Environmental News Highlights – April 6, 2022



New vehicles must average 40 mpg by 2026, up from 28 mpg – AP

EPA resurrects plan to drop air pollution liability shield – E&E News

The infrastructure law’s untapped potential for promoting community safety – Brookings

Infrastructure funding is a chance to think beyond cars – The Hill (Opinion)

Fact Sheet: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Announces Additional Infrastructure Funding for Ports and Waterways – The White House (Media release)


Letter Reinforces Need for COVID Funding Flexibility – AASHTO Journal

U.S. CDC scraps COVID warning for cruise travel after 2 years – Reuters

White House turns to air quality in latest effort to thwart coronavirus – Washington Post


Solutionaries: EVs and Public transportation have never looked more attractive – KPRC-TV

Vermont House passes $870 million transportation package, investing heavily in electric vehicles – VTDigger

San Diego mayor’s office releases study on climate policy, job impact – KGTV-TV

Alaskans’ Input Sought on Transportation Needs – Transport Topics

Grand Rapids neighborhood pushes for less pollution, truck traffic from US-131 – MiBiz


New Mexico needs electric vehicles to clean up air pollution, prevent deaths study says – Carlsbad Current-Argus

In the race for electric cars, biofuels hold Iowans back – KDSM-TV

Colorado’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rule for Surface Transportation Offers a Model for Other States and the Nation – Center for American Progress (Commentary)


Feds Seek To Improve Airline Accessibility – Disability Scoop

George Mitchell Center hosts ‘Equity and Environmental Justice’ – Maine Campus

MTI Research Explores The Misuse of the ‘Equity’ Label – Metro


Bureau County farmer provides an example of what smart wetlands can offer water conservation efforts – Shaw Local News Network

Fickle Mississippi River Directs New Orleans Ferry Terminal Project – Engineering News-Record


Should NH crack down on roadside memorials? Citizens Count


I-74 Bridge Path Will Soon Be Ready for Pedestrians & Bicyclists – WVIK Radio

12 miles of new trails coming to Salt Lake County, Utah – KTVX-TV

Pittsburgh is the latest city to gain a freeway capping park – The Architect’s Newspaper

How switching to EVs would improve health in the US – The Verge


Neil Pedersen, Executive Director of the Transportation Research Board Announces Retirement – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

TRB Webinar: Implementing and Evaluating Wildlife Crossings – TRB

Agricultural Operations on Airport Grounds – ACRP

Coordination of Public Transit Services and Investments with Affordable Housing Policies – TCRB

New Research Examines Infrastructure Needs of AVs – AASHTO Journal

Investing in Infrastructure for Healthy Communities – Regional Plan Association


Meeting of the National Drinking Water Advisory Council – EPA (Notice of a public meeting)

Proposed Deletion From the National Priorities List – EPA (Proposed rule and withdrawal of proposed rule

COVID-19 Related Relief Concerning Operations at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, New York LaGuardia Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National, and San Francisco International Airport for the Summer 2022 Scheduling SeasonFAA (Extension of limited, conditional waiver of the minimum slot usage requirement for international operations only)

Notice of Public Meetings for the Western Oregon Resource Advisory Council – Bureau of Land Management (Notice of public meetings)

Notice of Final Agency Actions on Proposed Railroad Project in California on Behalf of the California High Speed Rail Authority – FRA (Notice)

Notice of Availability of a Final General Conformity Determination for the California High-Speed Rail System, San Jose to Merced Section – FRA (Notice)

Oregon Legislature Issues Wildlife Corridor Funding

The Oregon Department of Transportation recently received a special one-time allocation of $7 million in general funds from the Oregon legislature to invest in wildlife corridor projects statewide.

[Above photo by the Oregon DOT]

The Oregon DOT said it has had “great success” with wildlife undercrossing structures in recent years, with five crossings built to date in the state, all on U.S. 97, leading to an 86 percent reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Cidney Bowman, the agency’s wildlife passage coordinator, said in a statement that Oregon DOT plans to use that one-time funding not just to help fund wildlife crossing construction but also to fund studies, retrofit existing structures, and pay for research into new wildlife detection technology.

She added that, while this new funding will go a long way toward making our highways safer, Oregon DOT’s goal is to have yearly dedicated funding for wildlife corridor needs similar to how the state funds its fish passage program.

A state report issued in 2020 indicates that Oregon needs $22 million to $35 million in “immediate” funding to support wildlife crossing projects statewide.

Other states – especially in the western parts of the country – are beefing up investments in wildlife passage programs and infrastructure. For example, California and Utah both have 50 wildlife passage structures, Nevada has 23, and Colorado leads the pack at 69.

Recently, the Colorado Department of Transportation and ABCO Contracting began installing three miles of new “high deer” fencing and earthen big game ramps along US Highway 24/285; a $2.26 million project that should wrap up in early September.

