Environmental News Highlights – January 6, 2021


Updated: State DOTs Net $10B in Aid from COVID-19 Relief Legislation – AASHTO Journal

The Biden Environment Team and a Government-Wide Approach to Sustainability – Earth Institute/Columbia University

The pendulum is the pits: Can the United States make enduring regulations? – Brookings Institution

AAPA: U.S. Ports fare well in Congressional Year-End Legislation – Dredging Today


How local waste and recycling leaders are grappling with coronavirus-driven budget pressures – Waste Dive


Biden CEQ pick signals NEPA changes – E&E News

Transition Thoughts: The Presidential Transition, NEPA, and Project Review – National Law Review

Seven-year King of Prussia rail delay shows folly of modern environmental laws – Philadelphia Inquirer (Opinion)


Virginia DOT Launches Second Major Anti-Litter Initiative – AASHTO Journal

Extra scrutiny sought for warehouse at Grand Island Amazon site – Buffalo News

Lorain’s active transportation planning continues despite pandemic – Morning Journal (Ohio)

FLAP grant eyes infrastructure projects on Teton Pass – Jackson Hole News&Guide


Regional GHG Reduction Consortium Takes Shape – AASHTO Journal

Colorado air quality regulators update plan to lower ozone levels and align with EPA standards – Colorado Sun


Biden links climate change, jobs and environmental justice – Successful Farming

Landmark Climate Policy Faces Growing Claims of Environmental Racism – Pew


Charles River Tributary in Boston Gets D- for Water Quality in New Report Card – WBTS-TV

Thousands of bats live in this Sacramento freeway. How Caltrans is ‘evicting’ them – Sacramento Bee


Looking back on Minnesota and Washington State DOTs’ inaugural artists-in-residence – Transportation for America

President-Elect Biden Expected To Act To Reverse President Trump’s Public Lands Impacts – National Parks Traveler


What Does Pete Buttigieg’s Nomination as Transportation Secretary Mean for Cyclists? – Bicycling

Opinions sought for state Active Transportation Plan – Hays Post

State active transportation plan is rolling: Washingtonians invited to comment by Feb. 15 – WSDOT (Press release)


TRB Webinar: People Movers and Shakers-Quality of Life in Airport Communities – TRB

2021 Conference on Sustainability and Emerging Transportation Technology – TRB

TRB Webinar: A Two-Way Ticket – Collaborative Planning Among Airports and Public Agencies – TRB

How We Move Matters: Exploring the Connections between New Transportation and Mobility Options and Environmental Health– Abstracts due April 15, 2021 – TRB (Call for Presentations)

Characteristics and Elements of Nonpunitive Employee Safety Reporting Systems for Public Transportation – TCRP

Introduction to Blockchain and Airport Operations in a COVID-19 Environment – ACRP

Oregon DOT Hiring an Environmental Project Manager – Oregon DOT


Program for Eliminating Duplication of Environmental Review – FHWA/FRA/FTA (Final rule)

National Standards for Traffic Control Devices; the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways; Revision – FHWA (Proposed rule; notice of proposed amendments; correction)

Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program; Arizona Department of Transportation Draft FHWA Audit Report – FHWA (Notice; Request for comment)

Hours of Service of Drivers: Association of American Railroads and American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association; Application for Exemption – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (Notice of final disposition; grant of exemption)

Hazardous Materials: Miscellaneous Amendments Pertaining to DOT- Specification Cylinders
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Final rule)

Reclassification of Major Sources as Area Sources Under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act; Correction – EPA (Final rule; correction)

Civil Monetary Penalty Inflation Adjustment – EPA (Final rule)

Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Benefits and Costs in the Clean Air Act Rulemaking Process – EPA (Final rule)

Hazardous and Solid Waste Management System: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals From Electric Utilities; Reconsideration of Beneficial Use Criteria and Piles; Notification of Data Availability – EPA (Proposed rule; notice of data availability; request for comment)

