Environmental News Highlights – April 29, 2020

A roundup of headlines curated for state transportation environmental professionals

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Second Step Taken to Finalize New WOTUS Rule – AASHTO Journal


Is Coronavirus Reducing Noise Pollution?Forbes

Coronavirus is not just a health crisis — it’s an environmental justice crisis – Grist

Filling a post-coronavirus commuting void with bike lanes: Working at home – Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio)

COVID19: smart mobility goes viral – 2025 AD (Commentary)

Environmental Justice During COVID-19: Communities bear extra burdenGreatLakesNow (Michigan)

McEachin Letter Urges HHS to Address Disparities in COVID-19 Outcomes for Environmental Justice CommunitiesCongressman Donald McEachin – House.gov (Virginia)


All Projects Being Constructed Under Nationwide Permit 12 at Risk – JD Supra

EPA restores state water quality standards – The Lens (Washington)

Trump’s rewrite is finalized. What happens now? – E&E News

Unmanned Aerial SystemsFHWA

U.S. Transportation Officials Seek Alternative Tech for GPSIEEE Spectrum

EPA finalizes rule officials fear will allow pollution of streams and wetlands – Colorado Springs Indy (Colorado)


Transportation, Environment, and Energy: An Integrated Research Symposium – Will not be held as scheduled – TRB

TRB Webinar: What Role Does Ecology Have in Sustainable Transportation? – TRB

TRB Webinar: Designing landscapes to enhance roadside water management – TRB

TRB Webinar: The intersection between health and transportation – TRB


Stimulating Clean Infrastructure Through NEPA Reform – RealClear Energy

Environmental lawyer reflects on 50th anniversary of NEPA – ROI-NJ.com (New Jersey)

Close to Home: Don’t gut America’s fundamental environmental law – Press-Democrat (Commentary) (California)

California awards $500 million in transit and rail project grantsMass Transit

Draft PEA On Snow, Soil Moisture Monitoring Network In The Upper Missouri River Basin Available For Comment – Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan (North Dakota)

Port NOLA Board of Commissioners Adopts PIER Plan – WGNO-TV (Louisiana)


Wood energy as a climate change solution – The Hill (Opinion)

Using Millions of Maggots to Slow Down Climate ChangeBloomberg Green (Subscription Required)

New Systems of Governance Are Needed to Address Climate ChangeGovernment Executive

The Health Emergency That’s Coming to West Louisville – CityLab (Commentary) (Kentucky)

Ann Arbor council not ready to adopt A2Zero carbon-neutrality plan – MLive.com (Michigan)

Without fanfare, Houston unveils Climate Action Plan, shooting for carbon neutrality by 2050 – Houston Chronicle (Subscription Required (Texas))

State: Climate change to impact infrastructure, livestock, water – GoErie.com (Pennsylvania)

Bold investments in clean energy and transportation infrastructure will help lead us out of a recession – CalMatters (Commentary) (California)

Senate Committee Bills Would Steer Billions To Water InfrastructureWaterways Journal

Florida’s climate change efforts ‘disjointed,’ former state resilience officer found – Tampa Bay Times (Florida)

Sunrise GW signs Earth Day letter supporting path to cut D.C. greenhouse gas emissionsThe GW Hatchet (District of Columbia)

In the ‘climate refuge’ city of Duluth, a fight brews over the hometown utility – MinnPost (Minnesota)

50 years later, Earth Day’s unsolved problem: How to build a more sustainable world – MSN

50 Years of Earth Day: What’s Better Today, and What’s Worse – New York Times (Subscription Required)

ASU achieves carbon neutrality, ranked among most sustainable universities in the worldASU Now (Arizona)

Earth Day 2020: Corvias Partnerships Supports Resiliency, Sustainability and Energy IndependenceOlean Times Herald (Subscription Required)


Air quality in US dramatically worse than in prior years, says new ‘State of the Air’ report – CNN

Washington has its cleanest spring air in 25 years: How air quality has improved during the coronavirus crisis – The Washington Post (Subscription Required)

Princeton scientist solves air quality puzzle: Why is ozone pollution persisting in Europe despite environmental laws banning it? – Princeton University

The coronavirus crisis means we may have already reached peak carbon – CNBC

Pioneering the possibilities: N.J.’s energy and resource leaders pave way for a clean, green future – Jersey’s Best (New Jersey)


Washington State AG Ferguson Rolls Out Environmental Justice Initiative in Honor of Earth Day – Gonzaga University (Washington state)

SFR Elements: A look at disproportionate environmental impacts – Santa Fe Reporter (New Mexico)

An Earth Day Conversation About Environmental Justice With Pioneer Vernice Miller-Travis – Union of Concerned Scientists (Blog)


TAAR helps fund Norte program – Traverse City Record-Eagle (Michigan)

Billings trails connecting community to outdoors in time of pandemic – Billings Gazette (Montana)

SF Opens Select Streets to Pedestrians, Bicyclists Amid Pandemic – KNTV-TV video (California)

Could better measures mean better management for urban micro-mobility options? – Mass Transit

Connecticut DOT Marks Earth Day 2020 – The Newtown Bee (Connecticut)


Establishing a statewide water quality database – High Plains Journal (Kansas) (Subscription Required)

New Opportunity: Prairie Pothole Water Quality and Wildlife Program – NewsDakota.com (North Dakota)


Fresh Forest Regrowth May Offset Climate Hit From Australia Fires – Bloomberg Green (Subscription Required)

Lake Elsinore at highest level since 2012 after rising 6 feet – The Press-Enterprise (California)

Call for Research Proposals – TERI Database

What is TERI?

