic, and cultural realities of different regions.
Principles for Rural Policy
In promoting these goals, Congress and the Administration should recognize the following values as fundamental to achieving success:
Balanced and Sustainable Growth: National policies should recognize and respect the special needs of rural, urban and suburban regions. As such, Federal programs must continue to encourage development in areas of the country that have experienced persistent poverty.
Use of Existing Programs and Institutions: Strengthening and reforming existing programs should take priority over the creation of new ones. NCSL supports the concept of the National Rural Development Partnership, Initiative on Rural America, and other efforts to achieve better coordination and collaboration among federal agencies. NCSL supports efforts to consolidate federal rural development and credit programs and provide states with greater flexibility in program administration. NCSL supports changes to the non-entitlement Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to permit broader discretion in the use of CDBG funds.
Strategic Planning: Priority should be given to federal programs, that help build capacity in small-town and rural America by bringing together federal, state, local and private resources for economic development.
Infrastructure Development: Modern infrastructure investments are essential for rural communities to overcome geographic barriers and to spur economic growth in small towns and rural America.
Job Creation and Small Business Assistance: Agriculture and natural resource industries such as mining and forestry must be sustained as essential components of strong rural economies. At the same time, a diversified economic base is the key to the prosperity of small-town and rural America. NCSL believes that locally controlled revolving loan funds have proven over time to be effective ways to bridge the gap between the need and availability of credit for rural entrepreneurs.
Rural, Urban, Suburban Collaboration: NCSL endorses federal support of convenings and initiatives that promote understanding and collaboration between rural, urban, and suburban policymakers and their communities.
National Awareness: NCSL supports the creation of a White House level policy group, which would allow stakeholders to give their input, that coordinates approaches to rural issues across federal departmental lines.
The Federal Role in Rural Economic Development
All levels of government must join together immediately in a comprehensive national effort to stem the tide of decline in rural communities. This objective can be accomplished by continued federal efforts to revitalize the agricultural, mining and forestry industries and by new initiatives to diversify the economies of these rural communities. In seeking to achieve economic diversification, special focus must be placed upon the search for an effective strategy incorporating economic development, market diversification, venture capital, workforce development training, intercity transportation, education, health and housing facilities, technical assistance and infrastructure components, at a minimum.
Maximum flexibility should be given to enable state government officials to maximize program resources by tailoring them to the needs of individual areas and directing them to the areas of highest priority. Whenever possible, federal agency service delivery points should be consolidated to facilitate easy utilization by rural residents.
Furthermore, a critical review of new and existing federal programs must be conducted to determine if statutory or regulatory requirements are placing an unnecessary or costly compliance burden upon rural communities or are contributing to the decline in the quality of life in rural areas. Unjustified, unreimbursed mandates or program requirements should be promptly eliminated.
The Extension Service and agricultural experiment stations are important components in the effort to restore economic vitality to rural America. The National Conference of State Legislatures, therefore, urges Congress and the Administration to support adequate funding for these vital organizations.
State legislators must be full and equal partners in all program development and implementation activities. Furthermore, the sanctity of state programs must be maintained; the federal government must work with the states and local governments to ensure that its investment decisions support state and local development priorities.
To facilitate the development of an effective rural economic development and diversification strategy, the National Conference of State Legislatures calls upon the federal government to join in the creation of:
An agreement on roles and relationships among state and federal agencies and other participants;
- A mechanism for identifying opportunities for joint investments targeted to rural development concerns and priorities;
- A forum for dealing with interagency and intergovernmental obstacles to timely use of resources;
- A vehicle for conducting assessments of rural conditions and progress toward accomplishment of rural development goals; and
- A vehicle for conducting assessments of the impact of federal farm policy on rural communities.
Rural Investment Programs
NCSL believes that locally driven approaches for rural investment that incorporate the participation of elected officials, businesses and non-profits, and include regional economic development strategies tailored to local needs and opportunities will best allow rural citizens to chart the future of their communities.
Rural Development Block Grants
NCSL supports efforts to consolidate federal rural development and credit programs and provide states with greater flexibility in program administration.
NCSL is committed to working with the federal government to develop carefully crafted programs and policies that promote and fund rural development while protecting rural America’s uniqueness.
Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT)
The National Conference of State Legislatures recognizes the shared responsibility of states, counties and the federal government for the management of public lands. The PILT program gives counties a small payment per acre of federally managed land, which only partially offsets county costs of supporting federally managed lands in the county. In many cases, payments are inadequate to support the growth of recreation, travel and tourism on federally managed lands. Inadequate payments have strained some county budgets and undermined the intergovernmental partnership between counties, states and the federal government.
The NCSL supports federal efforts to:
- reform the PILT program to create a more predictable, fair and flexible system that accurately reflects the fiscal effects of federally managed lands on state and local governments;
- provide full funding for the PILT program; and
- provide a more flexible payment system.
NCSL supports authorization for the transfer of land of equivalent value from the federal government to states or counties in lieu of monetary payment, consistent with state statutes and practice. Clearly, such payments would only be appropriate in cases where the federal government, states and counties have been in close consultation and are in agreement on the terms of transfer.
Solving America's Long Term Transportation Funding Crisis (Resolution)
Revenues for our transportation system continue to decline with vehicles becoming ever more fuel efficient and changing travel patterns nationwide. The Highway Trust Fund is estimated to become insolvent in 2015 while state gas taxes continue to show diminishing returns. The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated America’s surface transportation infrastructure faces a funding gap of about $94 billion a year based on current spending levels.
To respond to this well-documented funding crisis currently impacting America’s surface transportation system, the National Conference of State Legislatures urges Congress to support the creation of $20 million program, with no more than $2 million available for allocation to any one state, to support state-level pilot programs to explore transportation funding alternatives to fuel taxes.
Expires August 2015
Surface Transportation Federalism
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) calls on Congress to work closely with states to develop a shared, long-term vision for financing and funding surface transportation systems that will enhance the nation’s prosperity and the quality of life of all Americans.
The federal government plays a vital role in supporting a national surface transportation system that meets national defense needs, addresses fairly and equally the mobility needs of all Americans and facilitates interstate commerce. NCSL supports the continuation and preservation of a federal-aid surface transportation program. The federal program should direct spending to national priorities while allowing for state and insular area flexibility in local and regional variations. It is also essential that the federal-aid surface transportation program incorporate requirements and foster goals of other national policies that impact transportation decision-making.