EPA’s Approval of Florida’s Clean Water Act Section 404 Assumption Request – EPA (Notice)

Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Ice Roads and Ice Trails Construction and Maintenance Activities on Alaska’s North Slope – NOAA (Final rule; notification of issuance of Letters of Authorization)

Financial Support for Transmission and Distribution Lines To Pump Stations 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 in Connection With the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline – Rural Utilities Service (Notice of Availability of a Record of Decision)

NYSDOT Helps Complete Empire State Multi-Use Trail

The New York State Department of Transportation helped complete and fully open the 750-mile long Empire State Trail – currently the nation’s longest multi-use state trail – on December 31, 2020.

[Photo courtesy of the New York State Department of Transportation.]

The Empire State Trail will be open year-round, including winter, and connects 20 regional trails to create a continuous statewide signed route.

For its part, the NYSDOT improved 170 miles of on-road bicycle route sections to enhance safety and travel on low-speed rural roadways and city streets when possible. The agency also helped install 45 gateways and trailheads along the route to welcome visitors and branded the trail with signage, interpretive panels, bike racks, and benches.

“Nearly four years ago, we announced plans to build the Empire State Trail and I am excited to announce it’s been completed on time,” explained New York Governor Andrews Cuomo (D) in a statement – adding that the trail should attract 8.6 million residents and tourists annually.

Photo courtesy of the New York State Department of Transportation

“There’s no trail like it in the nation,” he said. “Not only does it provide an opportunity to experience the natural beauty and history of New York, but it also gives New Yorkers from every corner of the state a safe outlet for recreation as we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

NYSDOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez noted that 58 distinct projects created more than 180 miles of new off-road trail and linked 400 miles of previously disconnected, off-road trails to eliminate gaps and ease engineering challenges such as railroad and water crossings in high traffic areas. “Completion of the 750-mile Empire State Trail is a truly historic achievement for New York State that demonstrates the intricate connection between investments in transportation infrastructure and the vitality of our communities,” she said. “This breathtaking trail will allow countless generations of New Yorkers and visitors to explore the world-renowned natural wonders and beauty of the Empire State and provide unparalleled recreational access to users of all ages and abilities – all while promoting environmental responsibility, tourism, and economic development.”

ETAP Podcast: Spotlighting TRB’s 100th Annual Meeting

This episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast shines a light on the Transportation Research Board’s 100th annual meeting and the changes going on behind-the-scenes at TRB to prepare for the mobility challenges of the future.

Featuring Martin Palmer – engineering services manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation and co-chair of TRB’s Standing Committee on Environmental Analysis and Ecology – the podcast also discusses the all-virtual format for the organization’s 100th meeting; a format required due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It took six months for TRB to revamp its entire annual meeting program, to get the recordings and virtual platforms established,” he said. “While the virtual meeting will be different in the sense that while there will be fewer sessions, there is the potential for more participants. And no one has to worry about being turned away from a virtual session because there is always a seat available.”

Palmer also talks about how TRB has restructured its committee groups to meet new transportation challenges. “TRB has merged several committees – such as operations with safety – and formed several new groups, such as sustainability and resilience, transportation and society, and a committee devoted to the impact of extreme weather.”

One of the biggest topics up for discussion at TRB’s 100th annual meeting is how transportation could be affected during the transition to the Harris-Biden administration.

“As we transition to another administration, we expect policy changes,” Palmer noted. “Under the previous administration, we experienced a ‘re-visioning’ on how we looked at the Endangered Species Act, for example. So we expect some of those things to change, though it will take time to put such changes in place and move forward with them.”

To listen to this ETAP Podcast, click here.

Hawaii DOT Launches Storm Water Online Learning Series for Kids

Protecting the ocean, rivers, and streams from pollution is the focus of a new online learning series for kids launched by the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Storm Water Management Program.

[Photo courtesy of Hawaii Department of Transportation.]

