Finance - October 25, 2013

Pennsylvanians say healthier air standards are a good deal

Earlier this year, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new standards to achieve cleaner gasoline and vehicles.  These “Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emissions and Fuel Standards” will significantly reduce ozone and particle pollution that is harmful to both heart and lung health and can even lead to early death.  The American Lung Association’s report,A Penny for Prevention: The Case for Cleaner Gasoline and Vehicles notes that for the cost of one extra cent per gallon, the result would be the pollution reduction equivalent of taking 33 million cars off the road and easier breathing for children with asthma and others who are vulnerable, including adults with COPD and other respiratory illness.

The Lung Association is urging the Obama Administration to finalize the cleaner gas and vehicle standards before the end of the year so that people can begin breathing easier as soon as possible. Recently, the Lung Association’s Healthy Air Campaign took to the streets to ask Pennsylvanians why clean air is important to them and whether paying an extra penny per gallon seems like a good deal to breathe healthier air. This new video shows how they responded.

Transportation funding on hold

The PA legislature had been expected to get moving on a transportation funding bill this week but it seems that the measure is on hold at the moment.  The House and Senate recessed this week without taking up the issue on the floor and they won’t be in Harrisburg again until November 12; after the election.  Speaker of the House, Sam Smith, said that negotiations will continue over the next few weeks in hopes of having something to send to the floor for a vote in November.  Smith had previously voiced the concern that the measure would die if it didn’t see traction soon; he seems to be backing away from that stance but stopped short of saying he was optimistic about the negotiations moving forward.  Changes to prevailing wages for transportation projects remain a central issue in the discussion as does the oil company franchise tax.

Governor Corbett held a press conference this week and urged Republicans and Democrats to work it out; saying “this is not a partisan issue.”  Transportation funding remains one of his top priorities as part of his 2014 re-election campaign.  Secretary of Transportation, Barry Schoch, also weighed on the inaction on the legislature thus far.  He relayed to the Senate Transportation committee recently that the consequences have already started to set in; the state placed weight limits on a number of bridges in need of repair this summer after both chambers failed to come to agreement.  Some of those limits have been lifted but now both sides are left trying to reach a deal with funding somewhere between $2.2 billion and $2.5 billion.