Environmental News Highlights – December 9, 2020

A roundup of headlines curated for state transportation environmental professionals


Biden shortlist for White House key environmental post shows focus on environmental justice – Reuters

Biden Administration has many hurdles to leap in addressing surface transportation infrastructure – Logistics Management

Lawmakers request new GAO studies on pandemic’s effect on the aviation industry – Washington Post

Lawmakers Want Data to Decide the Future of America’s Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure – Nextgov

Former DOT chief to potential Biden picks: Beware of agency turf wars – FreightWaves


VTrans’ $600,000 Covid sign blitz targets travel to and from state – VTDigger

WYDOT praises federal emergency declaration extension as COVID pandemic persists – Oil City News

Austin’s mobility challenges analyzed during and after Covid-19 – Austin Business Journal

The Pandemic Took $750 Million From VA’s Transportation Budget. Here’s What Happens Now. – Dogwood

COVID May Impact NH’s Ability to Plow Roads, Official Says – NECN


FHWA reveals updated Jason’s Law truck parking survey – Land Line

First U.S. Offshore Wind Tower Factory Proposed For Port Of Albany – WAMC Radio

Electric Cargo Bikes Are Debuting in City Fleets – Route Fifty

Sound Transit light rail trains are now running on clean energy – Sound Transit (Press release)

Congress should prioritize infrastructure investment – Crain’s Chicago Business (Op-ed)


Oil Refineries See Profit in Turning Kitchen Grease Into Diesel – New York Times

Transit Expert Calls The MBTA’s $89M Plan For New Silver Line Buses ‘Greenwashing’ – WBUR Radio


Environmental Justice Crusader Eyed for White House Council – The Quint

Virginia to hire its first environmental justice director – Bay Journal News Service

Facing a funding crisis, Caltrain doubled down on racial and social equity, and it worked -Architect’s Newspaper (Op-ed)

Leaving a social legacy from infrastructure – Infrastructure Intelligence (Commentary)


TRPA starts work to remove invasive plants in Taylor, Tallac creeks Tahoe Daily Tribune

Mitigation “bank” near Greeley will offset wetland damage, meet Clean Water Act rules – Colorado Sun

EPA awards $187,000 to Pennsylvania to support wetlands restoration – Daily American

Clean water projects highlighted in national ‘green infrastructure’ report – VTDigger


43rd Street Pedestrian Bridge Over Lake Shore Drive To Be Replaced With Accessible Overpass – Block Club Chicago

RTD partners with Lyft in mobile ticketing app – Denver Post

Honolulu bikeshare program lost city about $460K in 2019 – AP

Implementation requires money where our mouth is – Bozeman Daily Chronicle (Opinion)


Updated Survey of Laws and Regulations Applicable to Airport Commercial Ground Transportation – ACRP

Improving Health Care through Transportation – TCRP

Measuring and Managing Freight System Resilience Workshop – TRB/FHWA


Expansion and Extension of the Modified Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 Under 49 CFR § 390.25 – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (Announcement)

Proposed Consent Decree, Clean Air Act Citizen Suit – EPA (Notice of proposed consent decree; request for public comment)

Notice of Final Adoption of and Effective Date; Federal Environment Element, Section G of the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital – National Capital Planning Commission (Notice of final adoption of and effective date)

Canadian Pacific Railway Company – Control Exemption – Detroit River Tunnel Company – Surface Transportation Board (Notice)

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

New Report Outlines Transportation Impact of Nevada Climate Strategy

The new State Climate Strategy released by the Nevada Climate Initiative on December 1 outlines how the state plans to meet “aggressive” greenhouse gas or GHG emission reduction targets over the next three decades in three stages – 28 percent cut by 2025, 45 percent by 2030, and net-zero/near-zero by 2050.

[Photo courtesy of the Nevada Department of Transportation.]

That strategic report results from a sweeping Executive Order on Climate Change issued by Governor Steve Sisolak (D) in November 2019 that called for the evaluation, identification, and recommendation of the “most effective” climate policies and regulatory initiatives for Nevada.

“It’s a new era for climate action in Nevada,” the governor noted in a statement. “Nevada’s State Climate Strategy serves as the critical framework necessary to elevate climate action and foster a healthy, vibrant, climate-resilient future. As we continue our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic climate action must play a key role in rebuilding a stronger, more climate-friendly, and equitable economy for Nevada.”

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak. Photo courtesy of the Nevada Governor’s Office.

The report noted that Nevada’s GHG emissions inventory mirrors trends occurring across the western United States, where transportation-sector emissions (35 percent) now exceed those from the energy sector (32 percent) – historically the largest source of GHG emissions. Industrial, residential, and commercial emissions are growing rapidly, while those associated with other sectors remain relatively consistent, it said.

Under current policies and based on the best available science, Nevada is currently on a path to reduce economy-wide GHG emissions 24 percent by 2025 and 26 percent by 2030 – 4 percent and 19 percent short of the respective emissions-reduction goals for those years.

The report noted that by meeting Nevada’s emission reduction targets, Nevada would prevent between $172 million and $786 million in economic damages by 2030 and up to $4 billion by 2050.

Consequently, the report said the state needs “new mitigation-focused policies, programs, investments, and regulations” to put Nevada on the path toward realizing net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 – with much of it geared towards the transportation sector.

The report recommends five transportation strategies for reducing GHG emissions going forward:

“As the transportation sector recently surpassed energy generation as the largest contributor of emissions in our state, we have been working hard to encourage alternative modes of transportation and carpooling to decrease the number of vehicles on our roads,” explained Kristina Swallow, director, Nevada Department of Transportation.

“Through the Nevada Electric Highway, HOV [High Occupancy Vehicle] lanes, Clean Cities, and other initiatives, we will continue to work collaboratively with our local, state, and federal partners on creative, data-driven strategies to reduce emissions across our vast transportation network,” she added.

Arizona DOT Seeks to Renew NEPA Assignment

The Federal Highway Administration and the Arizona Department of Transportation are proposing to renew Arizona’s participation in the “categorical exclusion” program for environmental impact planning purposes where federal highway projects are concerned.

[Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Transportation.]

That program allows states to assume decision-making and legal responsibilities for meeting the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA requirements for federal highway projects.

The Arizona DOT is seeking to renew an agreement finalized with the FHWA in early 2018 that gives it responsibility for categorical exclusions involving projects that do not pose significant environmental impacts. The agency is welcoming public comments on its renewal document through January 3, 2021

In 2019, the Arizona DOT finalized separate agreement with the FHWA that gave it expanded NEPA authorization for five years – making it the seventh state to achieve full NEPA assignment approval.

The Arizona DOT noted that attaining full NEPA assignment responsibilities will help it complete required environmental studies more efficiently while maintaining the same degree of rigor required for projects receiving federal funding, including local projects administered by the agency.

Congress originally authorized NEPA assignments – formally called the “Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program” – as pilot projects under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users or SAFETEA-LU passed in 2005. It then allowed such assignments to be more broadly used on a permanent basis with the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or MAP-21 signed into law in 2012. NEPA assignments recognize that states are able to comply with federal environmental requirements on their own, allowing them to streamline processes – saving time and money – while waiving their sovereign immunity in relation to federal court jurisdiction.