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In It for the Long Haul?

Very few pollsters or political pundits accurately predicted the outcome of the November 2014 midterm elections. With the singular exception of New Hampshire, Republicans won all of the close Senate races and, pending the outcome of the Louisiana runoff in December, are likely to have 54 seats when the Senate convenes in January 2015. The Republicans also gained about a dozen seats in the House of Representatives, and will have the largest majority they have had there since the 1920s. On the state level, Republicans were elected as governors in traditionally Democratic bastions such as Maryland and Massachusetts, and in President Obama’s home state of Illinois. All in all, it was a very good day for the GOP.

But now that all of the confetti has been swept away (and recycled?), what do the midterm elections mean for the waste and recycling industry? And specifically, what opportunities does the industry have in Congress now that the Republicans control both sides of Capitol Hill?

Despite their control of Congress, the Republicans do not have enough votes to override a presidential veto. President Obama will be thinking about his legacy, and many Republicans and a few Democrats will be positioning themselves for the 2016 presidential election. President Obama has already hinted that he is inclined to take unilateral action on immigration—an issue that many observers thought was ripe for bipartisan action. If he does, reaching consensus on other difficult issues such as tax reform and foreign policy (ISIS, Russia, Iran, etc.) will be even more challenging. Continued political gridlock is likely.

Throughout 2014, the National Waste & Recycling Association (NW&RA) has been lobbying for certain tax credits relating to landfill gas and natural gas trucks that expired at the end of 2013. Although some effort may be made to include these tax credits in a package of initiatives described as “tax extenders” that Congress may consider during the lame duck session in November and December 2014, some Republicans prefer a more comprehensive tax reform package that lowers corporate tax rates, and are ideologically opposed to tax credits for renewable energy (even for landfill gas). Further, the recent attention to “inversions”—companies relocating their headquarters to foreign countries to get a lower tax rate—has complicated efforts to pass any tax-related bills this year.

Another issue that NW&RA has been working on involves leveling the playing field for natural gas trucks. The fueling system associated with natural gas trucks is heavier than that of traditional diesel trucks, and a bill was introduced earlier this year that would allow long-haul trucks with natural gas engines a limited waiver of applicable federal truck weight rules. NW&RA has met with Congressional staff in the House and Senate to discuss expanding this exemption to include refuse trucks, so it’s likely that when the bill is reintroduced in 2015, it will cover refuse trucks. 

A third issue to keep an eye on is tougher congressional oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Several Republicans—including James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), who will be chairing the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee—are very skeptical of the EPA’s recent regulatory activities relating to climate change and other issues, and they could make life very difficult for the EPA in the final two years of the Obama administration.

The November 2014 elections were a significant political earthquake, and NW&RA is working hard to maximize opportunities for the industry in Washington, D.C. We welcome your involvement in these efforts.

For more information about the National Waste & Recycling Association and its federal affairs program, contact David Biderman, general counsel and vice president of government affairs for the National Waste & Recycling Association, at [email protected].

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