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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Flying Green: Environmental Advances in General Aviation

The much-publicized budget situation in Washington requires me to spend a lot of time these days thinking about managing green … as in, working with my fellow FAA managers to figure out how we can stretch every greenback and use our post-sequestration resources for maximum effect.

Nobody likes the situation but, being an inveterate seeker of silver linings, I believe that tough times and tough choices can lead to positive outcomes. Here’s what I mean. One of the common human characteristics is the tendency to avoid choices that require us to change what we are doing. We tend to put our operations and our activities on autopilot and turn our attention to other things, too often letting ourselves become blithely unaware that changing circumstances require us to change course.

Changing course can mean a change of destination, but not always. Tough times require us to refocus on the fundamentals of our mission, and to redirect our efforts and our activities accordingly. Sometimes, changing course is the only way to get back on track to reach the intended destination. Here at the FAA, Destination 2025 is the vision that, appropriately enough, defines the agency’s direction and destination in terms of the future of our nation’s air transportation system. You can review the entire document on the FAA’s website (, and I hope you will.

Date of Report: June 3, 2013
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: G1884
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Legislative Options for Financing Water Infrastructure

Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

Steven Maguire
Acting Section Research Manager/ Specialist in Public Finance

William J. Mallett
Specialist in Transportation Policy

This report addresses several options being considered by Congress to address the financing needs of local communities for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects and to decrease or close the gap between available funds and projected needs. Some of the options exist and are well established, but they are under discussion for expansion or modification. Other innovative policy options for water infrastructure have recently been proposed, especially to supplement or complement existing financing tools. Some are intended to provide robust, longterm revenue to support existing financing programs and mechanisms. Some are intended to encourage private participation in furnishing drinking water and wastewater services.

Six options that are reflected in recent legislative proposals, including budgetary implications, are discussed.

  • Increase funding for the State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs in the Clean Water Act (H.R. 1877 in the 113th Congress) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (H.R. 5320 in the 111th Congress), 
  • Create a federal water infrastructure trust fund (H.R. 1877 in the 113th Congress and H.R. 6249 in the 112th Congress), 
  • Create a “Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act” Program, or WIFIA (S. 601 and S. 335 in the 113th Congress), 
  • Create a National Infrastructure Bank (H.R. 2084 and H.R. 505 in the 113th Congress), 
  • Lift private activity bond restrictions on water infrastructure projects (included in the Administration’s FY2014 budget request and S. 939 and H.R. 1802 in the 112th Congress), and 
  • Reinstate authority for the issuance of Build America Bonds (included in the Administration’s FY2014 budget request and H.R. 535 and H.R. 789 in the 113th Congress). 

A number of these issues and options were examined in hearings by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment and by the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife in the 112th Congress.

Consensus exists among many stakeholders—state and local governments, equipment manufacturers and construction companies, and environmental advocates—on the need for more investment in water infrastructure. There is no consensus supporting a preferred option or policy, and many advocate a combination that will expand the financing “toolbox” for projects. Some of the options discussed in this report may be helpful, but there is no single method that will address needs fully or close the financing gap completely. For example, some may be helpful to projects in large urban or multi-jurisdictional areas, while others may be more beneficial in smaller communities. It is unlikely that any of the recently proposed options could be up and running quickly, meaning that, at least for the near term, communities will continue to rely on the existing SRF programs, tax-exempt governmental bonds, and tax-exempt private activity bonds to finance their water infrastructure needs.

Date of Report: June 3, 2013
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: R42467
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

International Climate Change Financing: The Climate Investment Funds (CIFs

Richard K. Lattanzio
Analyst in Environmental Policy

The United States contributes funding to various international financial institutions to assist developing countries to address global climate change and other environmental concerns. Congress is responsible for several activities in this regard, including (1) authorizing periodic appropriations for U.S. financial contributions to the institutions, and (2) overseeing U.S. involvement in the programs. Issues of congressional interest include the overall development assistance strategy of the United States, U.S. leadership in global environmental and economic affairs, and U.S. commercial interests in trade and investment. This report provides an overview of two of the larger and more recently instituted international financial institutions for the environment—the Climate Investment Funds (CIFs)—and analyzes their structure, funding, and objectives in light of the many challenges within global environmental finance.

