Testimony of Scott Johnstone, Secretary, Agency of Natural Resources, state of Vermont
Regarding the Re-authorization of TEA 3
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this committee to offer comments on the re-authorization of the Transportation Equity Act of 2003.
Vermont, the Green Mountain State, is known for its lush green hills, maple syrup, autumn colors and beautiful lakes. Less known is the fact that Vermont does suffer adverse effects from air pollution. While we are the only state in the Northeast which is in attainment for all of the health-based criteria pollutants regulated under the federal Clean Air Act, the health of Vermont’s citizens and our environment are adversely affected by air pollution. Even though we do not violate the 8-hr ozone standard or the newly adopted fine particulate standard, we are perilously close to those standards. Indeed, Vermont has long suffered disproportionately from the impacts of acid rain and regional haze. We are also concerned about public exposure to toxic emissions and about global issues such as the depletion of the ozone layer and climate change. Many of these threats have a direct link to vehicular emissions that can be addressed through TEA III.
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) funding has been part of the federal transportation bills since 1991. CMAQ funds are a critical component of Northeast states’ efforts to improve air quality; states in our region have benefited from the use of CMAQ funding for air quality improvement projects. Today, I want to give you my perspective from a state that has had limited access to these CMAQ funds due of our status as a NAAQS attainment area.
EPA’s recent investigation of the science regarding both ozone and fine particulate pollution, and accepted by the Courts in the American Trucking case, has determined that, even though health based standards could be set for these pollutants, there was no “bright line” minimum that would ensure the protection of public health. In other words, pollution reductions translate to health benefits even in attainment states. In Vermont and New England, much of our air pollution problems can be directly attributed to the grandfathered Midwestern coal plants. At the same time, the Northeast has localized sources that contribute to these problems and each state has attempted to craft regulations to deal with these localized sources.
Surface Transportation remains the largest in-state source of air pollution in Vermont. On a per capita basis, Vermonters drive more miles in a year than residents in 39 other U.S. states. Besides the criteria pollutants such as ozone that CMAQ has focused in the past, other air pollution problems need to be addressed such as toxics and greenhouse gases. Air Toxics contribute significantly to the formation of ground level ozone and in Vermont represent the area of air quality where we do not meets some of Vermont’s own air quality standards. Green house gases contribute significantly to overall air pollution problems and to climate change.
The importance that our state places on the control of dangerous motor vehicle emissions is reflected in the number of control programs that we have put in place over the past decade that go beyond the federal minimum requirements. For example, Vermont is one of only four states in the U.S. to voluntarily adopt the California low emission vehicle program in-lieu of the federal motor vehicle standards – including the Zero Emission Vehicle sales mandate. To support this regulatory program, the state created EVermont to promote the development and deployment of advanced electric vehicles. We have also coordinated with other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in developing a regional roadside testing program to identify and repair smoking trucks.
CMAQ funds have been of great assistance to Vermont and to other states in the region. Over the life of TEA 21, CMAQ has been funded at approximately 4% of the total federal surface transportation program. Given the air quality impacts of surface transportation and the fact that it is the only transportation program designed to reduce air pollution, CMAQ should not only be reauthorized – it should be expanded to represent a larger percentage of the overall transportation budget. While the CMAQ program was conceived to address both congestion and air quality, greater weight has been -- and should continue to be -- given to air quality improvement goals.
The transferral of CMAQ funds to non-air quality uses, as is currently allowed, should be examined so that the air quality improvement goal may be met. Further, the CMAQ allotment scheme should be modified to provide weight to factors such as: (1) high per capita VMT; (2) areas that are in attainment but at risk of slipping into non-attainment due to mobile source emissions; and (3) and disproportionately high percentage of emissions from mobile source. To ensure effective prioritization and better quantification of the air quality benefits consideration should be given to requiring that local air quality agencies be more directly involved in the evaluation of proposals for CMAQ funds and in conformity determinations when needed.
Historically, CMAQ has focused primarily on ozone, carbon monoxide and PM10 non-attainment. Given the breadth of real health risks caused by other motor vehicle-related emissions, a reauthorization bill should require CMAQ to consider fine particulate matter, air toxics and GHG’s, in both allocation and eligibility. GHG reduction goals and incentives could also be incorporated into TEA 3 by tracking the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) of all major transportation projects and by providing incentives for transportation projects which promote smart growth and reductions of GHG emissions and VMT.
The Committee should also consider the inclusion of programs to reduce particulate and toxic pollution from diesel powered vehicles in the CMAQ program. Reducing diesel emissions is of critical importance to protect public health. Diesel particulate has been labeled a carcinogen by the state of California and diesel exhaust has been classified as a probable human carcinogen by many respected organizations. In addition to cancer health effects of fine particles and diesel exhaust, significant non-cancer health effects have been demonstrated in the scientific literature. Diesel school buses, non-road equipment such as construction and agricultural machines, and trucks and transit buses emit particulates and other toxics in close proximity to children, workers, and the public. As these engines last as long as thirty years, progress in clean up that relies on normal fleet transition will be slow. Thus, consideration should be given to include a mechanism in CMAQ that encourages transit agencies and school districts to replace or retrofit their bus fleets with clean buses.