Recent federal reauthorizations have recognized the unique contributions of each transportation mode to the productivity of the states and the nation, and to the ability of this nation to compete globally in the emerging and existing international economies. These laws contemplate an integrated transportation system for the movement of both goods and people, with increased emphasis on adopting technologies that improve productivity. NCSL urges Congress to provide states enhanced programming flexibility to meet a multitude of national goals. States should have maximum flexibility in deciding how to generate and leverage transportation revenues and how to use state and federal dollars. The ability of states to maintain flexibility in decision making and comply with environmental and other mandates is dependent upon regulatory flexibility as well as adequate and reliable funding.
The surface transportation system in the United States needs a new vision to guide it beyond the Interstate Highway era into the 21st century and the needs and challenges that lie ahead. Congress should look at surface transportation anew, authorizing a new program that better meets current and future needs for interstate mobility.
Congress must clearly articulate this new national vision for surface transportation. In doing so, Congress should consider the following as federal objectives:
- Interstate commerce and freight mobility,
- Interstate movement of people,
- National defense and homeland security,
- Environmental and air quality preservation and improvements,
- Research and innovation, and
- Economic productivity.
Congress should focus federal programs and funds on these interstate goals. In doing so, Congress should heed the Tenth Amendment and not intervene in or interfere with state-specific transportation priorities.
Funding and Financing
A federal trust fund, financed by user fees, should be retained as the primary method of funding federal-aid surface transportation programs. It must provide states a sustained, reliable source of transportation funding. It is critical that the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) retain spending firewalls that ensure that user fees will be deposited in the HTF to be used on surface transportation and will not be subject to non-transportation federal discretionary spending. NCSL supports states having maximum flexibility in the use of funds they receive from the HTF. Additional surface transportation financing and investment priorities include the following.
- User fees previously collected and diverted from the HTF must be reclaimed.
- Transit agencies, including commuter rail operations, should be exempt from federal fuel or energy taxes.
- Unobligated revenues should not be allowed to accumulate in the HTF. Moreover, federal highway spending should not be artificially reduced so that HTF revenues will accumulate unspent, thereby appearing to lower the federal deficit.
- Annual appropriations should equal authorized spending levels. Obligation ceilings should be set and maintained to reflect gross receipts, plus interest earned.
- Any federal user fee or container fee assessed for transportation security or infrastructure should provide for state flexibility in project selection and may include private sector input when programming projects funded by a security or infrastructure user fee or container fee.
- User fees designated for deposit in the HTF should be made available for flexible transportation usage by states. States should have flexibility in the use of funds for intercity passenger rail service, including Amtrak. The federal match should encourage state efforts in specific programs of national significance, but not discourage flexibility in state or insular area transference of categorical funds. Despite separate federal authorizing legislation for Amtrak, Congress must ensure that surface transportation authorizing legislation acknowledges and fully supports the role of passenger rail for ensuring interstate mobility. States that invest in or otherwise support passenger rail services to complement highway mobility options should be rewarded and encouraged.
- Any examination undertaken on the advisability and feasibility of establishing a federal capital budgeting program should preserve the ability of states to set surface transportation infrastructure priorities.
- Federal formulas designed to distribute discretionary highway funds should consider all state, insular area, and local efforts to fund highways and not be limited to fuel taxes raised.
- An increase in federal highway transportation funding is needed in the short-term to provide sufficient funding for the next authorization to meet the new vision and until a new, more stable long-term funding mechanism for surface transportation can be put in place. Any fees or taxes imposed on carbon-based fuels used by vehicles should be recognized as a traditional source for transportation funding and should remain dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund. Congress must migrate the Highway Trust Fund from a gas tax to a new national funding stream. In order to accomplish this, Congress must examine innovative ways that capture all system users. Congress should encourage pilot programs in states for experimentation with approaches, methods and mechanisms. Any system should ensure the privacy of users.
- Apart from the existing Highway Trust Fund flows for transit, NCSL discourages expansion of federal-local funding streams without appropriate coordination with state legislatures as these complicate state-local relationships, financial arrangements, and state match expectations for transportation programs.
- Congress should continue to encourage and expand incentive-based programs, such as the Urban Partnerships program, to spur local and regional transportation innovation in full coordination with state authorities and to promote the use of tolling, congestion pricing, public transit, telecommuting, real-time traffic and other advanced technologies (also known as intelligent transportation systems), and other strategies in a comprehensive approach to achieve interstate mobility goals through urban congestion reduction.
- All funding and financing options must be available to state legislatures for state and federal-aid programs. All current federal restrictions on states' authority to toll should be removed so that states can optimize resources for capacity expansion, operations and maintenance while ensuring free flow of goods and people. Tolling, value-pricing and public-private partnerships (PPPs) should remain state provinces and are not appropriate federal funding and financing mechanisms.
- Federal guidelines should be designed to accommodate private sector support. The level of private sector participation is best determined by state and local authorities, and private participation should not be a prerequisite for receiving federal funds. Statutory or regulatory barriers to state and locally-granted revenues should be removed. States should continue to have flexibility in creating legislative and programmatic frameworks for public-private partnerships (PPPs), and full authority to select and engage in PPP projects.
- Congress should not mandate or prescribe state use of toll revenues or tolling mechanisms, though Congress may seek to incentivize states to avoid redirection of toll revenues to non-transportation uses.
- Congress should continue Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles (GARVEE), private activity bond, and State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) programs. Congress should expand credit-based and loan guarantee programs to incentivize private sector investment—particularly for freight mobility by rail, highway and waterway—in projects sponsored by the public sector.
- Congressional earmarks on transportation spending or for transportation projects should represent additional funding, should be distributed from non-formula funds, and should not redirect base funding. Earmarks should fit within a national objective as defined in the surface transportation program's new vision and must appear in a state DOT's plan.
NCSL endorses the U.S. Department of Transportation’s goal of deploying advanced technologies known as intelligent transportation systems for consumers of passenger and freight transportation across the nation. Intelligent Transportation Systems are advanced wireless technologies that maximize the safety, mobility and environmental performance of the surface transportation system. These services should be integrated, interoperable, intermodal and voluntary.
