Environmental News Highlights – January 5, 2022

FEDERAL ACTION

New EPA Rule Mandates 55 MPG by Model Year 2026 – AASHTO Journal

Four environmental fights to watch in 2022 – The Hill

White House and Congress Made Significant Strides in 2021 to Improve U.S. Flood Policies – Pew

Study: Spending infrastructure funds on highway expansion could increase emissions – The Hill

Coalition Letter on the Resilient AMERICA Act – US Chamber of Commerce

COVID-19

Omicron Suddenly Upends the World’s Return to the Office – CityLab

As Traffic Roars Back, Neighborhoods Outside Manhattan Feel the Pain – New York Times

INFRASTRUCTURE RESILIENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY

Golden Gate Bridge announces fix for noise nuisance – Marin Independent Journal

It’s ‘everyone’s job:’ Delaware offers more details on climate action plan – WHYY Radio

Experts Debate Where EV Charging Infrastructure Needs to Be – Government Technology

Caltrans to Require ‘Complete Streets’ Features in Planning and Design of All New Projects – California DOT (Media release)

AIR QUALITY

N.J. will now be able to follow California’s clean air standards for cars – NJ.com

Ports eliminating old trucks as a step toward improving air quality – Spectrum News 1

Public transit in rural Maine is sparse. Improving it could help the state fight climate change – Maine Public Radio

MassDEP Files New Regulations to Reduce Emissions, Advance Market for Clean Trucks in the Commonwealth – Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (Media release)

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

Racial reckoning turns focus to roadside historical markers – NPR

How Detroit’s inequitable transit costs Black Detroiters more – and what we can do to change it – Metromode

‘Universal Basic Mobility’ Speaks to a City’s Values – Government Technology (Commentary)

NATURAL RESOURCES

Florida manatee deaths: EPA sued over Indian River Lagoon water quality by Earthjustice – TCPalm

Why millions of dollars are being invested in local water quality, and the innovative way it’s being spent – NorthCentralPA.com

Minnesota’s cleaned-up lakes and rivers show path forward for polluted waters – Star Tribune

Mississippi projects aim at improving oyster reefs – AP

HEALTH AND HUMAN ENVIRONMENT/ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION

Bicycling alone, no more: Maine moves toward active transportation – Maine Monitor

FAA shoots down Lakeland’s first plan to reduce jet noise – The Ledger

I-74 bike and pedestrian path opening delayed to spring 2022 – KWQC-TV

After 10 years, Lake Street Bridge opens to pedestrians. What it means for downtown ElmiraStar-Gazette

Endangered species ruling puts bike lanes in jeopardy – Redlands Community News (Editorial)

Active Transportation Plan: A new compass to guide the state’s active transportation future – Washington State DOT (Media release)

TRB RESOURCES/ANNOUNCEMENTS

Options for Improving the Safety of DUKW Type Amphibious Vessels – TRB

Measuring and Managing Freight Resilience Workshop – TRB (Workshop Summary)

Partnerships and Cross-Sector Collaboration Priorities to Support Climate Research and Policy – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (Workshop proceedings)

How We Move Matters: Exploring the Connections Between New Transportation and Mobility Options and Environmental Health – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (Workshop proceedings)

FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICES

Transportation Research and Development Strategic Plan; Request for Information – USDOT (RFI)

Design Standards for Highways – FHWA (Final Rule)

On-Site Civil Inspection Procedures; RescissionEPA (Final rule; rescission of regulations)

State of New Mexico Underground Injection Control Program; Primacy Revisions – EPA (Final rule)

Revised 2023 and Later Model Year Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards – EPA (Final rule)

Proposed Consent Decree, Clean Air Act Citizen Suit – EPA (Notice; request for public comment)

Air Plan Approval; California; San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District; Open Burning – EPA (Proposed rule)

Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC)Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Subcommittee Meeting – January 2022 – EPA (Notice of public meeting)

Fire Safety of Small Passenger Vessels Coast Guard, DHS (Interim rule)

Port Access Route Study: Northern New York Bight – Coast Guard (Notice of availability; final
report.)

