Jefferson County proposes sewer rate increases to avoid bankruptcy
Jefferson County officials have proposed annual sewer rate increases of up to 8.2 percent for three years and 3.25 percent afterward in efforts to avoid the largest government bankruptcy in U.S. history, according to a term sheet that went to the county's creditors on Wednesday. The County Commission will conduct a special meeting at 10 a.m. Friday to consider whether to approve a term sheet outlining a settlement with creditors or to file a petition under Chapter 9 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. Creditors, including Wall Street investment firm JP Morgan Chase & Co., are reviewing the terms and must sign off on the plan ahead of the Friday meeting for the two sides to reach an agreement to settle the $3.14 billion sewer debt crisis.
Read More: Birmingham News 9/15
State back to planning on Juneau highway
After the state lost in two courts, the Parnell administration said Wednesday it would prepare a new environmental impact statement for a 50-mile road from Juneau to a proposed ferry terminal near Haines and Skagway rather than appeal again, this time to the U.S. Supreme Court. The state announced its decision to go back to the planning process two months after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of a federal judge in Alaska, who said the original environmental impact statement for the Juneau Access Project, from 2006, was inadequate. A coalition of environmental organizations led by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council sued that year to stop the project, which would drive a new road deep into the Tongass National Forest north of Juneau.
Read More: Anchorage Daily News 9/14
Lawmakers debate anew need for stronger gas drilling regs
Arkansas has sufficient regulations to manage the state’s natural gas industry but is running out of grant money for extra help brought in to monitor gas operations, the head of the state’s pollution control agency told lawmakers today. Teresa Marks, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said a $1.09 million grant that allowed her department to hire four additional natural gas inspectors, a supervisor and two enforcement analysts runs out at the end of the fiscal year in June.
Read More: Arkansas News Bureau 9/13
Stormwater Prevention Plan Legislation Passes Legislature
ASCE-supported legislation, AB 1210, that makes important changes to the existing Stormwater Prevention Plan preparation law passed the legislature this week and will now go to the Governor. The bill requires all civil engineering activities performed in the preparation of stormwater pollution prevention plans pursuant to a specified general permit for stormwater discharges to be performed by a licensed civil engineer.
ASCE issued a key contact alert to California members on July 1. If approved by the Governor, the legislation establishes in statute that the civil engineering aspects of a SWPPP be prepared under the responsible charge of a licensed civil engineer. AB 1210 does not prohibit other professional practitioners from performing work on a SWPPP, simply that civil engineering aspects of a SWPPP must be performed under the responsible charge of a civil engineer.
CalPERS plans $800 million investment in California infrastructure
In a move that could fuel economic growth, CalPERS earmarked $800 million Monday for investments in California roads, bridges, power transmission lines and other forms of infrastructure. The money is part of a $5 billion worldwide infrastructure effort that CalPERS is creating as it joins the growing list of big investors leaping into that field. Opportunities abound as cash-strapped governments look for new sources of money. In California, the $800 million in investments could help the state's troubled job market by directing money toward big construction projects, public and private.
Read more: Sacramento Bee 9/15
Chesapeake Bay States
Chesapeake Bay fouled by Susquehanna flooding
The Chesapeake Bay looks like a dirty bathtub, its waters turned brown with mud and awash in pollution and floating debris, including uprooted trees, propane tanks, even a battered dining-room chair. Braving boat-damaging hazards, scientists are swarming over the bay to see if the massive stormwater runoff from Tropical Storm Lee last week is going to knock the troubled estuary for another loop, just as it was recovering from an especially rough summer. "It just doesn't look right," Jamie Strong, a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said of the malted-milk hue of the water as he and state biologist Zofia Noe cruised north from the Bay Bridge on Wednesday to sample water conditions. Along the way, they dodged partially submerged tree trunks — not always successfully — and skirted sprawling mats of grass and trash atop the water.
Read More: Baltimore Sun 9/15
Federal government to allow Florida less stringent water standards
Despite complaints by environmental groups that it will lead to more pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Florida's request to change state standards for its waterways so they aren't as stringent. The new standards allow for some waterways — man-made canals, for instance — to be classified as no longer appropriate for swimming or fishing, allowing only "incidental contact." The reason, say state officials, is that cleaning them up would cost more than it's worth.