NCSL recognizes that the private sector and the federal government should lead in the development and bringing to market of reliable and affordable ITS. The federal government should also set national standards for original equipment manufacturers to install the necessary technology so that states can take full advantage of the efficiencies and safety benefits of intelligent transportation systems. Congress should require the Secretary of Transportation to initiate a rulemaking proceeding that new motor vehicles be equipped with platforms for interoperable systems that enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-roadside communications for the purposes of active safety and electronic tolling and tax collection and to provide a means of accelerating the deployment of this equipment in existing vehicles.
Congress should incentivize states to explore and deploy technology for intelligent infrastructure, making it a high priority and performance measurement benchmark in the restructured federal surface transportation program. Privacy protections must be developed and incorporated into all policies and practices governing use of intelligent transportation systems and technologies. ITS should not be mandated except for legitimate governmental purposes. Any information collected with such technology should be governed by state laws.
The federal government should encourage states to cooperate with the private sector in the development of real-time traffic information systems.
Congress must work with state legislators to establish in the next authorization a robust and cooperative state-federal system to set system plans and priorities for federal investment. Transportation program plans developed by entities other than those created by the states must be coordinated with state legislatures to ensure that proposals fit into state programmatic and funding plans.
The federal government is uniquely situated to identify and collect data of importance to the development of, maintenance of, and planning for a national transportation system. Congress should incentivize states to share data with the federal government and not use mandates to elicit participation in data collection and analysis.
NCSL supports a negotiated rule-making led by U.S. Department of Transportation, or another collaborative process congressionally mandated and facilitated by the Transportation Research Board or American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), in which NCSL and state legislatures are fully represented to determine the necessary level of and standards for uniformity among states in data collection efforts.
NCSL encourages the federal government to establish a cooperative process through which performance measures can be crafted for gauging the success of programs. Federal funding should not be directly linked to performance measures; instead, a pilot program should be established in which states can voluntarily participate to gain incentives such as additional funding or reduced regulatory burdens upon successful deployment and use of performance measures. Performance measures should be framed as goals for which states may determine the specific measures and benchmarks.
Federal monitoring and compliance standards should accurately reflect compliance effort and unique state circumstances.
Freight and Interstate Commerce
Ensuring the safe and timely movement of goods across the nation is an appropriate federal transportation priority. Robust state-federal consultation should evaluate freight flows and collaboratively plan the routes and development necessary to maintain and expand the highway freight corridors.
Rail capacity expansion should be coordinated with the states to ensure intermodal cooperation and maximum public benefit.
The federal government should incentivize states to explore methods of separating highway freight traffic from passenger traffic for the purposes of efficiently moving interstate commerce and public safety.
Federal engagement with, and investment through, the states to ensure effective and efficient movement of freight through ports or other commerce choke-points is appropriate.
The federal government has a role to play in ensuring that national environmental policy meshes with national transportation policy while assuring efficient and cost-effective approaches to both goals.
- Efforts to streamline regulatory review processes must continue so that construction projects can again be realized on-time and on-budget. Congress should allow and enhance states’ programmatic permitting.
- Incentives to states to achieve environmental quality standards through transportation projects should replace prescriptive federal regulation and punitive funding actions.
NCSL supports a continued federal role in helping to set national performance and safety goals. Safety programs should be expanded to incorporate emerging safety issues while respecting state sovereignty.
Federal transportation safety programs should promote comprehensive safety programs in the states. NCSL opposes the use of federal sanctions or redirection penalties to enforce federal safety standards. Federal mandates that are enforced through the use of "reprogramming" sanctions should be repealed. Any existing federal compliance standards should reflect overall state effort to promote safety.
Research and Innovation
NCSL acknowledges that federal leadership and investment in transportation related research and innovation is needed and appropriate. In particular, NCSL supports federal research that promotes fuel efficiency, alternative fuels, high-mileage vehicles, safety and technology. Findings and best practices identified through federal research should be shared fully with states in an unbiased, nonpartisan and scientific manner.
Transportation is an important service program that provides the infrastructure upon which American Indian tribes’ initiatives can be achieved. NCSL recognizes the unique and extensive transportation funding needs on Indian lands. In an effort to ensure that these needs are adequately addressed, NCSL supports a direct planning relationship between Indian Nations and state departments of transportation. NCSL further supports the continuation of the Federal Lands Program and its work with Indian reservations.
Our Nation's Rail System
The National Conference of State Legislatures recognizes viable passenger and freight railroad systems are essential to achieving a balanced intermodal transportation system and ensuring personal mobility, the free flow of commerce and national security. Rail must have the same financial security provided the other modes of transportation, such as highways, transit, aviation and waterways. NCSL strongly supports a dedicated source of federal funding for passenger rail service.
The increasing mix of freight, commuter and intercity passenger rail on shared tracks and rights-of-way demands that concerns over liability and costs be rationally reviewed within the context of federal legislation. Fair and equitable standards for assessing costs, risks and priority usage are a necessary component of furthering the nation's rail network for passengers and freight.
Passenger rail progress should be complementary to—not in conflict with—freight rail development. Freight railroads should be fully compensated for the use of their property by passenger trains.
States should retain the ability to enact laws that govern railroad issues. NCSL encourages Congress to repeal provisions in federal law that exempt railroad companies from certain local and state laws.
Financing and Tax Issues
NCSL supports efforts by Congress to provide investment tax credits for railroad infrastructure investments that expand capacity for the movement of both passengers and freight. Without private sector rail investment in infrastructure to accommodate increasing demand for goods movement, freight increases will necessarily be diverted to highways, further congesting and damaging America's already challenged highway infrastructure. Anticipated future revenues will be inadequate to allow the railroads to privately finance all capacity improvements required even to maintain their current market share of freight traffic.
NCSL also urges the federal government to continue to support state flexibility in financing rail service in states. NCSL favors a range of options including grants, guaranteed loans, tax exempt bonds, public-private partnerships and targeted federal investment. The present state volume cap on bond financing with exemption from federal taxation imposes an artificial restraint on the use of such bonds for rail projects and should be eliminated.