The Transportation and Environmental Research Ideas (TERI) database is a central storehouse for tracking and sharing new transportation and environmental research ideas. The Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO maintains TERI and keeps all content current. Suggestions for new ideas are welcome from practitioners across the transportation and environmental community.

Examples of Recent Proposals

  • Context-Sensitive Design Options for Workhorse Bridges in Rural Historic Districts
  • Mitigation Values of Wildlife Crossing Enhancements with Transportation Projects
  • Development of Programmatic Agreements for Project-Level Particulate Matter “Hot-Spot” Air Quality Analyses

Proposals are due by June 1, 2020.

For more information and to submit your ideas, visit https://environment.transportation.org/teri_database.

Maryland DOT Division Joins New Chesapeake Bay Restoration Effort

The Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration is launching a pilot education program with Living Classrooms Foundation that will encourage activities to reduce pollution to Maryland waterways and the Chesapeake Bay, with the overall success of this endeavor to be measured under Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).

“Working with Living Classrooms and other Bay partners, this program will help us empower one of our greatest resources in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay – our young people,” explained Gregory Slater, Maryland’s transportation secretary, in a statement. “Together we will educate future stewards of the environment with a program that’s informative, innovative, and driven by data to achieve real progress in restoring the bay.”  

He said SHA is investing in the program as part of the agency’s commitment to pollution reduction goals under its municipal stormwater permit. Meanwhile, MDE will work with SHA and Living Classrooms to establish a scientific basis for credits SHA would receive toward its stormwater permit obligations; credits for “environmentally positive actions” resulting from this educational program.

Those “actions” might include reducing the use of fertilizer, building rain gardens, using rain barrels to reduce polluted stormwater runoff, or increasing the use of public transit to reduce emissions that can deposit nutrient pollution in the bay. 

The agency noted that this pilot project is designed to tie environmental education and pollutant reductions together through rigorous social and scientific monitoring. When students are moved to install rain gardens for capturing stormwater runoff or take mass transit for reducing harmful emissions, those actions can be tracked, pollutant reductions can be measured, and stormwater discharges can be reduced.

The scientific basis for crediting an educational best management practice supports the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Citizen Stewardship Outcome Management Strategy, which holds that the long-term success and sustainability of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort will ultimately depend on the actions and support of the 17 million residents who call the watershed home.

Slater, who previously served as SHA’s administrator, said the partnership with Living Classrooms was sparked by ongoing concern with litter that affects the health of the bay – noting that in 2018, the Maryland DOT spent more than $9 million on litter abatement. 

“Maryland DOT’s environmental programs are a key part of our mission and we are continuously looking for innovative partnerships in yielding sustainable results,” said Secretary Slater. “This partnership recognizes that education is just as important as our physical efforts to tackle pollution.”

WSDOT: Incentives Key to Expanding EV Usage

Washington state has zipped beyond its goal of having 50,000 plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) registered by 2020, thanks in part to the Washington State Department of Transportation, which plays a leading role in developing EV infrastructure and encouraging EV ownership.

By the end of 2019, drivers in Washington had registered 53,307 plug-in EVs, representing a 24 percent year-to-year increase and a 222 percent increase in just four years. The number of publicly available charging ports also has increased since 2015, from 949 to nearly 3,000 at the end of 2019, according to the WSDOT Gray Notebook.

WSDOT was an early advocate of EVs and developed “the first and most robust highway corridor in the nation in 2012 for electric vehicle charging,” explained Tonia Buell, the agency’s project development manager.

Photo courtesy WSDOT

More recently, the department created the Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Partnerships Program or “ZEVIPP” for short, which provides about $1 million a year in grants to non-profit organizations, government entities, transit agencies and tribes to build charging locations near highways exits along major routes in Washington. Grant recipients must have public and private-sector partners, and because the grant covers only part of the project cost, the partners usually provide the remaining financing, Buell said.

Funding for ZEVIPP comes from a $75 annual state registration fee for plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles. Part of that fee also supports sales tax incentives to grow EV ownership, which makes building charging infrastructure a better investment for private companies. The parallel funding to promote EV ownership and EV infrastructure development is critical because each element relies on the other, she noted.

“People want to know they’re able to charge their vehicle whenever they need it, so to have that growth in EV ownership, you have to develop the charging infrastructure,” Buell emphasized.

WSDOT practices what it preaches, having replaced 23 percent of its gas and diesel passenger vehicles with EVs. Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) has taken it a step further, ordering all state agencies to purchase EVs instead of internal combustion engine vehicles if the EV option is available.

Having top-level buy-in and leadership is “a very critical component to making this work” for any state DOT that wants to develop a strong EV program, Buell explained. Governments will have to make an investment in promoting EV ownership and developing the infrastructure, at least until EVs become more ubiquitous. “I think the tipping point will be when EVs are around 15 percent of all vehicles; right now, we’re at about 1 percent,” she said. “That’s going to happen when the purchase price of the EVs is equivalent to internal combustion engine vehicles, and we won’t need the purchase incentives.”