The CIFs are investment programs administered by the multilateral development banks (MDBs) that aim to help finance developing countries’ transitions toward low-carbon and climate-resilient development. Formally approved by the World Bank’s Board of Directors on July 1, 2008, the CIFs are composed of two trust funds—the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) and the Strategic Climate Fund (SCF)—each with a specific scope, objective, and governance structure. The CTF provides financing for demonstrating, deploying, and diffusing low-carbon technologies that have the potential for long-term avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions. The SCF—a suite of three separate funds, including the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), the Forest Investment Program (FIP), and the Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program in Low Income Countries (SREP)—supports the least developed countries in their efforts to achieve low-carbon, climateresilient development. Overall, donor countries have pledged $7.6 billion to the funds since September 2008 in support of programs in 49 developing countries. The U.S. pledge in 2008 was for a total of $2 billion. For FY2010, Congress approved $375 million for the CIFs (the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010, H.R. 3288; P.L. 111-117); for FY2011, Congress approved $234.5 million (the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, H.R. 1473; P.L. 112-10); for FY2012, Congress approved $234.5 million (the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, H.R. 2055; P.L. 112-74); and for FY2013, Congress approved $234.5 million (the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013, H.R. 933; P.L. 113-6). For FY2014, the Administration requested $283.7 million for the funds.

The CIFs are just one set of financial mechanisms in a larger network of international programs designed to address the global environment. Accordingly, their effectiveness depends on how the funds address programmatic issues, build upon national investment plans, react to recent developments in the financial landscape, and respond to emerging opportunities. Proponents of the CIFs point to several factors in support of the funds, including an innovative programmatic design, a country-led investment process, and a balanced governance structure with enhanced stakeholder engagement. Proponents of the MDBs’ role in environmental assistance emphasize several advantages to financing climate programs through the MDBs, including its commitment to private sector development, its capacity to leverage large co-financing arrangements, and its possession of fiduciary standards and institutional expertise. However, critics highlight several factors of concern with the CIFs and their Trustee, including a lack of transparency, coordination, and “polluter pay” responsibilities; a potential for increased debt burdens on developing countries; and a prior economic development policy at the development banks that is considered a conflict of interest for environmental protection.

Date of Report: June 3, 2013
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: R41302
Price: $29.95

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The U.S. Congress and the European Parliament: Evolving Transatlantic Legislative Cooperation

Kristin Archick
Specialist in European Affairs

Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager

The United States and the European Union (EU) share an extensive, dynamic, and mutually beneficial political and economic partnership. A growing element of that relationship is the role that the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament (EP)—a key EU institution—have begun to play, including in areas ranging from foreign and economic policy to regulatory reform. Proponents of establishing closer relations between the U.S. Congress and the EP point to the Parliament’s growing influence as a result of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty which increased the relative power of the EP within the EU, and in some cases, with significant implications for U.S. interests. Consequently, some officials and experts on both sides of the Atlantic have asked whether it would be beneficial for Congress and the EP to strengthen institutional ties further and to explore the possibility of coordinating efforts to develop more complementary approaches to policies in areas of mutual interest.

The Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue (TLD), the formal exchange between Congress (actually the House of Representatives) and the European Parliament, was launched in 1999, but semiannual meetings between Congress and the EP date back to 1972. The TLD’s visibility, although still relatively low, increased following the 2007 decision to name it as an advisor to the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC), which seeks to “advance the work of reducing or eliminating non-tariff barriers to transatlantic commerce and trade.”

In response to the TLD’s new TEC-related responsibilities, some Members of Congress suggested that there was a need for more contact between and cooperation with the EP, and raised questions with respect to how this might best be accomplished. For those Members and outside advocates of closer relations, questions surfaced about whether the TLD itself was organized in a way that would facilitate such relations, how the standing committees in both institutions might interact, and the role, if any, of the U.S. Senate. Since 2007, regular contacts between Congress and the Parliament, including at the committee level, have fluctuated in frequency. However, many observers note that the EP has been far out in front of Congress in pursuit of a stronger relationship mostly through the many EP delegations traveling to Washington to meet their counterparts. In 2010, a key event in the evolution of Congress-Parliament relations took place when the Parliament opened a liaison office (EPLO) in Washington. The EPLO was charged with keeping the EP better informed of legislative activity in Congress and vice-versa.

With the emergence of several key issues such as the Eurozone crisis, Iran’s nuclear progress, the civil war in Syria, and the potential for a new, comprehensive U.S.-EU trade and investment agreement, there may be some movement within Congress to increase contacts with the European Parliament. However, some point out that with the exception of a few Members with previous experience in the TLD, Congress as a whole is still seen at best as ambivalent to such efforts and has not demonstrated as much enthusiasm as the EP about forging closer relations.

This report provides background on the Congress–EP relationship and the role of the TLD. It also explores potential future options that could be considered during the 113
th Congress should an effort to strengthen ties between the two bodies gain more momentum. For additional information, see CRS Report RS21998, The European Parliament, by Kristin Archick.

Date of Report: May 28, 2013
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R41552
Price: $29.95

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