NCSL further urges the federal government to allow states flexibility to use a portion of their allocation from the Highway Trust Fund to finance rail projects and service.
NCSL urges the federal government to continue the tax credit for short line and regional railroads as an important incentive for upgrading and modernizing inadequate track and bridge structures. This support is critical to aid states in maintaining essential branchline services that otherwise would be eliminated.
NCSL also urges the federal government to fund railroad infrastructure modernization grant programs such as “Capital Grants for Class II and Class III Railroads” program at 49 USC §22301 and the “Capital Grants for Rail Line Relocation” program at 49 USC §20154.
Federal laws that preempt the role of state courts by giving federal courts jurisdiction to establish the valuation of property for state and local tax purposes, or that give selected classes of state and local taxpayers procedural and substantive privileges unavailable to most taxpayers, offend principles both of federalism and equity.
NCSL urges the federal government to provide federal highway safety incentive grants to states to advance innovative pilot programs. These programs would increase enforcement of grade crossing traffic laws at both active and passive crossings.
Passenger Rail and High-Speed Rail
Successful evolution of an intercity passenger rail network throughout the United States, including dedicated high-speed corridors, will require cooperation among all levels of government. States will play a significant role in developing the high-speed and intercity passenger rail system, including developing state rail plans, providing funding and financing, conducting studies and analyses, securing rights-of-way, materials testing, construction, acquisition, inspections and determining where the train system interfaces with state transportation facilities.
NCSL urges the federal government to provide all possible assistance to increase the states’ capacity to meet their expanded role in rail planning and evaluation under the provisions of the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. NCSL especially urges the federal government to increase the availability of voluntary planning and evaluation tools and to provide ongoing, permanent and dedicated funding to assist states with the planning and development of high-speed and intercity passenger rail. States require assistance in establishing cost estimates for building and operating high-speed and intercity passenger rail systems; benchmarking to gauge proposed projects and improvements; and developing and implementing key performance measures.
State legislators should be included in developing any federal guidelines for state models for rail governance and oversight. Any federal guidelines should continue to provide the states maximum flexibility over rail issues.
Amtrak – The continued economic viability of Amtrak and other passenger rail providers is in the national interest. Federal funding should account for existing revenue deficiencies for Amtrak and other passenger rail providers and provide adequate funding for a capital improvement program.
Intercity passenger rail – State and local support of intercity passenger rail systems has been critical to alleviating congestion, mitigating environmental concerns, and providing a feeder system to Amtrak. Federal support for these efforts is imperative. The federal government should provide a funding source for the states to implement cost-effective, efficient passenger rail as it does for other modes of transportation—motor vehicle, transit, air and waterway.
Commuter rail – Commuter rail facilities using track owned by private freight companies have become an important part of the transportation system in urban areas. Use of track by commuter rail on an appropriate priority basis should be negotiated with the owner of the railroad track.
High-Speed Rail – NCSL urges the federal government to support the states in meeting their expanded role in high-speed and intercity passenger rail and to facilitate interstate coordination as well as relationships among diverse stakeholders. NCSL also urges the federal government to support and facilitate the efficient integration of the high-speed rail network with local transportation systems to ensure the success of both. NCSL further recognizes that railroads over whose rights-of-way many high-speed rail authorities will operate have a legitimate concern over increased exposure to liability as a result of high-speed rail operations. This liability issue must be addressed by Congress in the context of high-speed rail legislation. NCSL requests that state legislators be included in ongoing cooperative agreements to explore solutions to this problem. The long-term goal in certain corridors should be track that is dedicated to high-speed service exclusively, in accordance with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s definition of high-speed rail. The federal government should facilitate the steps to reach that goal over time.
Research and Development – The federal government should continue to support research and development of advanced passenger rail technologies. Federal research should provide best practices and strategic assistance to states negotiating with freight-rail ownership of rights of way, in order to enhance on-time performance, frequency, speed and safety of passenger and freight facilities operating on the same track. Federal policy should encourage U.S. technology development and production while incorporating all other technologies.
Planning and Evaluation – The ongoing development by the Federal Railroad Administration of the first National Rail Plan in the United States—in collaboration with the states and consistent with state rail plans, under the provisions of the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008—is encouraging. A comprehensive strategic plan establishing clear, long-range national goals and defining stakeholders’ roles is necessary to build and strengthen an integrated, cohesive, and optimized interstate high-speed and intercity passenger rail network. NCSL urges the federal government to continue work on this key policy document, and requests that state legislators be included in its development.
The states and the federal government have an interest in supporting an efficiently managed and well-maintained national freight railroad. It is a federal responsibility to ensure a competitive environment for the transport of freight. NCSL recognizes the interest of the states in preserving rail lines that are essential to local and regional commerce.
- Regulation – NCSL generally supports efforts designed to improve the regulatory climate of the freight rail industry by reducing the number of regulatory restraints that adversely affect the industry's economic performance. The regulatory needs of the railroad industry should be balanced with the captive shippers who have no alternative means of transportation available. NCSL also supports efforts to improve the regulatory climate of passenger rail.
- Other – The right of federal eminent domain should be granted only when there is a compelling national need for an alternative means of freight transportation.
Safety and Security
NCSL supports a continued federal role in setting national performance and safety goals. NCSL urges Congress to provide incentive funding to promote comprehensive rail safety programs in the states.
- NCSL urges the federal government to fully fund increased security measures needed in the passenger rail system, such as security checkpoints prior to boarding, luggage inspection and improved security of rail tunnels, rail bridges, rail switching areas and other areas identified by the Secretary of Homeland Security as posing significant risks to public safety and security and the movement of interstate commerce. This effort should take into account the impact that any proposed security measure might have on providing rail service, deploying chemical and biological weapon detection equipment, dealing with the immediate and long-term economic impact of measures that may be required to address those risks, and training employees in terrorism response activities.
- Trespassing – NCSL recognizes that the vast number of injuries and fatalities associated with the railroad industry are due to trespassing incidents. The role of the federal government in this arena is appropriately one of conducting research and facilitating public awareness of the danger and the illegality of trespassing under state law.