Additionally, the high deer fencing will tie into existing drainage structures that are sufficiently large enough to offer crossing locations for large game. The new fencing will funnel wildlife to these locations, an important aspect of this project site, purpose, and design noted Julie Constan, the agency’s regional transportation director.

“Wildlife-vehicle collisions make up approximately 60 percent of the total crashes along this stretch of highway,” she said in a statement. “The investment made to install the fencing will show us a tremendous benefit. Studies have shown that big game-vehicle collisions are expected to go down by at least 80 percent with the aid of fencing features.”

Maine DOT Creates Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group

The Maine Department of Transportation has formed an Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group (OSWPAG) to advise it and other state officials regarding the potential development of wind port facilities, which will be integral to promoting the University of Maine’s patented floating offshore wind technology and attracting offshore wind industry investment to Maine.

[Above image via the University of Maine]

The OSWPAG consists of 19 members representing a spectrum of local, regional, and statewide stakeholders, including representatives from the environmental, business, port and marine transportation, fishing, labor, construction, and conservation interests.

State government officials representing Maine DOT, the Governor’s Energy Office or GEO, the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation & Future, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and others will serve as subject matter experts to support the OSWPAG’s work. New England Aqua Ventus – the firm working with GEO to develop the floating offshore wind research array – and Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the holder of the conservation easement on the 600 acres of Sears Island reserved for conservation, will also be available to serve as technical advisors. Maine DOT said it would provide logistical and communications support for those efforts.

“Maine DOT and our collaborating state agencies want to thank the members of the Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group for agreeing to be part of this important process,” said Bruce Van Note, the agency’s commissioner, in a statement.

“We expect the stakeholders on this group to have varying perspectives and to engage in robust and thoughtful discussions regarding the potential for port development to support the rapidly growing offshore wind market,” he added. “This group’s work will provide important input as we look ahead to the ways Maine can help harness clean energy while creating jobs and strengthening our state’s economy.”

The formation of the OSWPAG is a companion effort to the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative led by the GEO, which is exploring the responsible development of floating offshore wind energy in the federal waters off the Gulf of Maine while ensuring balance with our state’s maritime industries and environment.

Maine DOT said a key component of this broader GEO initiative is the development of the Offshore Wind Roadmap, a comprehensive economic development planning process now underway. Working groups of the Roadmap include those studying energy markets, environmental and wildlife issues, supply chain, workforce development, port, and marine transportation needs, and fisheries.

ETAP Podcast: Joint Office of Energy and Transportation

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Rachael Nealer (seen above) – deputy director for the newly formed Joint Office of Energy and Transportation – discusses the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula program (NEVI) created by the $1.2 trillion infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA, enacted in November 2021.

[Above photo via John Hopkins University]

The Joint Office of Energy and Transportation – created by the IIJA – aims to “facilitate collaboration” between the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Transportation; aligning resources and expertise across the two departments to help build a national network of electric vehicle chargers, zero-emission fueling infrastructure, and the deployment of zero-emission transit and school buses.

Nealer holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Carnegie Mellon University, respectively, along with a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon.

In addition to stints with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, Nealer worked as an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University. For the last year, Nealer served as deputy director for transportation technology and policy at Council on Environmental Quality. To listen to this podcast, click here.

NHTSA Issues New Vehicle Fuel Mileage Standards

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued new Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFE standards that require an industry-wide fleet average of approximately 49 miles per gallon for passenger cars and light trucks in model year 2026.

[Above photo of GM plant via Wikimedia Commons]

The agency said in a statement that the new standards would increase fuel efficiency 8 percent annually for model years 2024-2025 and 10 percent annually for model year 2026. They will also increase the estimated fleet-wide average by nearly 10 miles per gallon for model year 2026, relative to model year 2021.

NHTSA added that its new CAFE standards for model year 2024-26 should reduce fuel consumption by more than 200 billion gallons through 2050, as compared to the old standards.

The agency also noted that this final CAFÉ rule follows President Biden’s Executive Order 13990, which directed NHTSA to review the 2020 “The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks” final rule.

NHTSA also emphasized, however, that “real-world fuel economy” is generally 20 to 30 percent lower than the estimated required CAFE level stated above, while also noting that actual CAFE standards serve as a “footprint” or “target” curves for passenger cars and light trucks. That means ultimate fleet-wide levels would vary depending on the mix of vehicles that the industry produces for sale in those model years.

This agency added that its final rule reflects a conclusion “significantly different” from the conclusion it reached in the 2020 final rule. However, this is because “important facts have changed” and because NHTSA has reconsidered how to balance the relevant statutory considerations in light of those facts.

NHTSA concludes that these significantly more stringent standards are feasible and vehicle manufacturers can achieve them during the period covered by this new final rule. Standards that are more stringent than those finalized in 2020 appear economically practicable, based on manageable average per-vehicle cost increases, large consumer fuel savings, minimal effects on sales, and estimated increases in employment, among other things.