Environmental News Highlights – October 6, 2021


AASHTO Continues Fight to Pass Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill – AASHTO Journal

Transportation Stakeholders Press Congress on $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill – Transport Topics

Infrastructure bill tangled in D.C. mess – Land Line (link to podcast)

States will decide the climate impact of the US infrastructure bill’s road budget – Quartz

Supreme Court should revisit its 2006 navigable waters decision – The Hill (Opinion)


Copper kills up to 99.9% of bacteria on transit surfaces, study finds – TransLink (Media release)


Heartland Port Authority looking at how to use MoDOT funds for New Missouri River port – News Tribune

Freight Groups Press Biden Administration on AV Policy – Transport Topics

Idaho law limits how infrastructure bill can aid transit, leaves future riders waiting – Idaho Statesman

Trying to cool off neighborhoods with a new kind of road surface – Arizona State University

How to Tear Down an Oil Refinery in the Middle of Philadelphia – Bloomberg Green


Can public transit adjust fast enough to meet Vermont’s emissions deadline? – VTDigger

More Companies Pledge ‘Net-Zero’ Emissions to Fight Climate Change, but What Does That Really Mean? – Governing

There’s a major gap in the new methane pledge: Agriculture – Grist

Nuclear power will be critical in race to cut carbon emissions, Dominion Energy CEO says – Fortune

An “attack on American cities” is freezing climate action in its tracks – Vox


Existing Laws Offer Environmental Justice Tools, Official Says – Bloomberg Law

What will mobility equity look like in practice? – Cities Today

Baltimore’s first transit equity analysis seeks to guide federal money to the city’s long-neglected ‘Black Butterfly’ – Baltimore Sun

Project Connect panel looks at planning, equity concerns attached to transit system – Austin Monitor

National Environmental Justice Community Engagement Calls – EPA (Media release)


Environmental groups welcome volunteers back to oyster planting in the Baltimore Harbor for the first time since the pandemic began – Baltimore Sun

Could giant yoga mats full of plants help clean North Carolina’s dirty lakes and ponds? – USA Today

Wildlife crossings integral to Colorado’s transportation future, Gov. Polis says – Colorado Newsline

UConn Joins State Initiative to Support Urban Forestry Grant Program – University of Connecticut (Media release)


Boise proposes new penalties for historic preservation violations – KTVB-TV

New Georgia License Plate Supports Historic Preservation – AllOnGeorgia


People Are Walking More Than Ever As Mobility Climbs – GlobeSt.com

Portland, Maine, Considers Long-Term Closure of Two Roads – Portland Press Herald

San Francisco’s downtown bike paths are being remade in the pandemic. This map shows how – San Francisco Chronicle

Flagstaff Releases Draft Active Transportation Master Plan For Public Comment – City of Flagstaff

States Step Up Efforts to Protect People Walking Amid Surge in Unsafe Driving During Pandemic – Governors Highway Safety Association (Media release)


Racial Equity Addendum to Critical Issues in Transportation – TRB

TRB Webinar: Air Quality Impact Models for Electric Vehicle Fleets – TRB


Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (CAAAC): Notice of Meeting – EPA (Notice)

Draft FY 2022–2026 Environmental Protection Agency Strategic Plan – EPA (Notice of availability; request for public comments)

National Boating Safety Advisory Committee; Oct 2021 Teleconference – Coast Guard (Notice)

Safety Zone; Columbia River Outfall Project, Columbia River, Vancouver, WA – Coast Guard (Temporary final rule)

Pipeline Safety: Joint Meeting of the Gas and Liquid Pipeline Advisory Committees – Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Notice of advisory committees meeting)

Georgia DOT Participating in Statewide Pollinator Project

The Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts or GACD are planning to install 15 pollinator habitat sites in designated locations as part of a joint effort to educate state residents about the important role “pollinators” such as bees, butterflies, and other insects play in Georgia’s agricultural sector.

[Above photo by the Georgia DOT]

“This partnership provides Georgia DOT with the unique opportunity to create a place for families and travelers to get up close and personal with the wildflowers and grasses [to] learn about how they impact the world around us,” explained Felicity Davis, a landscape architect manager with the Georgia DOT, in a statement.

“We carefully considered the locations for these gardens and with pedestrian safety in mind, we determined the best option would be at rest areas and Welcome Centers across the state,” she said.

GACD received grant funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service to install pollinator habitat sites and promote the further establishment of such gardens by landowners throughout the state. Through a memorandum of agreement, Georgia DOT and GACD entered into a partnership to fulfill the requirements of that grant.

GACD will provide funding to Georgia DOT’s Roadside Enhancement and Beautification Council, with the department installing and maintaining the gardens while GACD provides and maintains “educational signage” about them. The grant requires both agencies to complete the planting work for those pollinator sites by August 2022.
“Pollinator plants and insects not only play a critical role in supporting our state’s environment and agriculture, but with the specific mix of wildflowers and native grass being planted, the gardens will also provide year-round interest and habitat for insects and small animals,” said Mark Masters, GACD president. “We are excited this partnership has come to fruition and look forward to getting the gardens installed.”

State departments of transportation are involved in a variety of pollinator support efforts.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation, along with the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation and Tennessee Department of Agriculture, jointly promoted “pollinator health and awareness” in state parks during National Pollinator Week June 21-25.

The three agencies formed a partnership in 2019 to support 64 acres of “pollinator meadows” at eight state parks. Each blooming meadow contains a mix of nectar-bearing plants and milkweed, which sustain pollinators such as bees, moths, butterflies, birds, and small mammals such as bats.