- Grade crossings – NCSL recognizes the inherent risks of highway-rail grade crossings where motorists disregard even active warning devices and gates. Federal funding through the Section 130 program should be continued and increased to adequately compensate states and to provide states with incentives for reaching federal standards for grade crossing warning devices. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is encouraged to finance a long-term national grade crossing safety awareness campaign. Federal preemption has effectively limited the role and responsibility of states over most aspects of rail transportation. However, state law has been preserved in some areas related to tort liability in accidents involving railroads; responsibility of motorists and pedestrians in yielding to rail traffic; and overall decisions on grade warning devices or closings. NCSL strongly opposes efforts by the federal government to preempt traditional state authority in these areas, to replace state statutes governing violations by motor vehicles and penalties for failing to yield to an oncoming train, or to establish numeric standards for crossing closings to be accomplished by states.
- Research – Additional grade crossing research should be conducted in such areas as driver response to existing warning devices, improved crossing warning devices, low-cost active warning devices, off-track train detection systems, train conspicuity (reflectorization), locomotive conspicuity (lights), and audible warning technology (whistles/horns).
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) believes that the following principles should be followed during the reauthorization and subsequent amendments of waste management programs and policy to minimize the present and future threat to human health and the environment:
To assure the timely and effective clean-up of contaminated sites, NCSL recommends that the following principles should be followed during reauthorization of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly referred to as "Superfund:"
- The federal government should grant states a greater role in all aspects of Superfund decision making.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be allowed to delegate federal program responsibilities to states. EPA should be expected to authorize states to operate a state Superfund program in lieu of the federal program. Reasonable costs of state operation of the program should be reimbursed from the federal Superfund Trust or other federal sources should the Trust’s funds be depleted or exhausted. State delegation and state authorization should be allowed at both federal and non-federal sites.
- States should be authorized to participate in decision making and remedy selection at federal facilities that are Superfund sites.
- EPA should retain authority to engage in emergency response actions at any location it deems necessary but only after appropriate consultation with the state concerned.
- Congress should be mindful that the forced allocation of state resources to National Priority List (NPL) sites comes at the expense of state efforts to remediate non-NPL sites and should limit the state "cost-share" at Superfund sites to 10% of remedial action costs and 10% of total operation and maintenance costs. States should be reimbursed for the state cost share to the extent the federal government receives reimbursement for Superfund site cleanup.
- Risk assessment and cost\benefit analysis should be considered during the remedy selection process while also fully factoring in risks posed to sensitive subpopulations. Cleanup decision and remedy selection should be determined on the basis of public health and environmental protection and should not be pre-determined by requirements that mandate the selection of "lowest cost" cleanup options.
- Permanent solutions to improperly disposed of hazardous waste should be accorded preference over attempts to control access or exposure to such waste.
- Codification of EPA's administrative policy to establish presumptive, standardized cleanup remedies for sites that have common characteristics. Cleanup standards based on end use must specify “how clean is clean” to streamline the remedy selection process.
Review of Remedy Selection
- Any legislation should assume that final remedy selections, including a record of decision (RODs), consent agreements and allocations of costs will not be reopened unless essential to protect the health and safety of the public.
Compliance with State Laws, Regulations, and Standards
- No state laws or regulations should be preempted. States should continue to be allowed to impose stricter state cleanup standards at sites. Compliance with state laws and regulations should continue to be required and should never be conditioned upon state governments paying the costs of such compliance.
- The current retroactive, strict, joint and several liability scheme should be maintained unless a fairer and more cost-effective alternative can be developed. Any new liability scheme should maintain the "polluter pays" principle and provide, at a minimum, the existing level of private sector resources for cleanups. The private sector should remain the primary funding source for site cleanups. There should be no increase in the public share of funding for site cleanups.
- Any review of the current liability scheme should recognize the fact that 23 states have liability schemes that closely reflect or mimic CERCLA's "polluter pays" approach to site remediation financing.
- Non-responsible landowners, including state and local governments, renters, or lessees, and institutions or persons financing cleanup activities at a site previously contaminated by hazardous waste or petroleum products should be provided with liability protection. Protection should not be provided to entities for hazardous waste releases that occur on the property during their involvement.
- Final liability settlements should not be reopened.
- Congress should not limit or cap additions to the National Priority List (NPL) except to codify EPA's current policy of obtaining state concurrence to add new sites to the NPL.
- The Superfund taxes on industry that finance the Superfund Trust Fund should be reauthorized. The aggregate tax should be least equivalent to that allowed under the original taxing authority.
Fund Financed Emergency Response Actions
- The current limit on Fund financed emergency response actions should be raised from one year or $2 million to two years or $4 million.
Voluntary Response Programs
- Congress should create incentives for responsible parties to engage in voluntary cleanup efforts.
Natural Resource Damages
- States should be given the opportunity to assume primary management and enforcement responsibility for natural resource damage programs.
- States should be allowed to use Superfund Trust monies to assess natural resource damages to address discharges and releases pursuant to CERCLA and to remedy such damages.
- Congress should remain mindful that states are heavily dependent upon their groundwater reserves. In the absence of State or Federal standards for contaminants, groundwater cleanup remedies under Superfund should be consistent with the applicable use of that water.
- States should be given the opportunity to recover all costs, including administrative costs, associated with a claim for natural resource damages against those parties responsible for the damage. Trustees should be allowed to recover non-use and lost use costs.
- Funding should be made available to states from Superfund for natural resource damage assessment and restoration.
- Congress should not federally mandate a statute of limitation period for natural resource damages. In addition, Congress should not place arbitrary liability "caps" on restoration budgets or damages resulting from the destruction or impairment of natural resources.
- The federal government should be subject to all state laws governing the cleanup of waste materials and be held responsible for payment of natural resource damages to states for Federally caused damages. Payment by federal facilities for state natural resource damages should not come from the Superfund.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Reform
Recognizing the need to manage solid waste in an environmentally, economically, and politically acceptable manner, the importance of a state-federal partnership and in support of the objectives of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), NCSL recommends:
- That the federal government should significantly increase technical assistance to state and local governments in developing comprehensive source reduction, source separation, reuse and recycling plans while fully recognizing the primacy of state and local governments in solid waste management. Due to this primacy, the federal government should restrict its role to reviewing these plans by setting performance standards.
