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A look at the lame duck session; Proposed EPA regulation

A potentially fiery lame duck session of Congress gets underway next Monday (Nov. 15), and U.S. EPA will hold a public hearing on E15 labeling on Tuesday (Nov. 16). Both have agendas that will impact us as dealers and small businesses. Here’s a look:

Nov. 16: EPA will hold a public hearing on proposed label regulations to “help mitigate the potential for misfueling” of vehicles and equipment with E15 (see Dealer Outlook, Oct. 19, 2010.) Obviously, EPA admits there are misfueling dangers due to its decision to allow an increase in ethanol content from the current 10 percent to 15 percent. EPA is proposing a label be placed on pumps at gas stations that dispense E15, along with a separate labeling requirement for fuel blender pumps and pumps that dispense E85. In addition, the proposed rule would require product transfer documents specifying both ethanol content and volatility to accompany the transfer of the fuel, as well as a national survey of retail stations to ensure compliance. Confusion coming? You bet!

The marine industry opposed the increase from E10 to E15. We did not prevail. But, just slapping a label on pumps will hardly eliminate the mass confusion or dangers of misfueling. Dealers in the Great Lakes area should attend the EPA hearing and make known the industry’s position that EPA’s E15 decision is imprudent and a label won’t correct it. The hearing will be held at: Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, 163 E. Walton Place at North Michigan Ave., Chicago (312) 751-8100. It starts at 10 a.m.

Nov. 18: Leaders from both parties in the House and Senate are slated to meet with President Obama to discuss the agenda for the remaining days of the 111th Congress. Topping the list will be the Bush tax cuts, which expire at year end. According to information obtained by MRAA’s Washington lobbyist Larry Innis, the President has said he expects this meeting to be substantial. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has indicated the President is now “open” to extending the Bush tax cuts for those above the $250,000 mark. A deal will be needed but it will be positive for us as small business.

Nov. 30:  The President has called for an extension of the current 99-week limit on unemployment benefits that expires at the end of this month. We have many employees currently receiving these benefits. While we’d like to be calling them back to work but can’t, yet, we can urge continuation of these needed benefits. Congress and the President will have to compromise here, too. And, to add a similar mess that needs to be worked out, expiring on Nov. 30 is a temporary fix to the Medicare physician payment system – the so-called “doc fix.” If not extended, many doctors are expected to opt out of taking Medicare patients.
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Dec. 1:  The Obama-appointed National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (see Dealer Outlook, Sept. 28 and 30, 2010) will make public its recommended tax and spending changes to balance the budget by 2015. While not likely to effect the lame duck session, this report is certain to loom big in the new 112th Congress and it will impact all of us.
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Dec. 3: Almost the entire federal government is operating on temporary funding provided by a continuing resolution that Congress passed in September and which ends on this date. Congress may need to pass another CR in lieu of an omnibus spending bill for FY 2011. Or, Congress could also simply extend the current CR through the entire FY 2011. Either way, it’s an issue that will create sparks.

Finally, besides health care, two looming issues this Congress won’t touch but will leave for the next Congress are the IRS 1099 fiasco saddling small businesses and the U.S. debt ceiling. Concerning the latter, the Treasury Department has said it will hit the borrowing limit sometime in the first half of 2011. Raising the debt ceiling will be a lightening rod for politics. With the new Republican majority in the House, it’ll be a battleground.

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