Federal Highway Administration Includes Climate Change Calculations in New Performance Rules

DOT Issues Environmental Review Document
In an effort to impose new environmental constraints on transportation infrastructure development prior to the start of the new administration on Jan. 20, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued final rules on performance measures for congestion and freight movement that include requirements for states to measure and report CO2 (Greenhouse Gas- GHG) emissions from on-road vehicles for projects receiving federal funding. AGC, along with numerous other groups and Members of Congress, had advised U.S. DOT in formal comments that it lacked authority to expand into CO2 emissions; however the Department did not agree. In one victory for AGC, the performance measures do not require measuring emissions from off-road construction vehicles and equipment as had been suggested by DOT and opposed by AGC.
The 2013 highway authorization legislation, MAP-21, directed the Department to establish performance measures on a variety of different factors to determine if federal investment in infrastructure was achieving its goals and how to target future investments. However, MAP-21 specifically limited the items that the Transportation Department was to include in these measures and did not include GHGs. AGC will urge the new administration to reconsider this rule once the new transportation secretary is confirmed.
In a separate action, the Transportation Department released updated implementation procedures for states to use to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Not only did the Department rush these procedures out for publication with limited (21 days) opportunity for public comment, the document adds a new level of oversight to the environmental review process. This undermines efforts by Congress in the past three transportation authorization bills and previous administrations to streamline environmental review and shrink the time it takes for project approval.
In addition, the document limits the use of “categorical exclusions” which provide an expedited review process for the everyday transportation projects expected to have limited environmental impact. The new procedures also expand requirement for states to consider climate change as part of the review process. U.S. DOT also references in the document that it will be developing additional guidance documents but chose to not wait until these were completed so as to gather additional public comment. AGC provided written comments on these proposed procedures but believes that more informed comments could have been submitted if the normal 60 day comment period was provided as is called for in an Executive Order issued by President Obama.
For more information, contact Brian Deery at deeryb@agc.org or (703) 837-53149.


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