Notice of Intent To Prepare a Resource Management Plan Amendment and Associated Environmental Assessment for an Alternate Route for the Gateway South Transmission Line at the Colorado/Utah Border – Bureau of Land Management (Notice)

Call for Nominations or Expressions of Interest for Solar Leasing Areas on Public Lands in the States of Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada – Bureau of Land Management (Notice)

Hydrographic Services Review Panel – NOAA (Notice of call for nominations)

Intent To Request an Extension From OMB of One Current Public Collection of Information: Cybersecurity Measures for Surface Modes – DHS (60-Day notice)

New EPA Rule Mandates 55 MPG by Model Year 2026

The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing new federal greenhouse gas or GHG emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2023 through 2026 – establishing a 55 miles per gallon corporate average fuel economy or CAFE target for model year 2026 vehicles.

[Above photo by Ford Motor Co.]

The EPA expects its new rule – consistent with an executive order issued by President Biden in August 2021 – to “unlock” $190 billion in net benefits by reducing climate pollution, improving public health, and saving drivers money by reducing vehicle fuel consumption.

The agency also calculates that American motorists will save between $210 billion and $420 billion through 2050 on fuel costs due to this new rule.  On average over the lifetime of an individual MY 2026 vehicle, EPA estimates that the fuel savings will exceed the initial increase in vehicle costs by more than $1,000 for consumers.

The agency added in a statement that it plans to initiate a separate rulemaking to establish multi-pollutant emission standards under the Clean Air Act for MY 2027 passenger cars and light trucks and beyond to “speed the transition” of the country’s light-duty vehicle fleet toward a zero-emissions future consistent with the president’s abovementioned executive order.

The EPA also expects its new rule to spur increased production and sales of electric vehicles or EVs. As the GHG standards get stronger over the four-year period encompassed by the new rule, the agency said sales of EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles should grow from about 7 percent market share in MY 2023 to about 17 percent in MY 2026, the agency projects.

Those increasing levels of EVs will position the United States to achieve aggressive GHG emissions reductions from transportation over the long term, EPA noted.

Caltrans Adds ‘Complete Street’ Rule to Project Requirements

The California Department of Transportation recently unveiled a new “complete streets” policy for all new transportation projects it funds or oversees in order to provide “safe and accessible options” for people walking, biking, and taking transit.

[Above photo by Caltrans]

A “complete street” policy seeks to expand mobility options for people of all ages and abilities, particularly those who are walking, biking, using assistive mobility devices, and riding transit. Caltrans said its “complete streets” requirement – which went into effect December 7, 2021 – offers several benefits, including enhancing safety and creating more sustainable transportation options to decrease dependence on driving and improving public health by encouraging active transportation like walking and biking.

The agency added that its new policy ultimately aims to “expand the availability” of “sustainable transportation options” to help meet the state’s climate, health, and equity goals.

“California must reduce dependence on driving without sacrificing mobility and accessibility,” explained Toks Omishakin, director of Caltrans, in a statement.

“As Caltrans and local transportation agencies prepare for the influx of new federal infrastructure funding, it is important that we provide safe, convenient, sustainable, and accessible alternatives to driving to achieve our climate goals while equitably serving all Californians,” he said.

Other state departments of transportation are deploying similar “complete street” strategies as well.

In February 2021, the South Carolina Department of Transportation adopted what it calls a “wide-ranging” complete streets policy for the state-owned highway system.

That policy requires the South Carolina DOT to work with the state’s regional transportation planning partners and regional transit providers to identify and include walking, bicycling, and transit needs as part of their regional visioning plans.

The agency said it would then tailor those plans to the “unique needs” of locales across the state, serving as a foundation for highway planning and design, construction, maintenance, and daily operations.

ETAP Podcast: A Look Ahead to TRB’s Annual Meeting

This episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast focuses on the upcoming Transportation Research Board’s 2022 Annual Meeting, held in Washington D.C. January 9-13, along with a preview for the TRB Sustainability and Emerging Transportation Technology Conference taking place March 15-18 in Irvine, CA.

