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 News Article:  TRANSPORTATION: Climate bill may hint at future of highway and transit authorization




TRANSPORTATION: Climate bill may hint at future of highway and transit authorization (Wednesday, April 1, 2009)

Josh Voorhees, E&E reporter

Comprehensive climate and energy legislation unveiled yesterday by a prominent pair of House Democrats would push city and state planners to link transportation and land-use decisions, a major first step in efforts to recast the nation's transportation strategy to curb emissions and fuel consumption.

The bill from House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) would give each state three years to craft plans to curb transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, both across states and for any metro area with more than 200,000 people.

States would work with U.S. EPA to set emissions targets for 10- and 20-year periods; would be encouraged to expand environmentally friendly modes of transportation, such as bus and light rail systems; and re-evaluate their land-use planning to create cities that require less driving and achieve increased mobility.

Officials from state transportation, environmental and economic agencies would set the targets under EPA's supervision in order to reduce transportation emissions each year below "levels projected under a business-as-usual scenario." They would be designed to ensure that emissions levels stabilize and ultimately decrease by a set year, possibly as soon as 2010.

The legislation suggests a host of greenhouse gas reducing measures for the states to consider, including rezoning to allow for mixed retail and residential buildings, the addition of sidewalks and bike paths, pricing measures such as congestion and high-occupancy tolling, and even parking policies.

EPA, working with the Transportation Department, would create a competitive grant program to help finance state and local projects aimed at meeting the emission-reduction goals.

Funding levels were not set in the draft legislation, but a group of bipartisan lawmakers have previously called for 10 percent of any future cap-and-trade revenues to be devoted to low-carbon transportation projects (E&ENews PM, Feb. 27).

Roughly one-third of the nation's total greenhouse gas emissions are a caused by transportation, according to government estimates, and lawmakers who are drafting the upcoming surface transportation authorization bill -- which will provide the bulk of federal cash for roads, rail and transit for the next six years -- have indicated they are looking to overhaul the nation's transportation strategy to address the high emissions level.

James Corless, a director for Transportation For America, said that "smart growth" policies have been gaining momentum over the past two decades. "These provision have been creeping in, slowly at first, and in the last five years at a more rapid pace," he said. "A lot of our problems are not between metro regions, but in metro regions. It is in that spirit that this provision comes."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said the Obama administration will push for the transportation reauthorization to include sustainable growth language that links transportation and land use. LaHood and Housing, Urban and Development Secretary Shaun Donovan have also teamed up to create an interagency task force to identify incentives and other actions that would support transit-oriented development, such as mixed-income housing (E&E Daily, March 19).

"That signal has been sent," Colin Peppard, climate and infrastructure director at the Environmental Defense Fund, said of the policy shift. "What we're seeing is that the transportation policy and energy policy people are really starting to talk. Hopefully that will lead to some real core changes."


Environment & Energy Daily (E&E Daily) is written and produced by the staff of E&E Publishing, LLC. Designed for policy players who need to know what's happening to their issues on Capitol Hill, from federal agency appropriations to comprehensive energy legislation, E&E Daily is the place insiders go to track their environmental and energy issues in Congress. E&E Daily publishes daily by 9 a.m. while Congress is in session.

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