- The revision of regulation, tariffs and transportation policies to remove artificial price supports in order to create regulatory parity between recyclable and reusable material and virgin material.
- Full implementation of the provisions of RCRA requiring the federal government to promulgate regulations for federal procurement of recycled products. The federal government should give priority consideration to the purchase of reusable and recycled products and allow a temporary price differential, where applicable, for goods made from recycled materials.
- Congress should provide for a limited waiver of the Commerce Clause to provide states with the greatest authority possible to manage solid waste. Such a waiver should allow states to restrict imported waste and to allow restrictions on the exportation of waste, including the imposition of differential fees.
- That funds received from any permits authorized by federal law and issued by states for purposes of management of solid waste shall be expended as determined by state legislatures.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) should be required to adopt policies that encourage both the hazardous waste content of products and industrial hazardous waste by-products be kept to a minimum, and that hazardous waste materials be reused, recycled or made non-hazardous whenever possible.
- The work of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) should be supported and expanded. Such studies and work should be funded through disbursements from the Superfund Trust Fund or through appropriations from the general revenue fund. Any information gathered from either federal or private sources should be subject to peer review and made available as needed.
- The federal government should be required to adopt hazardous waste reduction policies applicable to federal activities and facilities to reduce waste and develop new and improved waste elimination technologies. Such policies should include federal procurement guidelines that permit suppliers to modify their manufacturing processes to accommodate pollution prevention practices.
- Congress should adopt policies that promote the availability of affordable environmental liability insurance, including economic incentives for industry to establish its own voluntary insurance pool or insurance fund.
- States should be allowed flexibility in devising their hazardous waste management plans and regulations, including the setting of priorities.
- The importation of hazardous waste from foreign countries should be controlled through treaties and other agreements.
- Federal policies and agreements that decrease the dumping of hazardous waste in developing countries should be established.
- Health effects studies conducted by the federal government should be comprehensive and based on established exposure standards and measurements and monitoring methodology to be admissible as evidence in victims' compensation court cases.
- The disincentives for reuse and recycling of electronics scrap or e-scrap must be examined and mitigated by all relevant stakeholders.
- NCSL encourages the full cooperation and assistance of the federal government in state efforts to promote responsible product stewardship and encourage the development of an infrastructure necessary to support the widespread recovery of a broad range of electronic equipment. Any legislative or regulatory action taken at the federal level must recognize the importance of a state-federal partnership in managing the current stream of end-of-life electronics and promote future product stewardship of electronic equipment.
Oil Pollution Act of 1990 Reform
To assure the avoidance of oil spills and ensure the timely, effective containment and clean-up of said spills to minimize environmental damage, NCSL recommends:
- Continued efforts toward full implementation of all provisions of the Oil Pollution Act, particularly provisions dealing with spill prevention including, but not limited to, staffing standards, vessel traffic service systems, alcohol and drug policy, double hulls, equipping and inspection of vessels, pilotage requirements, and provisions for navigational safety.
- Adequate funding of the U.S. Coast Guard to assure full implementation of their responsibility under the Act such as periodic inspections of vessels and implementation of the national planning and response system, including, but not limited to, contingency plans, response units and local area communities.
- Full implementation of the preparation of response plans by tank vessels and onshore and offshore facilities, and also of the requirement for bulk vessels to carry clean-up equipment.
- Full implementation of the research and development provisions of the Act including the Coast Guard's conduct of oil pollution minimization projects. To prevent duplication, NCSL calls on the federal agencies with research funding to coordinate research projects with the states.
- Continued preservation of states' authority to impose additional liability or other requirements with respect to oil spills and removal activities and to establish state oil spill funds and penalties.
- Safety and operational requirements for vessels apply, where appropriate, to barges as well.
- Support for the federal responder immunity standard.
- Clarification of jurisdiction of federal and state natural resources trustees in areas pertaining to oil spill prevention, response and cleanup.
- The Federal Government streamline authorization of states’ plans and to expedite state action to prevent and clean up spilled oil during times of crisis.
- The Federal liability limit for damages resulting from oil spills should be removed.
Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund Reform
NCSL urges Congress to appropriate the entire amount of money annually deposited in the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund. NCSL also urges Congress to expand the program to include hard rock mines, incorporate funding from all mining activity and require the U.S. Department of Energy to clean up abandoned uranium mines used for defense purposes.
Jurisdiction for federal water projects is scattered throughout agencies of the federal government and committees of Congress. The National Conference of State Legislatures sees a need for clearer, more coordinated and more consistent federal policies. These policies, however, should recognize and build upon the constitutions, statutes, policies and programs of the states as the fundamental basis for a truly national effort toward better water resources management. The federal government should recognize that water resources policy can and must be developed at the state level. The appropriate role for the federal government should be to provide technical, research and financial assistance to the states at their request.
NCSL endorses the following principles:
- Primary authority and responsibility for water resources management functions, including planning, development and regulation, rest with the states and their delegated interstate agencies. Water resources management, wetland protection, coastal zone management, and soil conservation projects should be clearly delineated by Congress as the primary responsibility of the states and their delegated interstate agencies, with federal oversight.
- A national water conservation initiative should be undertaken to encourage water conservation at the federal, state and local levels. Functions, such as navigation and flood control and other issues at the prerogative of the state, should continue to be shared with the federal government to the degree appropriate. Federal policy must recognize and respect the rights of the states to administer their individual water laws and to manage their water resources.
- The role of the federal government is four-fold: (1) to establish a framework of national objectives developed in cooperation with the states; (2) to provide assistance to the states in the development of programs to meet state needs within such a framework; (3) to be consistent with such state programs to the maximum extent possible when undertaking direct federal actions pursuant to the national interest; and (4) to coordinate agency activities through a national coordinating entity reporting directly to the President and with provision for adequate state and public input.
- The responsibility of the federal government is to establish, in full cooperation with states and other appropriate interests, national objectives for the protection, management, restoration, development, and use of water and related resources to meet national economic, environmental and social objectives and to assist in implementing such policies in federal actions and through assistance and support for state actions.
- The essential steps toward orderly, efficient and balanced water resources management are to recognize the primary responsibility of the state and to put each state in the position to secure, in cooperation with local governments, coherent water management strategies.
