Bush's Proposed Budget Restores LFG Tax Credit, Creates New OSHA Training

President George W. Bush's $2.13 trillion 2003 proposed budget, which was announced on Feb. 1 and would begin Oct. 1, includes several important issues with implications for the solid waste industry.

Energy: Specifically, Bush has asked for a 2.7 percent increase in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) discretionary 2003 spending and tax incentives to encourage energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources. The DOE would receive $21.92 billion, up $582.2 million from 2002 levels. The department's renewable energy and energy efficiency programs would receive $1.31 billion, and the DOE would provide $1.1 billion in tax credits for energy produced from landfill gas (LFG).

In an environmental win, the department's oil and natural gas programs would be reduced significantly. Oil technology research would be cut by 37 percent to $35.4 million, and natural gas technology research would be cut by 50 percent to $22.6 million.

The industry's two major associations, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Md., and the Environmental Industry Associations (EIA), Washington, D.C., both see this as a positive step for the landfill gas industry.

The $1.1 billion in tax credits is proof that there is considerable interest in landfill gas, according to John Skinner, SWANA's president and CEO. “We would want to work on some details of [the plan], including the reduction in tax credits for facilities that have new source performance standards [NSPS] under the Clean Air Act … to see if there is still an incentive,” he says. “But we are generally pleased with the provision and believe it reflects a lot of hard work by SWANA's landfill gas advocacy group.”

Bill Sells, EIA's legislative director, agrees. “Having the president put money in his budget to encourage the use of landfill gas as an alternative energy source is a very positive step. It is consistent with what the House passed in its energy bill and what has been proposed in the Senate in several bills,” Sells says.

Environment: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would receive $7.7 billion, a 4 percent reduction from last year's budget. However, the amount would include $200 million to reclaim brownfields sites, $1.3 billion for Superfund cleanup and $15 million for a state enforcement program to give states and tribes a greater responsibility to enforce environmental laws and regulations.

About half of the EPA's proposed budget would fund grants to states and tribes to enforce environmental laws and rules for projects such as monitoring and purifying water, training to properly apply pesticides and operating clean air programs.

Transportation: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled a budget seeking $59.3 billion to improve transportation security and safety. According to the DOT, this represents an overall increase of $4.7 billion, or 8 percent, when adjusted for a reduction in highway spending, as required by law.

The DOT budget would include $4.8 billion for the new Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) first full year of funding, $430 million to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), $371 million to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and $125 million to the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) to improve hazardous materials transportation safety.

Labor: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and President Bush have requested $437 million, which includes a $2.75 million increase in compliance, assistance, outreach and training activities; $14.2 million for the development, review and evaluation of safety and health standards; and a $1.5 million increase to assist state consultation programs in helping small businesses reduce injury and illness.

Under the proposed plan, OSHA would receive $60.3 million for expanding outreach activities and compliance assistance, which includes training, information exchanges and technical assistance to employers. Another $4 million would be allocated for a new training grant program to replace the current Susan Harwood grants program, which awards funds to non-profits to conduct safety and health training and education.

According to OSHA, approximately 1,300 more inspections will take place in fiscal year 2003 if a proposed $161.1 million is earmarked for enforcement.

Details about all federal spending programs will be discussed further in April 2002. After that, Congress will have an opportunity to change the administration's proposed 2003 budget.