By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA
Federal regulations do not operate in a vacuum, ARTBA Vice President of Regulatory & Legal Issues Nick Goldstein May 21 reminded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That’s why the agency should stick with its decision not to tighten existing National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter, which has fallen by more than 30 percent since 2000.
EPA’s decision also promotes both public health and economic stability. Tightening particulate matter standards despite their current effectiveness could result in the withholding of federal highway funds in areas forced out of compliance with new standards. This, in turn, would have negative effects on both employment and development for impacted counties where transportation improvements 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.
Goldstein concluded that more thought should be given to setting future standards in a manner that would further reduce regulatory burdens on industry without sacrificing the environmental successes already achieved.
In a related development, EPA May 19 announced it is overhauling its regulatory guidance process. Guidance documents describe the way an agency interprets the regulations under its jurisdiction. They often have a significant impact on industry, which currently doesn’t get to provide input.
EPA’s new process will offer industry and the public an opportunity to comment on guidance documents before they take effect. It also establishes a process for recommending the withdrawal of older guidance documents.
ARTBA supports this proposal, which will offer the transportation construction industry greater opportunities to voice its concerns to EPA. Comments on the EPA proposal will be accepted through June 22.