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EPA chief defends decision to pull out of Calif. mpg talks

By General Posts

Washington — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler defended the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of talks with California about new rules for gas mileage.

Speaking to reporters Thursday at the Washington Auto Show, Wheeler said he is confident the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back stringent rules that would require automakers to produce fleets that average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025 will hold up in court if it is successfully finalized later this year.

“Our goal from the beginning was a 50-state solution,” he said. “I met with (the California Air Resources Board) three times since taking the helm of EPA last July. But despite our best efforts, we could not reach a solution and decided to end the discussions. We embrace federalism and the role of states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate the standards for the entire nation.”

Asked what would happen if California proceeds with a lawsuit that has already been filed over the proposal to rule back mileage rules, Wheeler said: “We’ll go to court if they do that. I believe we’re on firm legal footing and I believe that our standards will be upheld by the courts.”

The Trump administration announced last year its intention to ease stringent gas-mileage rules that would have required fleets averaging more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The administration proposed a freeze in the mandate after 2020, when their lineups must average 39 mpg.

Automakers cheered the decision to reopen the so-called midterm review they were promised when the Obama-era gas mileage rules were agreed to in 2011. But they hoped the Trump administration would quickly reach an agreement with California on a new set of rules to prevent a lengthy legal battle that would leave the mpg requirements for the next half-decade in limbo.

The Trump administration has floated the idea of moving to revoke a longstanding waiver allowing California and other states to set their own stricter auto emissions standards. Thirteen states and Washington, D.C., have adopted California’s mileage rules, meaning automakers could be left with one set of rules for a quarter of the country and another set for the remaining states.

Revoking California’s waiver, which is ensconced in the Clean Air Act, would require an act of Congress that is unlikely with the U.S. House under Democratic control.

Wheeler said the Trump administration is focused on making sure new cars are affordable enough for consumers to purchase new models that are more fuel-efficient.

“Our overarching goal is to get more Americans into newer, safer, cleaner vehicles,” he said, noting that the average age of a car on U.S. roadways is more than 12 years.

Wheeler touted the EPA’s enforcement actions against automakers that have been investigated for emissions violations. The agency reached an $800 million settlement with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles this year to resolve allegations from federal regulators that the company used software on about 104,000 diesel-powered pickups and SUVs that is similar to “defeat devices” used by Volkswagen AG to cheat U.S. emissions-testing.

“We’re committed to vigorously enforcing the nation’s environmental laws,” Wheeler said Thursday. “EPA has stopped the sale of over 1 million after-market defeat devices…In this year alone, we’ve stopped roughly 2,220 illegal vehicles and engines at the border and held the importers and the manufacturers accountable for many more illegal foreign products.”

Proclamation on Second Chance Month, 2019

By General Posts

Americans have always believed in the power of redemption ‑‑ that those who have fallen can work toward brighter days ahead. Almost all of the more than two million people in America’s prisons will one day return to their communities. In each case, they will have served their sentence and earned the chance to take their places back in society. During Second Chance Month, we draw attention to the challenges that former inmates face and the steps we can take to ensure they have the opportunity to become contributing members of society.

Inmates are often eager to leave behind the challenges presented by incarceration. Too often, however, they find the transition to life outside of prison to be daunting. If they are not able to find jobs and housing and rebuild relationships with family and friends, they may find it harder to escape the cycle of reoffending. Sadly, 5 out of 6 State prisoners are rearrested within 9 years of their release, and more than a third of former Federal prisoners will be rearrested within 5 years of their release. In addition to the harm caused to the victims of crime, these high recidivism rates place a significant financial burden on taxpayers, deprive our labor force of productive workers, and leave families without spouses, children, and parents.

My Administration is committed to helping former prisoners reenter society as productive, law‑abiding citizens. For this reason, I signed into law the bipartisan FIRST STEP Act. This new legislation makes several positive reforms to increase the likelihood of successful prisoner reentry. The legislation provides improved opportunities for inmates to engage in educational coursework and vocational training, and establishes pilot mentorship programs. It also allows prisoners who successfully complete evidence‑based recidivism reduction programs to earn time credits to apply toward prerelease custody or supervised release, reducing their time in prison. Because maintaining family and community ties is key to a successful reentry into society, the bill includes provisions that allow inmates to be placed in facilities closer to their home communities, facilitating family visitation during their time of incarceration. Finally, the law makes adjustments to sentencing rules that will make our criminal justice system more fair, reducing penalties for certain drug offenders.

This month, we celebrate those who have exited the prison system and successfully reentered society and renew our commitment to providing support and resources that former inmates need to meet their responsibilities, rediscover their self‑worth, and benefit from the gift of a second chance. We also express our sincere gratitude to all those who play a significant role in helping reduce recidivism, including faith‑based and community organizations and employers willing to hire workers notwithstanding a criminal history. By reducing recidivism and putting former inmates on the path to success, we can reduce crime and enhance the safety of our communities.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2019 as Second Chance Month. I call on all Americans to commemorate this month with events and activities that raise public awareness about preventing crime and providing those who have completed their sentences an opportunity for an honest second chance.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-third.

DONALD J. TRUMP

NEWS AT https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-second-chance-month-2019/

2019 federal spending package increases infrastructure funding

By General Posts

It took a while, but a 2019 spending package was finally approved by Congress, signed by President Trump, and enacted February 15. In addition to the $1.375 billion for southwest border barriers, the package also includes full-year 2019 funding levels for important federal infrastructure programs, including the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Engineering News-Record reports.

The 2019 package is the second year of a two-year, bipartisan House-Senate budget deal that included a pledge to raise overall federal infrastructure spending by $20 billion over 2017 levels. It sets the federal-aid highway obligation ceiling at $45.3 billion, up $1 billion, or 2 percent, from 2018 and equal to the amount authorized in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), which comes from the Highway Trust Fund.

The legislation also contains $3.25 billion more from the general fund for highways, up from $2.525 billion in 2018. A 2019 “bonus” amount includes $2.73 billion for states, up from $1.98 billion in 2018, and $475 million for bridge replacement and rehabilitation, more than double the 2018 amount.

Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants received $900 million for 2019, down 40 percent from 2018, but it was not discontinued as President Trump suggested. The program was originally called Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER.

The Federal Transit Administration will receive $13.4 billion for 2019, down $67 million from 2018, with transit formula grants getting $9.9 billion and capital investment grants receiving $2.5 billion, down from $2.6 billion in 2018. An additional $700 million, down from $834 million in 2018, goes for transit infrastructure grants, which include bus facilities and “state of good repair” projects.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program was frozen at 2018’s $3.35 billion, an amount that comes from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. Lawmakers also tapped the general fund for an additional $500 million in FAA discretionary airport grants, down 50 percent from 2018.

The EPA’s water infrastructure account will receive $3.6 billion, a 1 percent increase over 2018 levels. Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) will receive $1.7 billion and Drinking Water SRFs will get $1.2 billion.