Transportation News for January 23, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on January 23, 2015

Politico Morning Transportation: FAA settles drone case but is still losing war — Lawmakers divided over how to use repatriation for transpo funding — DeFazio blasts DOT over tank car rule delay

FAA SETTLES DRONE CASE, BAN STAYS IN PLACE: The FAA’s rules banning the use of commercial drones will stand after the pilot who challenged them agreed to drop his suit in exchange for a reduced fee. But the agency’s war over policing the use of unmanned aerial vehicles rages on. Kevin on what it all means: “The FAA won their battle with drone pilot Raphael Pirker. The agency will receive $1,100. Their rules banning most commercial drone use will remain on the books for now.

But Pirker’s side – the entrepreneurs looking to use drones for everything from photography to agriculture – now has the momentum.”

“As the deadline for a new FAA authorization bill nears, it’s clear that Pirker and his compatriots have the ear of Congress. At hearings in the House Science and the House Transportation committees in recent months, members have lined up to sharply question the FAA on its delays in integrating unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace, bureaucratic problems with its test sites and the process for applying for ban exemptions.” Kevin brings it for Pros:

More on the drone case: Pirker, a drone pilot known as ‘Trappy,’ was initially ordered to pay the FAA $10,000 for using a drone to film a commercial for the University of Virginia in 2011. Pirker challenged the case in court, arguing the FAA’s rule banning commercial drone use is illegal because it hadn’t gone through a standard regulatory process. The settlement (first reported by The Wall Street Journal) doesn’t constitute an admission of wrongdoing, Pirker’s lawyer said. ‘The decision to settle the case was not an easy one,” lawyer Brendan Schulman said in a statement (

EVERYBODY LOVES REPATRIATION (WELL, ALMOST): Now that Hill talk of a gas tax hike seems to be buried (but the May HTF funding deadline still looms), more lawmakers are joining the “pro-repatriation” camp to fund transportation programs, including House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster. But that doesn’t mean they agree on the details. Sens. Rand Paul and Barbara Boxer are working together on a standalone bill using revenue from repatriation for the Highway Trust Fund. But several other lawmakers have said they would be reluctant to support the idea unless it’s part of a broader corporate tax overhaul – a much bigger lift for Congress.

Standalone bill complicates tax reform: “The best way to do this and to fund highways is to do it in the context of tax reform,” Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune said in a chat with MT. A standalone proposal “complicates our ability to do tax reform. I mean to move to a territorial system and to get rates down, you really need to have the revenue from repatriation to accomplish that,” he added.

Carper: More than ‘one-time money’ needed- “The repatriated money is necessary to be able to lower the corporate rates,” Sen. Tom Carper said, echoing Thune. The Delaware Democrat said another issue is what happens to the Highway Trust Fund when money from repatriation runs out. “Would repatriated money come in handy? For a while. But when it runs out, what you need is sustained money,” he told MT. “What we need is not just one-time money.”

Paul floats another idea: Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan is looking at boosting the Highway Trust Fund by relying on revenue from expanded oil and gas drilling. More from the Kenosha News:

NTSB WANTS TAMPER-PROOF TRACKING FOR AIRLINES: The NTSB is asking the FAA to come up with better ways to locate crashed aircraft, as well as faster access to data without needing to fish black boxes from underwater. The agency’s recommendations come after a series of freak commercial airline accidents, including the recent AirAsia crash and the costly and still ongoing search for a Malaysian airplane likely downed over the ocean. The agency also is again recommending airplanes be equipped with a crash-proof cockpit image recording system, an idea industry group ALPA said it was “deeply concerned” about. Read the NTSB recommendations:

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