By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs, ARTBA
ARTBA, in statements submitted Feb. 15 and Feb. 16 to respective congressional committees, outlined a series of necessary reforms to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Clean Air Act (CAA).
Both laws have not been amended in decades, with the ESA last being changed in 1988 and the CAA in 1990. As part of a Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing entitled “Modernization of the Endangered Species Act,” ARTBA focused on the “critical habitat” provisions of the ESA which designate specific areas where development can be restricted if a species is threatened. Specifically, ARTBA noted, “determination of critical habitat is a very important issue for state and local governments, as well as businesses located in areas impacted by ESA activity. A determination of critical habitat can literally remove hundreds of miles from the possibility of any type of development,” including transportation improvement projects.
In comments to the House Energy & Commerce Committee, ARTBA’s message centered on the CAA’s handling of “National Ambient Air Quality Standards” (NAAQS) and “transportation conformity,” or the process by which counties meet the NAAQS. The association stressed that “[l]ocal officials need some sense of predictability in order to develop long-range transportation plans to achieve emissions reduction goals. In many instances, counties are focusing on addressing existing NAAQS and any additional changes to the standards are akin to moving the goalposts in the middle of the game.”