Parts of the federal government, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, remain shut down as the 116th Congress gavels into session. For the time being, however, there are minimal impacts on policies affecting motor fuels or highways. This could change, however, if the shutdown continues for several more weeks.
There are no impending EPA rulemakings pertaining to the Renewable Fuel Standard scheduled for the coming weeks, though there are several rulemakings expected in February. If the partial government shutdown extends into the latter half of January, it could result in a regulatory backlog at EPA and potentially delay these rulemakings, which pertain to allowing E15 to be sold year-round throughout the country, reforming RIN markets, and "resetting" the statutory baseline for renewable volume obligations that refiners must meet under the RFS.
With respect to highway policy, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are mostly funded out of the Highway Trust Fund and will generally stay open as the federal gasoline and diesel excise taxes continue to be collected. Work on issuing new regulations, however, will stop throughout the Department of Transportation.
While State Departments of Transportation are not facing an immediate crisis, the funding increases included in the fiscal 2019 transportation appropriations bill are being held up as the bill remains stuck in Congress. In addition to a 1.5 across-the-board increase in spending, the legislation also provides nearly $50 billion for highway infrastructure, with approximately $800 million targeted to bridges in rural areas.
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