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Federal Transportation Bill

Who Still Likes the House Transpo Bill? Big Oil, Big Truck, and Big Box Retail

4:10 PM EST on February 3, 2012

The House has finished marking up its transportation bill in what shaped up to be a very Groundhog Day-esque ordeal of unending, repetitive partisan theater (if you missed it, follow coverage on twitter).

The centerpiece was yesterday's/last night's/this morning's Transportation & Infrastructure committee markup, where members debated more than 80 amendments for over 18 hours before finally approving Chairman Mica's bill, 29-24, at about 3:00 a.m. Not one Democrat voted for it, and only one Republican -- Tom Petri of Wisconsin -- voted against it. Energy and financing titles were also approved by their respective committees.

Streetsblog has already pointed out that there's plenty to dislike in the bill, especially for pedestrians, cyclists, city-dwellers, transit riders, and the environmentally-conscious. But believe it or not, there are a few groups out there who still like this bill a whole lot. In fact, at today's markup in the Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Dave Camp submitted for the record a letter of support from over 50 organizations.

It's worth noting that the list of supporters is getting smaller. The T&I bill may have enjoyed the support of AASHTO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but both have now opposed the Ways & Means committee's financing title. In fact, over 600 organizations have voiced their opposition to that particular bill. However, there are still some hold-outs.

For starters, there's trucking. Bill Graves, the American Trucking Associations' CEO, called the bill "a major step forward, not just for trucking, but for all users of our transportation system." Graves was disappointed when new rules allowing longer, heavier trucks were put off pending further study, saying, "We hope that Congress will see that wasting taxpayer money on further study is not necessary and as this legislation moves forward, enacts these long overdue reforms."

Then there's the retail sector. David French, the National Retail Federation's VP for Government Relations, has said, "Our neglected transportation system has created bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the supply chain that stifle U.S. companies’ ability to grow." Those "inefficencies" could refer to the same regulations the trucking industry is excited about. But bigger trucks (and longer driver hours, another pet issue of the trucking industry) would mainly benefit the largest shippers -- the WalMarts, Home Depots and Best Buys.

And then there is oil industry, who would be able to drill far more freely in Alaska and off the American coast. Speaker Boehner's inclusion of the Keystone XL pipeline makes the bill even more appealing to the petroleum industry. American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard believes that most Americans "know America will need more oil. They see the benefits of importing more from Canada while also producing more at home... [Keystone XL] is essential to our nation's energy future."

So, more drilling (oil companies make money) and lax regulations (trucking industry makes money) mean slightly lower shipping costs (mega-retailers make money). Big Oil, Big Truck, and Big Box -- whose business models each depend on wider highways and sprawl -- are the major beneficiaries of this bill.

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