Welcome to Transportation Law Today

Managed by Paul J. Loftus, a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, Transportation Law Today provides professionals in the rail, transit, inland maritime, and trucking industries with current news and analysis of laws, rulings, and regulatory policies.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Maryland LNG Export Terminal Clears Another Hurdle

The State of Maryland has granted a key approval for the controversial proposed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) terminal at Cove Point in Southern Maryland. The action by Maryland's Board of Public Works, which consists of Governor, Martin O'Malley, the state Comptroller, and Treasurer, is another step toward completion of the export terminal. The three member Board actually approved a permit for Virginia-based Dominion to build a pier in the Patuxent river to allow construction materials to be moved by barge for construction of the terminal. Final approval of the project still rests with the FERC.

The Cove Point project is controversial, as noted by the Baltimore Sun in its coverage of yesterday's hearing and approval, which occurred after more than 2 hours of testimony before the Board. The Cove Point project also underscores the unresolved status of hydraulic fracturing in mountainous, and economically challenged, Western Maryland. Maryland has not approved fracking in the state, whereas neighbors Pennsylvania and West Virginia are in the midst of a major energy boom from fracking activity.

Maryland is currently under a moratorium for fracking permits/drilling pending a report expected this fall by an Advisory Commission set up by O'Malley. Maryland's reluctance to permit gas development in Western Maryland, or at least its cautious approach to the process, sets up an interesting situation where natural gas produced in surrounding states may be exported by a terminal in Maryland, even though Maryland has not yet permitted hydraulic drilling within its borders.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Foxx and 11 Former DOT Secretaries Call for Long Term Infrastructure Funding

With a short-term fix to the looming expiration of funding for the Highway Trust Fund expected shortly, USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, and 11 former USDOT Secretaries, have issued an "open letter" to Congress, urging a long-term solution to transportation infrastructure funding. The open letter is attached here.

Foxx and his predecessors emphasize that the expected short term funding does not "fix" America's transportation system. Noting that the USDOT Secretaries have lead the department for 35 years under 7 presidents, they write: "Suffice it to say we've been around the block. We probably helped pave it." The Secretaries also stated, "So it is with some knowledge and experience that we can write: Never in our nation's history has America's transportation system been on a more unsustainable course."

Other highlights from the open letter:

"This is no way to run a railroad, fill a pothole, or repair a bridge. In fact, the unpredictability of when, or if, funding will come has caused states to delay or cancel projects altogether."

"America needs to break this cycle of governing crisis-to-crisis, only to enact a stopgap measure at the last moment. We need to make a commitment to the American people and the American economy."

"Until recently, Congress understood that, as America grows, so must our investments in transportation. And for more than half a century, they have voted for that principle -- and increased funding -- with broad, bipartisan majorities in both houses. We believe they can, and should, do so again."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Foxx, Rockefeller, Manchin & Rahall Call for Infrastructure Funding at W.Va. Transportation Summit

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the West Virginia Transportation & Infrastructure Summit, hosted by the Discover the Real West Virginia Foundation, in Charleston. I'm not quite up to "live blogging" but here is a "within 24 hours" post on the event. The DRWV Foundation was created by Sen. Rockefeller in 1988 to promote West Virginia as a viable business environment nationally and internationally.

Speaking at the Transportation Summit were U.S. DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, West Virginia's U.S. Senators (Rockefeller, Manchin) and Ranking Member of the House Transportation Committee, Nick Rahall. Not surprisingly, all endorsed breaking the political logjam in Washington in the interest of regular funding of transportation infrastructure.

Here are some highlights by speaker:

Secretary Foxx:

Secretary Foxx described transportation infrastructure as a legacy to leave to future generations, asking the question whether we will leave behind a stronger transportation system? He referred to 27 "band aid" funding measures in last 5 years in Congress, preventing states from planning long-term projects and maintenance. Referring specifically to the imperiled Highway Trust Fund, the Secretary warned that unless funding is restored, the Department will implement "cash management measures" by August 1, which likely means most states will receive only a half of their allocated highway funds.

The Secretary, with a nod to the West Virginia audience, reminded everyone, the song does not go "country road, can't take me home," and emphasized the solution as the infrastructure package proposed by the President in the Grow America Act. Here is a link to DOT's summary of the Act.


After receiving awards from W.Va.'s aviation community, Sen. Rockefeller continued his habit of frank comments since his announced his retirement. He lamented he was "profoundly frustrated" and noted "Today we cannot even fund yesterday's needs."


Sen. Manchin encouraged West Virginia to leverage the current energy boom in the state to work cooperatively with its energy producing neighbors, Ohio and Pennsylvania, much like Texas and Oklahoma have.

Regarding the Highway Trust Fund impasse, he regretted that "politics outpaces policy now" and that a stop gap measure is probably the best that can be expected.

On a humorous note, in referring to the cost of reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, he quipped that if we build roads and bridges in W.Va., "we won't blow them up or burn them down."


Rep. Rahall predicted cooler heads will prevail and likely pass a stop gap measure to save the Highway Trust Fund. He stated there was hope for a longer term bill in the lame duck session after the 2014 election, and emphasized the importance of not letting the HTF go bankrupt.