November 13, 2011

U.S. Reps Hanna and Edwards introduce Clean Construction Act of 2011

Bill purported to make the air cleaner, boost employment, and support a construction industry hit hard by the recession.

U.S. Representatives Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) introduced a bipartisan bill on Oct. 6 that they say will improve air quality around infrastructure projects by making it easier and more cost-effective to upgrade construction equipment to meet diesel soot emissions standards.

The legislation will help states reduce pollution within their borders and beyond, and will create jobs in the environmental technology industry, according to Hanna and Edwards.

Under the “Clean Construction Act of 2011,” contractors working on federal transportation infrastructure projects in regions of the country that are not in compliance with federal air quality standards will be allowed to use a portion of the budget to reduce pollution from their older diesel-powered equipment. The bill aims to achieve a priority set in the last surface transportation authorization by expanding access to federal dollars under existing transportation programs for diesel engine upgrades. Diesel fuel powers most heavy machinery and vehicles used on construction sites.

“This process will help the construction industry increase its commitment to ensuring its equipment has a limited impact on the environment,” said Hanna, who is the vice chairman of the Highway and Transit Subcommittee of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. “This bill will spur tremendous strides in making cleaner machinery by allowing for improvements to be made to existing and – often older – equipment that still has a useful life. Through a competitive, market-based approach, we will utilize the latest and most effective technologies to improve our existing heavy-duty equipment.”

“The Clean Construction Act is a tremendous opportunity to help the construction industry improve air quality and create jobs,” said Edwards in a written statement. “Our legislation brings together the federal government, American businesses, and environmental groups to pair green technology with our nation’s infrastructure projects. The bill will make the air cleaner for all Americans, boost employment related to pollution control, and support a construction industry hit hardest by the recession.”

In a letter from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) to the senators, the organizations note that “diesel engines are the workhorse of our economy; diesel powers nearly all of the heavy-duty vehicles and equipment that are required to build and repair our roads, bridges, hospitals, and schools.”

AGC and CATF say the senator’s proposed legislation “provides a targeted approach to reducing particulate matter emissions from construction machines that will be used in the areas of the country that are struggling to meet federal air quality standards.”

The organizations also note in the letter that emissions from older equipment can be reduced by up to 85 percent with the installation of cost-effective technology, and that newly manufactured diesel-powered vehicles and equipment are continually becoming cleaner.

“While new diesel engines will include innovative clean diesel technology that achieves near-zero particulate matter emissions, fleet turnover of equipment without that modern technology will take many years,” AGC and CATF wrote. “Utilizing cleaner diesel engines in transportation projects is a winning proposition.”

California Miner Fires on Co-worker

A Lehigh Hanson employee allegedly upset about his performance record opened fire on his co-workers as an early morning meeting was about to begin.

On Oct. 5, Shareef Allman, a 15-year employee of the company’s Permanente Cement Plant in Cupertino, Calif., began a rampage of gunfire during an early morning meeting, according to an Oct. 10 report in the San Jose (California) Mercury News.

Union shop steward Mike Ambrosio said Allman was upset about scrutiny over his performance record, according to the report. Ambrosio, who was shot but survived the gunfire, said Allman believed that the criticism on his record was racially motivated, the newspaper reported.

Reports on the number of people killed and injured have varied. An initial report from Lehigh Hanson on Oct. 5 indicated that at least two employees were killed with an unconfirmed number of employees injured. However, the Oct. 10 San Jose Mercury News report indicated three workers were killed and some six others were injured.

At Aggregates Manager press time, the Permanente plant had begun the process of bringing operations back online. The plant was open for business and anticipated that it would be fully operational within one week, according to a press statement from Lehigh Hanson, which is part of the HeidelbergCement Group.

“The company’s priority continues to be the well-being of the plant’s employees,” the press statement noted.

Following the shooting, Lehigh Hanson President and CEO Dan Harrington said, “We are shocked and saddened by this morning’s [Oct. 5] events. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. I have committed the company’s resources to assist our affected employees during this difficult time.”

Kari Saragusa, president of the company’s West Region issued a statement ( on Oct. 6 calling the incident “a great tragedy — one unparalled in the 70-year history of this facility.” Saragusa noted that “the community is still very much in a state of shock.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims and their families,” Saragusa said following the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department announcement about the shootings. “Our first priority right now is taking care of our people. We are working closely with grief counselors and making sure our employees are prepared to deal with this terrible day. We are proud of our workforce — many have worked here for decades and even generations. Nothing is more important than their well-being, and the well-being of the shooting victim of Sunnyvale who also was assaulted.”

$500,000 tax break available for work truck purchased

Potential truck buyers may be able to find favorable tax treatment of commercial truck purchases this year.

According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Code (IRC), Title 26, Section 179, a taxpayer may elect to treat the cost of any qualifying property as an expense, rather than a depreciable capital asset. Using this tax code provision, business owners may be able to deduct the full purchase cost of a qualifying work truck or trucks, up to the $500,000 limit, for vehicles placed in service in 2011.

As the tax legislation currently stands, the IRC 179 maximum allowable deduction for tax year 2012 and beyond is set to revert to $25,000, so operators considering the purchase of a new FUSO truck or trucks, should certainly consider the tax implications of buying this year versus postponing the purchase beyond 2011.

IRC Section 179 contains a number of limitations and provisions that may affect the extent to which any business can deduct any specific purchase. Consequently, business owners should consult their own tax advisers and accountants regarding their individual situation and the applicability of IRC 179 to it.

Correction: The author of October’s Operations Illustrated segment was incorrrectly identified. It was written by Contributing Editor Mary Foster. We regret the error.



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