Policies for the Jurisdiction of the: Energy, Transportation, and Agriculture Committee
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.
Domestic Energy Production (Resolution)
The oil and natural gas industry is central to the security and future of the United States; NCSL supports conservation and use of alternative fuels, but additionally believes that for the foreseeable future increased domestic oil production is essential to meet the nation’s energy requirements. Increasing domestic energy production while at the same time reducing dependence on foreign supplies are the best way to meet our strategic and economic well-being.
Expires August 2013
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 in order 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; and
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 produced from coal, biomass, and oil shale, in order 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:
1. Develop and implement state and federal energy policy planning processes;
2. Deploy new energy efficiency and other demand-side options, as well as deploying new and conventional supply-side technologies;
3. Provide sufficient funding to states as they develop energy policies on an individual or regional basis; and
4. 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.
DOD Matching Funds- Federal Conservation Program (Resolution)
The National Conference of State Legislatures believes that the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Sustainable Ranges Initiative (SRI) and in particular the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI), has been highly effective, within the limits of available resources, in protecting DoD bases. However, NCSL considers that truly effective steps to protect those bases requires much better integration of the conservation programs of other federal agencies with the efforts of DoD and its SRI/REPI partners. As such, NCSL supports the enactment of legislation allowing funds provided by DoD to protect bases from encroachment to qualify as match or cost share in the conservation programs of the Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.
NCSL believes that the Farmland Protection Program (FPP) has been successful in maintaining farm and ranchlands for agricultural uses while simultaneously offering a great benefit to the communities surrounding military installations. As such, NCSL believes that the ability to use DoD funds as matching funds should be restored to Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) program, Department of Agriculture conservation programs in the Farm Bill and all other federal conservation programs due to the mutual benefits to landowners, conservation, and the military. NCSL also believes that the mutual and reinforcing benefits to farmers, ranchers, local communities, outdoor recreation, and the military experienced under the FPP prior to the 2008 Farm Bill should also be extended to all other federal conservation easement programs through the enactment of legislation specifically authorizing the use of DoD funds as match or cost share in any such programs.
Expires August 2013
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.
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 state-wide 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.
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; and
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; and
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.
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.
Non-traditional 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.
Radioactive Waste Management (Joint with Environment Committee)
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.
An agreement on roles and relationships among state and federal agencies and other participants;
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:
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.
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
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).