Environmental News Highlights – December 1, 2021


The Supreme Court will hear cases that could undercut Biden’s climate agenda. Here’s what to know. – Washington Post

Biden’s infrastructure bill includes $50 billion to fight climate change disasters – CNBC

USDOT Releases State by State Fact Sheets Highlighting Benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – USDOT (Media release)


Report Examines Potential Post-Pandemic Travel Changes – AASHTO Journal

Wall Street Grudgingly Allows Remote Work as Bankers Dig In – New York Times

Biking Boom or Bust? Cities See New Numbers Post-Pandemic – Government Technology


Gov. Lamont says he will no longer push for climate change legislation that Republicans say could raise gasoline prices. – Hartford Courant

MDOT Executive Director Brad White talks Infrastructure Act, legislative agenda – Y’all Politics

LA Metro Broadens Its Definition of Regional Mobility – Government Technology

Brookville repurposing NYCT passenger cars to pump train specialty vehicles for emergency use in underground subway system – Mass Transit

The infrastructure package boosts an unsung hero of rural transportation: ferries – Popular Science


Rhode Island, the final state, pulls out of TCI – Boston Herald

Can a climate-conscious CDOT build new roads and cut greenhouse gases at the same time? – Colorado Sun

Play the Game: Can You Fix Smogtown? – City Lab

It’s Not Easy to Convert Diesel Buses to Electric – But Some Cities Are Doing it Anyway – Next City

Hawaiian Electric sees geothermal expansion as one key element in cutting carbon – ThinkGeoEnergy

Governor Hogan Announces State of Maryland Joins National Climate Challenge to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Office of Governor of Maryland


EPA Gets Serious About Environmental Justice – National Law Review

Highways become a culture war battlefield – Yahoo News

Bringing racial equity into transit planning for the Chicago region – WBEZ Radio’s Reset (Audio)

American cycling has a racism problem – Washington Post (Commentary)


MnDOT researches technology that combines bridge repairs with protecting the state’s bat population – KSTP-TV

US national parks to offer look into green-friendly transit – AP

Bipartisan Infrastructure Package Secures Major Conservation Investments – Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Gov. DeSantis pushes for $3B investment in water quality by end of his first term – Florida Politics

Why hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage are still being dumped into the Susquehanna River – WPMT-TV


Portland’s historic Union Wharf is being sold and preserved for maritime use – Maine Public Radio

Long-running battle over sacred tribal site near Mount Hood back in court – Oregon Public Broadcasting


Improving Public Transit Makes It Easier For People To Stay Healthy – Vox

LA County to Consider Allowing Bicycles on Sidewalks, Decriminalize Riding – City News Service

Discussion of allowing e-bikes on Central Oregon trails sparks debate – KTVZ-TV


State of Emergency: What Transportation Learned From 9/11 – TRB

Funding Transportation Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic – TRB

TRB Webinar: Power Up! Implementing an Airport Microgrid – TRB

TRB Webinar: Examining Exclusions – What’s Missing in the Historic Review Process? – TRB


Development of Guidance for Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Deployment – FHWA (Notice; request for information)

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

Air Plan Approval; FL; Removal of Motor Vehicle Rules – EPA (Proposed rule)

Special Areas; Roadless Area Conservation; National Forest System Lands in Alaska – Forest Service (Notice of proposed rulemaking; request for comment)

Importations of Water Into and Exportations of Water From the Delaware River Basin; Discharges of Wastewater From High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing and Related Activities – Delaware River Basin Commission (Notice of proposed rulemaking; public hearing)

Notice of Proposed Methodology for the 2022 Delaware River and Bay Water – Quality Assessment Report – Delaware River Basin Commission (Notice of proposed methodology)

Request for Information on the National Flood Insurance Program’s Floodplain Management Standards for Land Management and Use, and an Assessment of the Program’s Impact on Threatened and Endangered Species and Their Habitats; Public Meeting; Extension of Comment PeriodFEMA (Announcement of additional public meeting; extension of comment period)

AASHTO Comments on Proposed NEPA Changes

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials sent a 35-page letter to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on November 18 in support of changes to the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA proposed in early October.

[Above image via the White House]

AASHTO also included several recommendations in its letter regarding those proposed changes, especially in terms of “respecting the need for agency flexibility” and the special statutory frameworks that apply to many transportation projects.

“AASHTO is generally supportive of the changes in the notice of proposed rulemaking [as] CEQ proposes to restore the provision on purpose and need in the 1978 NEPA regulations,” the organization said in its letter. “AASHTO supports this change because it clarifies that lead agencies have considerable discretion to determine the purpose and need of a proposed action and it provides greater flexibility to lead agencies in carrying out NEPA.”

AASHTO noted that CEQ proposes to delete provisions in the 2020 NEPA regulations that collectively provide a “ceiling,” rather than a “floor,” for NEPA implementing procedures by other federal agencies.