Read More: St Petersburg Times 9/14
DOT says it is not withholding road construction money
The Georgia Department of Transportation said Tuesday it has spent nearly $1 billion last budget year on road projects and related costs, rejecting a contention that the agency has been stifling job creation in Georgia's beleaguered construction industry. Some of Georgia's most powerful contractors have claimed hundreds, if not thousands, of on-the-ground jobs have been lost because the department has not spent money more urgently during the recession on paving and road projects. The allegation surfaced last week when the DOT's governing board booted former Commissioner Vance Smith from the top job.
Read More: Atlanta Journal-Constitution 9/13
Quinn vetoes Smart Grid, lawmakers already talking override
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn surprised no one Monday morning when he vetoed the Smart Grid legislation backed by the state's two largest utilities. The proposal would have allowed Ameren Illinois and Commonwealth Edison Co. to rebuild their electric grid and distribution networks over the next decade without going through the regulatory process. Both utilities said Smart Grid would speed up infrastructure improvements. But the legislation also would have allowed the utility companies to raise customers' monthly rates for 10 years — Ameren by $3.40 and ComEd by $3. Those increases doomed the Smart Grid plan.
Read More: Illinois Statehouse News 9/12
Gas tax increase discussed by Senate panel
Increases to the gas tax, vehicle registration fees and the titling tax were among the options discussed to raise transportation revenues during a lengthy Senate Budget and Taxation Committee hearing Wednesday. The panel is examining ways to increase funding by $800 million a year for road projects, an issue that's likely to be one of several budget-related priorities in the 2012 General Assembly session. The legislature will also try to take another bite out of Maryland's persistent $1 billion structural deficit. Wednesday's meeting was the third in a series of interim hearings on potential tax increases to close various budget holes. Earlier this summer, the committee discussed the corporate tax structure and taxing goods sold on the Internet. Revenues from those increases would mainly benefit the state's $14 billion general fund.
Read More: Baltimore Sun 9/14
Congress starves Mohawk flood study of cash
A sharply reduced federal study for flood control on the Mohawk River probably won't be ready until 2013 at the earliest, depending on whether Congress comes up with more money to pay for it. A planned three-year, $1.6 million study, announced this spring by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, received $100,000 in federal funding this year -- only enough to start collecting and studying existing data on river flooding, said John Shea, a civil engineering and watershed planner for the Corps.
Read more: Times-Union 9/14
Regulations must mitigate drilling’s effects on infrastructure
As stakeholders weigh in on whether to allow a controversial practice of gas drilling, there needs to be a robust discussion on the toll it takes on roads, bridges and quality of life. Some communities in Pennsylvania where high-volume hydraulic fracturing is allowed have received a wake-up call to the effects on their infrastructure, not to mention putting up with noise and visual disruptions. So it's important that in New York, local officials and citizens thoroughly analyze state recommendations on high-volume hydraulic fracturing with an eye toward the toll of heavy trucks on roads and bridges. The Department of Environmental Conservation began a 97-day public comment period last week, which will include public hearings.
Read More: Democrat and Chronicle 9/12
State wants your opinion on roads
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is looking for input from the public on future road planning in the state. The DOT is asking residents to take part in a survey, as part of the preparation of the 2040 Plan. That plan will guide transportation planning and investment for the next 30 years -- for all types of transportation. To take the survey, go to www.ncdot.gov/performance/reform/2040Plan.
Read More: Charlotte Observer 9/9
Dot’s woes ‘complicated,’ director says
The S.C. Department of Transportation missed two $4 million debt payments because of “inattentiveness,” its director said Thursday, adding the state agency’s financial woes are not over. The Transportation Department has $847 million in outstanding contracts but only $47 million in the bank to pay those bills now, new Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge told the state Senate’s Transportation Committee on Thursday afternoon. Yet St. Onge assured lawmakers that his department is sound financially – it gets $1.1 billion a year in state and federal gas taxes – and taking steps to make sure missed payments “will not happen again.”
Read More: The State 9/9
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