GOP Rescinds Trust Fund Guarantee

highway2January 10, 2011 – Well, this isn't welcome news. House Republicans voted to rescind a guarantee that Highway Trust Fund revenues would be spent to fund the critical highway and transit programs that stone producers rely upon to drive business. The move was almost unilaterally condemned by national highway and infrastructure interests. ARTBA President Pete Ruane, in a scathing response, said, “Thirteen years ago, Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike voted overwhelmingly to provide budgetary guarantees that ensured all federal gas and diesel tax user fee revenue collected for the Highway Trust Fund would be invested exclusively and in a timely manner in state highway, bridge and transit improvements.

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Big Stick Enforcement

msha

January 7, 2011 – In an unprecedented legal case, the Labor Dept. and Massey Energy's Freedom Energy Mining Co. have reached a settlement where MSHA sought a court injunction on the "belief" of a pattern of violations. Solicitor of Labor Patricia Smith said the "Labor Dept. is very excited by this settlement," noting that most of the settlement provisions go "above and beyond the normal requirements contained in the Mine Act." According to Rock Products columnist Ellen Smith, publisher of Mine Safety and Health News, "The settlement has the potential to affect every mine operator in the U.S." To initiate an enforcement action, MSHA needs only to believe there is a pattern of violations. Think about it. Using whatever criteria they wish to use. If MSHA suspects there is a pattern of violations, you can be shut down. This goes way beyond what they industry has heretofore experienced with regard to enforcement  strategy. Stay tuned for more on this in the future.

Indiana dreaming

indiana-stateJanuary 5, 2011 – Traveling in the great state of Indiana today, home of John Mellencamp, James Dean, Notre Dame and the Indianapolis Colts. According to the latest information from the U.S. Geological Survey, total aggregates production here increased 0.9 percent in the third quarter of 2010. Crushed stone production increased 1.1 percent, while sand and gravel production increased 0.5 percent. The best that can said for production in Indiana is that it didn't decrease. According to Ed Gehr, Martin Marietta Aggregates, president of the Indiana Mineral Aggregates Association, "dry fall weather throughout the state created ideal conditions for heavy highway construction as well as one of the busiest fall agricultural Aglime seasons on record. Hopefully the dry weather conditions provided a bright spot for our member businesses as the industry continues to suffer the effects of the poor national economy."

Cement takes a jump

usgsJanuary 4, 2011 – The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) just released October cement shipment numbers, and the results are encouraging. Total shipments of portland and blended cement in the United States and Puerto Rico for October 2010 were 7.0 million metric  tons (Mt). This was 14 percent higher than shipments in October 2009. Year-to-date shipments through October  were 60.1 Mt, down slightly from those of the same period in  2009.

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Study to shape Great Lakes shipping

USDOTJanuary 3, 2011 – A lot of stone gets shipped on the Great Lakes, and shipping is a vital part of the Great Lakes region economy. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration will hold three public meetings to gather data and comments for the agency's U.S.-Flag Great Lakes Fleet Revitalization Study.  It will include reviewing investment options for the revitalization of the fleet and related regional maritime infrastructure, an overview of existing market conditions, an inventory of the U.S.-flagged Great Lakes vessels and regional port infrastructure, an examination of private/public sector financing options, and a benefit-cost analysis for each of the investment options. 

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