“Restoring the substance of the 1978 NEPA regulations would allow other federal agencies to develop procedures beyond the requirements of CEQ’s NEPA regulations while still in conformity with NEPA,” the organization said. “AASHTO supports this change. In addition to providing regulatory certainty, CEQ’s NEPA regulations should give agencies flexibility to carry out the NEPA process in light of variations in the legal requirements applicable to different agencies and project types.”

Minnesota DOT Assisting with Bat Deterrence Research

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is helping test ultrasonic bat “deterrence devices” at two bridges to help keep the mammals away from such structures when they undergo maintenance and/or repair activity.

[Above photo by the Minnesota DOT]

The agency noted in a blog post that bats like to roost in bridge expansion joints and temporarily preventing such roosting during bridge maintenance repair activity typically requires installing physical barriers that are often difficult to establish effectively, due to the design characteristics of many structures.

More importantly, the Minnesota DOT does not necessarily want to keep bats away permanently from its bridges because bat populations throughout North America are in serious decline. For example, the agency said white-nose syndrome – a fungal disease – has killed more than 5.7 million bats in eastern North America since 2005. On top of that, wind turbines kill hundreds of thousands of bats in North America annually, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Minnesota DOT has worked with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the last two years testing battery-operated ultrasonic deterrence devices that reduce bat activity at bridge site when activated, but ensure a quick return of bat roosting activity when deactivated.

“This project was innovative. We worked with a technology that wasn’t really on the market yet for real-world applications in anticipation of its availability,” noted Christopher Smith, wildlife ecologist with the Minnesota DOT’s Office of Environmental Stewardship.

He added that current regulations require shorter maintenance period options during the construction season in order to protect bats – mandating that crews must avoid having bats present during their work, which impacts cleaning, painting, and other maintenance timelines.

“The presence of bats disrupts bridge work timelines and budgets, and work upsets habitation for species struggling to survive,” Smith said.

The Minnesota DOT noted that it hopes to develop a procedure for deploying this ultrasonic bat deterrence technology when needed and determine associated expenses from this two-year research effort.

Further study could consider the technology in different configurations and environments, test the devices at many bridges around the country, and conduct a cost-benefit analysis, the agency added – while also comparing the “relative impact” of acoustic deterrents on specific bat species.

ETAP Podcast: A Conversation with AASHTO President Shawn Wilson

This episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast revolves around a conversation with Shawn Wilson, Ph. D., (seen in above photo standing at podium) secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2021-2022 president. He is the first African-American elected to serve as AASHTO’s president in the organization’s 107-year history.

Dr. Wilson plans to use his one-year tenure as AASHTO’s president to “address the issues that matter” in the transportation industry, especially when it comes to promoting equity and encouraging participation in what he calls “non-traditional partnerships.”

One of Dr. Wilson’s his primary emphasis areas – entitled “Pathways to Equity” – is designed to intentionally expand opportunities within the state DOT community by creating a culture that identifies, trains, and empowers individuals in under-represented populations covering age, gender, ethnicity, and race.

“I’m interested in how we sustain that opportunity to achieve equity,” Dr. Wilson said. “How are we, as state DOTs, building a bench of leaders that reflects the population in the communities we serve? How do we diversify, not just with race, but also with gender, with disciplines? How do we change what we do as a department of transportation in a way that opens up the opportunity to recruit and retain a more capable, qualified, and inclusive professional workforce?”

His second emphasis area – “Partnering to Deliver” – is an AASHTO and state DOT initiative designed to create partnerships with non-traditional organizations, both transportation-related and non-transportation specific. The idea is to embrace the richness of differing perspectives represented in the broader transportation community, enhance awareness and strengthen understanding.

Dr. Wilson has a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Louisiana, a master’s degree in public administration from Southern University, and a doctorate in public policy from Southern University. A native of New Orleans, Dr. Wilson and his wife, Rocki, live in Lafayette, Louisiana. They have two adult children and two grandchildren.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

AASHTO Seeking to Fill Two Environmental Program Positions

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, an equal-opportunity employer, is seeking to fill two environmental program positions within its policy division.

The first is for a program manager for environment; a position that manages technical and policy activities related to environmental issues under the supervision of the AASHTO’s program director for environment. The program manager also provides staff support to the Committee on Environment & Sustainability or CES, the CES Steering Committee, and assigned subcommittees and working groups, as well as the Center for Environmental Excellence’s Technical Working Group.

A Bachelor of Arts or Science degree is required for this position, with evidence of a higher degree of professional development – such as postgraduate education – highly desirable. To learn more about this position, visit the AASHTO Jobs Board by clicking here.

The second is for a program specialist for environment; a position that provides support for a broad range of AASHTO programs and projects including the Center for Environmental Excellence, the CES, assigned CES subcommittees, the CES Research Task Force, and the Committee on Transportation System Security & Resilience.

A Bachelor of Arts or Science degree is required for this position, preferably in the transportation and environment fields. Evidence of a higher degree of professional development, such as a postgraduate education, is desirable. To learn more about this position, visit the AASHTO Jobs Board by clicking here.