For this podcast, Tim Sexton (seen above) – chief sustainability officer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Chair of TRB’s Transportation and Sustainability Committee – will provide an overview of both sessions. To listen to this podcast, click here.

[Above image via the Minnesota DOT]

The 101st annual TRB meeting also features U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as the keynote speaker for the plenary session. He will give opening remarks and then participate in a “fireside chat” on stage with the chair and vice-chair of TRB’s Executive Committee.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials along with several state departments of transportation will also be headlining several key sessions at TRB’s annual meeting as well.

Dr. Shawn Wilson – secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development – will lead a state DOT chief executive roundtable entitled “State DOTs: Creating Pathways to Equity.” Wilson has made equity one of his key emphasis areas during his yearlong tenure as AASHTO’s 2021-2022 president.

Roger Millar, secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation, will lead a panel entitled “State DOTs Partnering to Deliver Public Benefits of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” Millar – who serves as AASHTO’s 2021-2022 vice president – will delve into the disbursement specifics of the funding from the $1.2 trillion surface transportation law, passed in November 2021.

AASHTO’s Caroline Kieltyka will lead a session on “Supply Chain Disruptions: Public Agency Perspectives,” focusing on freight and maritime issues.

Additionally, AASHTO’s Matthew Hardy will lead a session entitled “Embracing the Triple Bottom Line: Incorporating Social Equity and Environmental Sustainability into Your Asset Management Program,” with a particular focus on infrastructure-related concerns.

TRB also plans to host a special session honoring the legacy of Francis B. Francois, who served as AASHTO’s executive director from 1980 to 1999. Francois passed away in February 2021 in Chicago at the age of 87.

Maryland Launches Zero-Emission Transit Bus Transition Plan

The Maryland Transit Administration or MTA – a division of the Maryland Department of Transportation – launched a “transition plan” in December 2021 to move its transit fleet to zero-emission bus or ZEB models as older diesel-fueled and hybrid buses reach the end of their useful life.

[Above photo by the MTA]

MTA said in a statement that this “incremental” ZEB transition process includes bus facility updates as well and is designed to meet the requirements of Maryland’s new Zero-Emission Bus Transition Act, which mandates all new buses procured for the state’s transit fleet be emission-free beginning in 2023.

The agency plans to launch its first ZEB pilot program in 2023, when seven new battery-electric 40-foot and 60-foot articulated buses arrive at its Kirk Division, with that division’s facility expected to become a 100 percent electric bus facility by the end of 2026. The Northwest Division, which will begin a retrofit in early 2025, will highlight the second phase of the ZEB program with electric buses arriving in 2026.

Meanwhile, MTA said its Eastern Division expects to start the reconstruction of its bus facility in 2026, which will be one of the few purpose-built zero-emission bus facilities in the U.S., and should start hosting ZEBs starting in 2028. Finally, beginning in 2030, MTA’s Bush Division will undergo similar ZEB infrastructure investments.

Purchase of the new buses for this pilot program and the infrastructure for charging them will utilize grant funding from the Low or No Emission Vehicle Program from the Federal Transit Administration, and the Volkswagen Settlement.

Per targets identified in the Central Maryland Regional Transit Plan and guided by the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act Plan by the Maryland Department of the Environment, MTA has established several overall goals in undertaking the transition to a ZEB fleet. The agency has committed to converting 50 percent of its bus fleet to zero-emission by 2030 while seamlessly providing reliable, efficient service throughout the transition and beyond.

Center for Environmental Excellence Updating PAL Database

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Center for Environmental Excellence (CEE) is looking for state assistance in updating the contents of its Programmatic Agreement Library (PAL database).

The PAL database functions as a “central library” or “one-stop-shop” for programmatic agreements between state departments of transportation and/or the Federal Highway Administration in partnership with resource agencies that help streamline compliance with federal environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act.

The PAL contains not only the programmatic agreement information; but links to each full agreement and ongoing access for practitioners to research agreements that meet specific requirements.

However, most of the agreements within the database are 10 years old, so the CEE asks states to review their documents within the PAL to see if they are still valid, need to be updated, or removed entirely.

State agencies willing to help review PAL documents can reach out to jbillo@aashto.org for more information.