Senator James M. Inhofe
Environment and Public Works Committee
Hearing on Transportation Conformity
July 30, 2002
Thank you Mr. Chairman: Today=s hearing is a subject with which I have spent a great deal of time on. During my tenure as Chairman of the Clean Air Subcommittee, we worked to make sure that states had the tools necessary to meet clear air requirements. Title VI of TEA21 is the result of the Subcommittee=s efforts.
Following passage of TEA-21 there was concern with the effects of conformity on newly designated areas in non-attainment. Specifically, we were concerned that these new areas have adequate time to bring their communities back into attainment before they lost critical highway dollars. As a result, I worked with other members and we were successful in attaching language to the FY01 VA-HUD Appropriation bill which established a one year grace period before an area newly designated as non-attainment must demonstrate conformity.
As the Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, I now have the opportunity to work more closely on making sure that Clean Air requirements and transportation needs do not conflict. I believe there is still much that needs to be done. For instance, recent data shows that the impact of increased vehicle travel is having a smaller and smaller impact on emissions because of the improvements in emissions control technology. I want to explore with our witnesses what practical effect this has on choices states can make given that many of the emission goals are based on old data.
I will be interested to hear if our witnesses believe we should reexamine how the current Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ) works and what changes, if any need to be made to make the program more useable to states.
Additionally, I have a concern with the new rule on diesel engine nitrogen oxide (NOx) which is scheduled to go into effect on October 1, 2002. While I understand this is consistent with the provisions of the consent decree entered into with the engine manufacturers, my concern is that the trucking community has raised several valid issues. Not the least of which is that there has not been sufficient time to thoroughly test the new engines. Given the presence of Jeffrey Homstead from the Air office at EPA, I hope that we can spend a little time exploring this issue further.
Finally, I want to thank Mary Peters for her help and support on Oklahoma=s reconstruction of the I-40 bridge near Webbers Falls. Yesterday, the newly reconstructed bridge was opened for traffic. That was about 30 days earlier than original estimate of Labor Day and 10 days earlier than a later estimate of August 8. No matter which estimate one uses, it is truly amazing that the bridge is open for business so soon after the tragic events of May 26. Our success would not have been possible without the support and advice of the Federal Highway Administration and in particular Mary. Thank you. And thank you for taking time out of your schedule to go to the opening celebrations yesterday.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to today=s hearing and want to welcome all of our witnesses.