To succeed in addressing our particulate, greenhouse gas, and toxic emissions challenges and the associated health and environmental risks that are associated with them, will require much work and new approaches to problem solving. Fortunately, many programs are underway throughout the northeast to reduce these emissions These programs demonstrate the potential of emission reduction projects. However, funding through CMAQ is needed to support these programs. I encourage you to look at the initiatives and recommendations provided by the New England Governors Conference Climate Plan and the Vermont Governor’s Committee to Ensure Clean Air as examples of how progress can be made if these projects were all eligible for and received CMAQ funding. Examples from these reports for the transportation sector include:
· Programs designed to manage and reduce transportation demand in communities (e.g., “smart-growth” projects which reduce sprawl and encourage local communities to consider the energy impacts of development and infrastructure construction).
· Promote the shift to higher efficiency vehicles (including hybrids and advanced technology vehicles), lower carbon fuels and advanced technologies through the use of incentives and education.
· Diesel retrofits and conversions to alternative fuels which greatly reduce or eliminate particulate and toxic hydrocarbons.
· Opportunities in freight transportation that would improve the energy efficiency of the movement of goods across the region.
In considering the purpose of CMAQ, I would suggest the committee look also at the broader funding system for transportation projects. Much of our air quality and congestion problems come from the very poor use of land that has come to pass over the past decades, the practice we now call sprawl. I suggest to you that in part it has come about due to our method of funding transportation projects. Communities look at funding sources in designing their land use systems. We ought not be surprised that strip zoning and sprawling development is most often associated with highways eligible for state and federal funding. What occurs is sprawl and the cure – little to no local cost to “fix” the problem, by increasing lanes or building new highways. I suggest you consider what would occur if we provided incentives instead for grid patterns and public transit. I believe the result would be better land use, less congestion, better air quality and ultimately smarter growth.
The use of CMAQ funds should also be encouraged for programs which simply make sense, regardless of an area’s attainment status. One such program is vehicle On-board diagnostic (OBD) system inspection and maintenance. 1996 and newer vehicles are equipped with sophisticated OBD systems which identify malfunctions that increase emissions, alert drivers through a warning light on the instrument panel, and store specific information which is used by repair technicians to accurately diagnose and repair the malfunction. Such a program is cost effective and relatively simple to implement, as it relies on technology already installed on the vehicle, as opposed to requiring expensive investments in emissions testing equipment. Vermont has operated such a program on a statewide basis for over three years, with much success and with very little public opposition to the program. Currently, a pilot project is underway, using CMAQ funds to evaluate systems for automating OBD data collection and management, hopefully leading to an even more effective program in Vermont.
In summary, a state, such as Vermont, which is in attainment, can use some or all of the minimum allotment of CMAQ funds for any project in the State Transportation Plan or for a CMAQ-eligible project. However, attainment of the ozone and CO NAAQS alone provides an incomplete picture of the success of air quality control initiatives. Clearly, mobile source-related emissions of criteria pollutants, air toxics and GHG’s all need to be included to address the actual risk from air pollution. While the current CMAQ Guidance published by the Federal Highway Administration encourages attainment states to “give priority to use of CMAQ program funds for projects that will relieve congestion or improve air quality in areas that are at risks of being designated as non-attainment,” I suggest that “attainment”/”non-attainment” may not be a particularly relevant criterion to use in deciding how limited CMAQ monies are to be used. Even in attainment states, transportation-related air quality issues need to be addressed. I believe that overall it would benefit Vermont and other attainment areas, for Congress to establish that, even in attainment states, CMAQ funds must be used in a way that retains the overall focus of air quality improvement.
In closing, in Vermont, as elsewhere, CMAQ has encouraged environmental and transportation agencies to talk, plan and work with each other. It is a program that has helped achieve important progress in the fight against air pollution -- but much remains to be done and CMAQ must be updated to reflect our evolving understanding of the real risks society faces from vehicle-related air pollution. Vermont’s environmental future, our green hills, our maple syrup industry our autumn colors, our lake quality and the health of our citizens requires our attention.
Thank you for this opportunity to testify.
 Air Toxics: In Vermont, mobile sources account for between 80-90% of the primary emissions of Acetaldehyde, Benzene, 1,3-Butadiene, & Formaldehyde. All are federal Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) and all are known or suspected carcinogens. Non-road vehicles contribute significantly to air toxic emissions in the state with approximately 60 to 70% of Acetaldehyde and Formaldehyde emissions which contribute significantly to ground level ozone formation. While Vermont is a so-called attainment state, ambient concentrations of Acetaldehyde, Benzene, 1,3-butadiene, and Formaldehyde currently each exceed their respective Vermont Hazardous Ambient Air Standard (HAAS) in all areas of the state and computer modeling, while predicting decreases in concentrations for these pollutants over the next 28 years, indicate that concentrations will still exceed the Vermont health standards for these pollutants in 2030. Finally, according to the U.S. EPA’s National-scale Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) median ambient concentrations of mobile source air toxics in Chittenden County, Vermont’s most populous county, consistently rank in the most polluted 25th percentile. For 1,3-butadiene and Benzene, EPA modeling indicates that Chittenden County is in the worst 5% and 10% polluted areas in the U.S., respectively.
 A Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventory done in 1990 shows that approx. 45% of all GHGs emitted in Vermont are from motor vehicles while, according to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation and the U.S. EPA, motor vehicles contributed only 27 % of the GHGs emitted nationally in 1999. [ Note: Regarding GHGs, GHG reduction goals and incentives could be incorporated into TEA 3 by tracking the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) of all major transportation projects, establishing a goal for the ratio of VMT/GHGs and by providing incentives for transportation projects which promote smart growth and reductions of GHG emissions and VMT.
 Recent Special Report of the Transportation Research Board of The National Academies
 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (1988), the International Agency for Research of Cancer (1989), and the U.S. EPA (draft 2000)
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