Federal policy should be directed toward strengthening the capacity of the state to act as the integrator and manager of all programs affecting the water resources of the state. To do so effectively, states need:
- Realistic and dependable financial support to integrate management activities through expansion of provisions for state assistance;
- Full funding of authorized programs consistent with congressional intent;
- A common platform for compiling and accessing data across programs and agencies that is available to local, state, interstate and federal stakeholders; and
- Assurance that direct federal actions will be consistent with state programs, responsive to national policy, and carefully evaluated against mutually agreed upon standards.
- Federal actions, projects and programs must be consistent with adopted state and interstate water and related resources plans and programs.
- Greater flexibility in the entire federal support system for water resource planning and management.
- Federal project evaluation, planning, financing, cost sharing, and cost recovery policies should be reviewed and simplified.
- Project evaluation should promote equal consideration of both structural and non-structural solutions.
Many existing water programs create inherent financial biases which favor certain solutions to water problems over others, sometimes resulting in the approval of programs of only marginal utility. Accordingly, NCSL urges that:
- Cost-sharing policies should be consistent among alternative means for achieving the same purpose.
- Cost sharing policies should be consistent among federal agencies for the same purposes. There should be no financial grounds for non-federal participants to "shop around" for the best deal.
- The public participation requirements of project planning and evaluation criteria should be aggressively carried out.
Water conservation must be a fundamental consideration in all future water management programs.
Accordingly, NCSL recommends:
- A national water conservation initiative implemented by the states as a part of their total water management programs with federal financial and technical assistance including a component for evaluation of the true benefits and costs of conservation;
- Encouraging comprehensive management of intermittently available freshwater resources to maximize the availability of surface and groundwater supplies;
- Closely examining the incentives and disincentives for encouraging conservation, recycling and reuse of water;
- Examining and promoting where feasible the practices of conjunctive use of water supplies; and
- Congress fund research into the use of saltwater or grey water sources as an alternative to the continued use of scarce freshwater resources.
Among water research programs, no specific mechanism exists which focuses the water research establishment on the planning and management concerns of the nation's principal water managers---the states.
As such, NCSL recommends that:
- The research agenda of both the federal agencies and the federally-supported water resources research centers be developed in conjunction with the expressed research needs of the state.
- Congress should recognize state primacy over all water rights within each state's boundaries and bring to closure the debate on the Federal Reserve Water Rights Policy.
- Congress should respect and encourage state compacts for sharing and managing water resources.
NCSL supports a wetlands program that is flexible to balance the competing and legitimate demands for conservation and use of the Nation's resources.
NCSL urges Congress and the Administration to:
- Reaffirm the national goal of eliminating the net loss of both wetlands acreage and wetlands habitat values, as a result of any activities, and of increasing both wetlands acreage and wetlands habitat values;
- Designate a single federal agency to be the lead agency responsible for the overall development, implementation, and enforcement of a national wetlands policy in partnership with the states;
- Facilitate the delegation of wetlands protection programs to the states and provide technical and financial resources to assist states in developing and operating their programs;
- Establish a clear preferred sequence of mitigation options that begins with avoidance of adverse effects on wetlands followed by a reduction of unavoidable adverse effects, and allowing compensation by creating, replacing or restoring within the same ecosystem; and
- Recognize that private landowners have an economic stake in wetlands resources and establish a strong program of economic incentives that encourages and assists the private sector to exercise its management responsibilities in a way that will protect the public values wetlands provide while contributing to a reasonable return on investment.
Federal agencies, in conjunction with states, the private sector, and nonprofit groups should expand their educational outreach programs.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA should agree on strategies for effectively and expeditiously monitoring, verifying, and enforcing permits authorizing activities in wetlands. In addition Congress and other regulatory authorities should take any necessary action, including amending existing laws to prevent the willful alteration of wetlands characteristics to circumvent regulatory jurisdictions.
Aquatic Nuisance Species
To combat the threats to biodiversity in the nation's coastal and estuarine habitats as well as inland navigable waters that are associated with aquatic nuisance species and to help prevent their introduction into state waters, NCSL calls on Congress to:
- Reauthorize the Non-indigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990;
- Provide for improved means for preventing the introduction of aquatic nuisance species;
- Increase the support for international, national, and state efforts to control and manage aquatic nuisance species; and
- Increase research and technical assistance resources available to federal, state, and local officials.
Water Pollution Control
NCSL urges that:
- Congress fully fund the Sewer Overflow Control State Grants Program;
- Congress separately appropriate full funding for non-point source pollution and ensure the effectiveness of the provisions of this program to restore and protect our nation's waters;
- Congress initiate an incentive program to encourage water conservation in the states;
- Congress authorize and fully fund new grant programs for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure developments;
- EPA strengthen pretreatment pollution prevention requirements to reduce the amount of hazardous waste flowing to waters from wastewater treatment plants and from contaminated sludge; and that
- Uniform national wastewater monitoring standards and protocols should be required to assure achievement of water quality objectives, fair and uniform enforcement, and full disclosure of contamination.
NCSL urges Congress and the Administration to increase federal appropriations for safe drinking water programs to necessary levels. A special consideration for financial assistance should be given to those states that have communities and water systems that have limited resources to deal with the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). States should receive additional federal financial assistance in order to develop and maintain the administrative and technical capacity needed to implement the program's mandated objectives.
Furthermore, NCSL supports the following provisions:
- States should have the authority to prioritize activities based on state public health needs.
- States should be able to use federal drinking water funds to consolidate public water systems when it is economically or environmentally beneficial, and/or in the best interest of the public health.
- Congress should direct EPA to base its standards on scientifically sound principles for protection of human health. The ability of EPA to require water systems to test for additional contaminants must take into account the human health risk posed by the contaminant. Congress should adequately fund EPA's research efforts to develop scientifically sound standards which will assure safe drinking water.
- EPA should be directed to work closely with primacy states in establishing a comprehensive program of water testing which recognizes the potential of contaminants based upon source, storage and delivery of water. Human health protection should be the basis for establishing any contaminant management program.
Disapproval or withdrawal of primacy should not result in a decreased level of public health protection in that state.