The Hawaii Storm Patrol Online Learning Series teaches children – known as “keiki” in Hawaiian – about storm drain systems, how they carry rainwater off roadways to prevent flooding, and why preventing litter, debris, chemicals, and other pollutants from entering storm drains helps preserve the environment.

Photo courtesy of Hawaii DOT

The free series is available at stormwaterhawaii.com and can be viewed on a desktop, laptop, or mobile device.

The agency noted that this video series is comprised of four animated videos that explain the water cycle, how Hawaii’s storm drains work, different types of pollution, and the impact of storm water on our ocean and near shore waters. Characters from the popular Hawaii Storm Patrol: New Recruits booklet star in the series and offer tips to protect the environment.

Each video is followed by a short quiz to help young viewers retain information and students who complete the online learning series become an official recruit of the Hawaii Storm Patrol and can download a specially designed Zoom background to use for their virtual classes.

An instructor’s guide is included to help parents and teachers utilize the online learning series in a remote learning or classroom setting. “Our in-person, in-classroom storm water presentations were well received by students and teachers. Keiki now understand the importance of protecting the environment and are eager to learn how they can help,” explained Jade Butay, Hawaii DOT’s director, in a statement. “We wanted to build on the success of our in-classroom program and creating a remote learning version enables us to reach more students and expand the awareness of storm water pollution prevention.”

Regional GHG Emission Reduction Consortium Takes Shape

The states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, along with the District of Columbia, signed a memorandum of understanding or MOU on December 21 committing themselves to a “multi-jurisdictional program” to pursue systematic and substantial reductions in motor vehicle greenhouse gas or GHG emissions while “re-investing” $300 million annually in cleaner transportation infrastructure.

[Graphic provided by the Connecticut Governor’s Office.]

The new Transportation and Climate Initiative Program or TCI-P is the outgrowth of collaboration between 12 Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast states and the District of Columbia known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative. Originally formed in 2019, the TCI issued a nine-page draft policy proposal in December 2019 for establishing a cap on GHG emissions from transportation fuels while investing millions of dollars annually to develop cleaner transportation systems and more resilient transportation infrastructure.

The signatories said the TCI-P’s funding would result from the mandated purchase of “emission allowances” by gasoline and diesel fuel suppliers. The total number of allowances would decline each year, resulting in less transportation pollution, they said, with each participating jurisdiction independently deciding how to invest program proceeds to achieve the goals of the MOU.

In a statement, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont (D) said the TCI-P MOU should reduce transportation-related GHGs in his state by at least 26 percent from 2022 to 2032 and generate annual revenue due to emission allowances fees of up to $89 million in 2023 – increasing to as much as $117 million in 2032. Gov. Lamont said Connecticut would re-invest those funds in “equitable and cleaner transportation options,” creating an employment program across transit, construction, and green energy – serving as a “catalyst” for infrastructure development through the next decade and beyond.

“Engaging in this way with my fellow governors and Mayor Bowser accomplishes goals we have set for Connecticut for years,” the governor explained.

“Participating in the TCI-P will help grow our economy through a fresh injection of capital to provide for jobs and new infrastructure,” Gov. Lamont added. “This collaboration will cut our greenhouse gas emissions, and it will make our urban centers healthier, after decades of being adversely impacted by the emissions being released by traffic every day.”

“By partnering with our neighbor states with which we share tightly connected economies and transportation systems, we can make a more significant impact on climate change while creating jobs and growing the economy as a result,” added Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R).

“This first-of-its-kind program will provide $20 million annually for public transit, safe streets for bikers and pedestrians, and other green projects,” noted Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D). “Most importantly, it will provide much-needed relief for the urban communities who suffer lifelong health problems as a result of dirty air.”

The MOU also commits those three states and the District of Columbia to allot no less than 35 percent of annual emission allowances proceeds to assist communities “overburdened and underserved” by the current transportation system.