The Alabama Road Builder - Winter 2014 - (Page 19)

ARTBA Let's Reform the Clean Air Act By Nick Goldstein, ARTBA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs O ne of the many statutes impacting the transportation construction industry is the federal Clean Air Act (CAA). Counties, which do not meet CAA standards, can have their federal highway funds withheld. This is somewhat ironic, considering that transportation improvements are a key method of reducing congestion, which in turn, improves air quality. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signaled it was considering tightening the federal standard for ozone from .75 parts per million (ppm) to .60 ppm. This is especially significant as it would place hundreds of counties across the country out of attainment with federal standards, potentially placing highway funds at risk across the country. EPA's economic analysis of its proposed ozone standards indicates nationwide compliance costs would be $90  billion annually. A recent study by the National Association of Manufacturers places the cost at a much higher annual level - $270 billion. While the sheer amount of these economic consequences is serious enough, they also underscore a more significant issue: the need for CAA reform. Under the current CAA structure, EPA is required to review standards for a series of different pollutants every five years. While EPA officials have the option under the CAA to retain current standards, they usually decide to make standards more stringent with each review. Often times, the Alabama roadbuilder * Winter 2014 EPA releases a new set of more stringent standards before a county has fully implemented the last set of standards. This is akin to moving the goalposts in the middle of the game. EPA should honestly consider the merits of keeping current standards as opposed to reflexively tightening them. One reason for this change is that regulations do not operate in a vacuum. Before deciding whether or not to tighten existing standards, EPA should take into account what has already been achieved, as well as expected air quality improvements from already approved initiatives. Specifically, EPA reports have indicated a decline in annual levels of all monitored pollutants pollution since 1980, even as Gross Domestic Product, population levels and energy consumption have risen. Further, EPA should be required to consider reductions in pollution levels that will occur as a direct result of existing regulations and those yet to take effect. In fact, in 2006, regulations took effect requiring refiners to meet a 30-parts per million (ppm) average sulfur level for gasoline with a cap of 80-ppm. This fuel enables vehicles to use emissions controls which are projected to reduce tailpipe emissions of NOx by 77 percent from passenger cars and as much as 95 percent for pickup trucks, vans and sports utility vehicles. When fully implemented by 2030, these regulations are expected to have the effect of removing 164 million cars from our nation's roadways. The EPA should also be required to consider the consequences of proposed standards on other federal activities that promote public health and economic stability. Tightening CAA standards always runs the risk of withholding of federal highway funds, which would have negative effects on both employment and development for impacted counties where transportation projects are delayed or cancelled. In many instances, these federal-aid projects are intended to improve demonstrated public safety threats. Once completed, transportation improvements can reduce congestion and improve air quality. Such improvements will not be realized if projects cannot go forward. Finally, the CAA is currently being applied to "greenhouse gas" (GHG) emissions. If the traditional CAA conformity model were applied to GHGs, the entire country would be placed out of compliance. For the transportation construction industry, highway funding in every county could be withheld. It's time to stop trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. Proposed rules should not cost upwards of $270 billion annually. Hundreds of counties should not have to worry about having their highway funds withheld every time standards are set. States and localities must be given adequate time to meet one set of rules before another is foisted upon them. This much is clear: CAA reform must be a priority of the next Congress. ❏ 19

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Alabama Road Builder - Winter 2014

New Legislature Poised to Tackle Old Issue
New Year Offers Challenges, Opportunities for Industry
2014 Annual Luncheon Highlights
Fall Golf Tournament 2014
The Ed & Charlotte Rodgers Scholarship Fund
Fight for Work Zone Safety Awareness Pushes On
Let’s Reform the Clean Air Act
ALDOT Launches ‘drive Safe Alabama’
Alabama Guardrail, Inc.
Products and Services Marketplace
Index to Advertisers /
Heard Along the Highway

The Alabama Road Builder - Winter 2014