Clean Air Protections Under Attack In TEA-21 Reauthorization

Testifying on March 13th before a Senate subcommittee, Michael Replogle, Environmental Defense transportation director, assailed proposals from highway officials that would weaken Clean Air Act accounting requirements for transportation plans to respect pollution limits set in state air quality plans saying, "The results of this approach would be to turn back the clock to the days when highway builders could ignore pollution limits with impunity."

Replogle said EPA has been derelict in not taking action as required by law to track the effectiveness of air quality plans and requiring corrective action if needed. He called for Congress to protect and enforce clean air requirements as part of the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).

"Making sure air standards aren't violated by analyzing motor vehicle pollution of transportation plans is like balancing your check book – not a fun way to spend time, but vital to your welfare," said Replogle. "Do it routinely, frequently and with current data and you avoid surprises and errors that can ruin financial health – just as frequent analysis of vehicle pollution can catch early errors in forecasting motor vehicle emissions that may harm public health." Replogle cited examples in metro Washington and Charlotte where long term planning and frequent air analysis allowed major transportation projects to go forward without exceeding pollution standards.

Speaking to members of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, and Nuclear Safety, Replogle stressed the benefits of conformity, which include support for timely implementation of cleaner vehicle technologies, adoption of strategies to reduced traffic and related pollution, and better interagency coordination.

The CAA Amendments of 1990 and ISTEA linked a region's attainment of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQs) to its spending of federal highway dollars. Regions that fail to adopt a transportation plan demonstrating how it will comply with air standards risk restrictions on the way it spends federal highway dollars.

To read Replogle's testimony click here.

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