In March 2020, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials sent a two-page letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior supporting “expedited approval” of the voluntary national Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances or CCAA to further encourage the creation of pollinator habitats in highway rights-of-way.

The CCAA – eventually finalized in April 2020 – provides a “huge boost” for the conservation of Monarch butterflies and other pollinators on a landscape scale, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service noted at the time.

“The regulatory protections provided by this CCAA allow transportation agencies to continue vegetation management practices with less concern that these actions will lead to an increase in the costs of regulatory compliance if the monarch is listed under the Endangered Species Act,” AASHTO said in its letter.

In December 2020, the Transportation Research Board highlighted a bevy of resources available to state departments of transportation to support monarch butterfly habitat and migration support efforts.

To that end, a new report from the TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program – Evaluating the Suitability of Roadway Corridors for Use by Monarch Butterflies – provides guidance for roadside managers to determine the potential of their roadway corridors as habitat for monarch butterflies.

The report also includes several tools and decision-support mechanisms to optimize habitat potential in a manner that is compatible with the continued operation and maintenance of the roadside.

Five Midwest States Plan Build-Out of EV Charging Network

Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have established a partnership to support the build-out of electric vehicle or EV charging infrastructure across the Midwest region.

[Above photo via Wikimedia Commons]

The goal of this agreement – known as the Regional Electric Vehicle for the Midwest Memorandum of Understanding or REV Midwest MOU – is to “accelerate vehicle electrification” in the Midwest, providing for fleet electrification along key commercial corridors. The MOU also ensures the entire Midwest region can effectively compete for new private investment and federal funding for vehicle electrification.

“By working together with our Midwestern neighbors, we can accelerate the region’s growth in the transportation sector, create jobs across our communities, and prioritize the environment that makes the Great Lakes region so great along the way,” said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (D) in a statement.

Improving access to charging infrastructure and reducing range anxiety will support EV adoption and the next generation of American-made electric automobiles, he added.

Through REV Midwest, those five states said they will work together to remove barriers to electric medium and heavy-duty vehicles and enable EV charging across states by coordinating to optimize charging infrastructure, cooperate on best practices, and support standardization.

“[The] REV Midwest partnership is a bipartisan effort to build the future of mobility and electrification and connect our communities,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D).“Our partnership will enable the Midwest to lead on electric vehicle adoption, reduce carbon emissions, spur innovation, and create good-paying jobs.”

On top of that, the Midwest utility sector needs an estimated 105,000 new jobs to deploy EV charging infrastructure across the region by 2030, she added. As a result, those five state plans address workforce needs in concert with private industry; supporting workforce training programs to build the transportation system of the future.

“The Midwest has the ingenuity and the drive to develop innovative solutions to curb climate change,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D). “I am proud to work with my fellow Midwest governors to not only reduce pollution, but protect public health, create jobs, and increase consumer choice across the region.”

“I’m proud to partner with our neighboring states to put the Midwest region on the leading edge of providing the charging infrastructure needed to futureproof our transportation network and meet the demand as rapid adoption of electric vehicles continues,” echoed Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (R).

“We shouldn’t have to choose between building a cleaner, more equitable state and economic development—and thankfully, vehicle electrification is an area where we can do both,” said Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D).“This regional partnership [is] critical for addressing emissions from the transportation sector, ensuring folks in every community have cleaner air to breathe and creating jobs to meet our future workforce needs.”

ETAP Podcast: Identifying the Benefits of the Infrastructure Bill

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Joung Lee (seen above) — director of policy and government relations for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – discusses the potential benefits of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill being debated in Congress.

The House of Representatives currently plans to vote on the infrastructure bill – formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA and passed with bipartisan support by the Senate in mid-August – at the end of October. The House delayed votes on the measure originally scheduled on September 27 and then September 30 as factions of the Democratic Party fought over legislative and funding priorities involving the much larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill covering social programs.

Late on October 1, the House passed a 30-day surface transportation funding extension measure, which expires October 31, to provide more time for legislators to find a way around the infrastructure bill impasse. The Senate subsequently passed that extension on October 2, with President Biden signing it into law that same day.

Lee – who also serves as the staff liaison to AASHTO’s Transportation Policy Forum – noted in the podcast that AASHTO has successfully represented the interests of state departments of transportation within the infrastructure bill. He noted, for example, that the most recent version of the bill incorporates four out of five of AASHTO’s core priorities.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

Nevada DOT Supports Stormwater Pollution Awareness Month

The Nevada Department of Transportation and Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful are teaming up to observe Stormwater Pollution Awareness Month this October to educate the public about the importance of preserving stormwater quality. 

[Above photo by the Nevada DOT]

Stormwater Pollution Awareness Month encourages communities to make smart choices when it comes to preserving the quality of stormwater in the desert, the two organizations explained in a statement – noting that simple actions can make a huge difference in terms of preventing stormwater contamination.

The public outreach campaign includes a poster contest for kids, as well as an educational webinar about how residents can prevent stormwater pollution through the “Love NV Waters” Facebook page. 

The contest is for elementary children in grades kindergarten through sixth, with the winners featured in a 2022 calendar with the first-place poster appearing as the cover art in the calendar. The Nevada DOT will then distribute those calendars to participating schools statewide.

The poster contest wraps up on October 15 with first-, second-, and third-place winners announced on October 22, the agency added.

Editor’s note: The Center for Environmental Excellence developed a practitioner’s handbook to assist transportation agencies in developing and/or implementing a stormwater management program that satisfies the requirements of the Clean Water Act. For those agencies already with a program already in place, the handbook offers useful tips and transportation-specific references to assist program implementation.