State Revolving Funds (SRFs)
With respect to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), NCSL supports the following:
- Reauthorization of the CWSRF and DWSRF at levels commensurate with state needs.
- States should be able to extend the life of SRF loans as necessary to accommodate low-income communities provided the loan repayment period does not exceed the useful life of the project.
- States should be able to use the interest earnings from the SRF monies for grant assistance to low-income communities, or for other related projects as determined by the individual state.
- States should be allowed to use at least 6-8% of SRF funds for administrative costs.
- States should be able to use SRF funds to consolidate public water systems when it is economically or environmentally beneficial, and/or in the best interest of the public health.
- In years when federal funds increase by more than 20%, states may request a waiver of the increased match required, with current state funds used for state drinking water purposes qualifying as the match for that year.
- Any new requirements applied to the CWSRF or the DWSRF should not be applied retroactively to funding already in the SRF or projects currently in progress.
NCSL urges Congress and the Administration to:
- Commit to and provide full funding and resources for combined sewer overflows (CSOs), sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and storm water wet weather discharges.
- Include a federal cost share of at least 50 percent of the cost of remediation.
- Establish a zero-interest, or low interest, loan program for homeowners and businesses required to implement storm water management programs.
- Wet weather management funding should be in addition to, and not replace, other Federal funding programs.
NCSL further urges Congress and the Administration to:
- Authorize state environmental agencies to grant waivers for both municipal and private sector implementation based on economic hardship.
- Direct the EPA to encourage evidence-based abatement methods and promote compliance using alternative methods of abatement that are least costly to implement.
NCSL believes that the development of groundwater policy should take into account or include the following:
Publicly Owned Treatment Works
- State primacy must be assured in the development of groundwater legislation.
- There needs to be federal assistance available to states in protecting wellhead/recharge areas from contamination.
- A survey of state data collection and research needs should be completed to assess future needs for financial and technical assistance with respect to aquifer mapping, monitoring and classification.
- Any policy should recognize the diversity of hydrologic, climatic, economic, legal, and social factors within various states and regions.
- States' primacy in devising appropriate financing mechanisms for groundwater programs should be continued.
- Where necessary groundwater conservation programs with appropriate financing should be developed jointly by the federal, state and local governments, but implemented by state and local governments.
- A comprehensive review of groundwater contamination from pesticides should be undertaken and recommendations based on this review should be implemented.
NCSL urges Congress to cooperate with states to eliminate barriers to local government's ability to restructure assets or raise the capital necessary for costly improvements to Public Owned Treatment Works (POTWs). While NCSL takes no position with respect to whether any particular POTW should pursue a public-private partnership, the decision to enter such a partnership should be made by the local unit of government pursuant to state law and local ordinance.
Water Ways and Ports
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recognizes the substantial benefits to the nation of the U.S. system of waterways and ports by providing access to the world’s markets and the combined efforts of all levels of government and users in sharing the cost of port and waterway development and maintenance. NCSL further acknowledges the distinctive roles played by the states and the federal government in financing waterways and ports. The increase of state and local financial support in recent years should be concomitant with an increased planning authority, which is particularly important for the integration and support of other transportation systems for enhanced waterway and port activity.
NCSL believes that in order to sustain U.S. leadership in global trade:
- The nation’s ports must receive adequate federal funds to improve and maintain federal navigational channels.
- Congress should adequately fund deepening projects to modernize our ports and make full use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to maintain the nation’s harbors.
NCSL opposes the accumulation of harbor tax receipts at the federal level, as it is a break in faith from the purpose of the Harbor Maintenance Tax and results in the imposition of a competitive burden without providing needed improvements necessary to achieve efficiencies to offset added taxes.
NCSL calls on Congress to significantly increase federal investment in highway and rail infrastructure and provide states added flexibility to improve intermodal connectors and surface transportation systems near the nation’s ports. Where feasible, NCSL also encourages and supports the deployment of ferry crossings.
NCSL believes that port security is a state-federal partnership, critical to the nation’s homeland security strategy and that states need clear federal direction to ensure that resources are focused on the most needed security improvements.
As such, NCSL supports the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security Grant Program, which is vital to ports’ abilities to make improvements quickly and comply with the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002. Federal assistance should fund federal directives and requirements regarding enhanced security of publicly operated ferries and the inspection of vehicles and freight in order to avoid unfunded federal mandates.
Action by the Federal Maritime Commission to restrict foreign cargo shipments from nations that discriminate against U.S. carriers. Complying with the requirements, regarding the importation of hazardous materials, of the National Environmental Policy Act to insure proper notification and assessment of environmental impact.
NCSL supports the continued predominant federal role in inland waterway capital and operating expenditures due to the interstate commerce nature of this transportation system as well as the implementation of the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). NCSL also supports increased investment in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to repair and modernize the existing infrastructure. This increased level of investment should come from an increase of the per gallon fuel user fee between $.06 and $.09 as such an increase is already supported by commercial barge and towing companies, the users of the inland waterway system. NCSL supports the utilization of U.S. Department of Transportation discretionary funds for emergency assistance to states for ports and waterways.
NCSL believes that:
- The role of the U.S. Coast Guard in directing waterborne traffic should be enhanced. As such, adequate emergency response plans should be developed with a review of existing contingency plans. Additionally, Congress should continue to fund the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater Systems program while maintaining existing funding for other transportation programs.
- The user fee method of financing expenses incurred primarily for the user's benefit is an appropriate mechanism. However, the effect of such charges in a competitive worldwide environment should be carefully scrutinized. Any assessed fees should be equitable and nondiscriminatory and should be protected in trust fund accounts with their expenditure limited to the purposes for which they were collected. As such, commercial barge and towing should be directed solely to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. Recreational boat user fees should be directed solely to boating safety programs. Additionally, user fees should not be assessed on commercial traffic to recover uncompensated benefits to civilian navigation and search and rescue activities.
- A comprehensive liability and compensation system on marine environment should be maintained at the federal level to provide vulnerable states with a means of environmental restoration in the event of a shipping accident, or as a result of invasive species.
- It should be the policy of the United States to require that domestic oil producers and common carriers develop the capability to safely transport crude oil and other liquefied petroleum products and to quickly and effectively contain and clean up oil spills that occur.