A new proposal to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA) would threaten federal funding to the states for highway improvement projects, and fails to consider the negative impacts on air quality from ever-worsening traffic congestion, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).
In Nov. 28 comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the association said the current CAA regulatory structure is not capable of regulating GHG emissions and would actually result in most urban areas being placed in “non-attainment” status—meaning that states could lose their federal highway funds. The association cited EPA’s own Administrator Stephen Johnson who said: “The Clean Air Act, an outdated law originally enacted to control regional pollutants that cause direct health effects, is ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gasses. Based on the analysis to date, pursuing this course of action would inevitably result in a very complicated, time consuming, and likely, convoluted set of regulations.”
EPA’s plan to use the CAA as the vehicle for regulating GHGs is in direct response to a 2007 Supreme Court’s Massachusetts v. EPA ruling, where the Court held the CAA authorizes the regulation of GHGs, and directed the agency to look further into the possibility of developing regulations.
Missing from the proposed rule, ARTBA noted, was any mention that one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions is not transportation itself, but traffic congestion. The association offered five recommendations it said should be a part of any successful federal GHG gas reduction strategy:
1) Acknowledge that traffic congestion reduction is, indeed, essential to reducing GHGs. Congestion levels are increasing in metropolitan areas across America, primarily because so little road or rail capacity has been added over the past 25 years. Emissions from vehicles stuck in traffic are much greater than those on roads where traffic is moving.
2) Fully implement ARTBA’s “Critical Commerce Corridors” goods movement program, a 25-year initiative aimed at adding intermodal capacity to handle the expected doubling of truck traffic. Reducing freight-related emissions is a required element of any plan to reduce both congestion and GHGs.
3) Reform of the CAA’s Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) program to allow program funds to be used for congestion reduction activities, including new roadway capacity.
4) Direct any funds collected as part of a “carbon tax” or other user-based fee to address climate change into the federal Highway Trust Fund, as these funds are being levied on those using the nation’s transportation system and, in turn, should be used to improve that same system in order to assure congestion is kept at bay.
5) Recognize that if there is to be additional GHG regulation that such regulation should be implemented on a uniform basis and not in a patchwork, state-by-state fashion.
For more information, visit www.artba.org.