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By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs & assistant general counsel, ARTBA

ARTBA challenged the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) proposal to measure greenhouse gas emissions from new transportation projects. The proposal is part of larger performance measures required under the 2012 “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” (MAP-21) surface transportation reauthorization law. In Aug. 19 comments to the agency, ARTBA charged the proposal “exceeds both the authority of the FHWA and the intent of MAP-21.”

ARTBA warned of this three years ago, when it urged the U.S. Department of Transportation not to jeopardize the broad bipartisan congressional support for MAP-21 by including extraneous issues—such as climate change— in the law’s implementation. Specifically, ARTBA’s Trans2020 Task Force cautioned:

“Focus on the goals enumerated in the law.  The authors of MAP-21 had the opportunity to include a host of external goals such as livability, reduction of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, reduction of reliance on foreign oil, adaptation to the effects of climate change, public health, housing, land-use patterns and air quality in the planning and performance process… the U.S. Department of Transportation should focus on implementing the goals and standards as spelled out in MAP-21.”

In its latest comments, ARTBA reminded regulators that neither Congress nor the administration sought emission measurements in the MAP-21 performance management process, and that such proposals were not included in the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act surface transportation reauthorization law passed in December 2015.

ARTBA’s concerns mirrored those raised by House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and 30 members in an Aug. 18 letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Passage of the emissions proposal by FHWA would be “severe overreach by the administration in direct contravention of statute and Congressional intent,” the committee wrote.

ARTBA’s comments also raised a variety of concerns about the proposed measurement system. Specifically, it “does not define what exactly it will measure and how it will measure it,” ARTBA stated, and “[i]t is unfair to ask the regulated community to provide specific comments on such an abstract proposal.” Further, the association warned that the proposal could lead to a cumbersome regulatory process that undercuts progress from both MAP-21 and the FAST Act on expediting transportation project delivery and delay transportation improvements.

ARTBA concluded “it is hard to see this proposal as anything other than a maneuver to achieve a policy objective the administration failed to initiate during the MAP-21 and FAST Act deliberations.” The association has asked FHWA to withdraw its proposed measurement system.