Statement of Senator James M. Jeffords
Transportation and Air Quality
July 30, 2002
Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our hearing on Transportation and Air Quality. In particular, I want to thank our witnesses, many of whom have traveled great distances to lend a hand as we consider renewal of our nation=s surface transportation program.
Today=s topic - Transportation and Air Quality - is a particularly appropriate one for the Committee on Environment and Public Works. Since 1837, this Committee has guided federal investments to enhance the nation. Its early history, as the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds, featured stewardship of the growing Federal City of Washington D.C. In 1956, the then Committee on Public Works reported the Federal Aid Highway Act, creating the modern Interstate Highway System. In 1963, the Committee took on the challenge of air and water pollution control. And in 1977 the Committee was given responsibility for wildlife resources and given its current full name.
In 1991, the members of this Committee were the driving force behind the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. ISTEA brought a new approach to transportation. With completion of the Interstate Highway System, our focus shifted toward integration of the various modes of transportation - highway, transit, aviation and rail.
ISTEA also brought greater attention to transportation=s influence on our communities and the lives of our citizens. We recognized that investment in transportation is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end.
I was a member of the Committee in 1991. I believed then, and I believe today, that the ends we seek should be a strong economy, healthy communities and a clean environment. And clean air is essential to each of these outcomes.
Over the past year, this Committee has spent considerable time on air pollution. We have focused on emissions from stationary sources and power plants in particular. This included marking up the Clean Power Act, a bill which significantly reduces emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and carbon dioxide.
I=m pleased that the Administration has finally, after much delay, sent up its 3 pollutant bill. Unfortunately, it=s much too late in this Congress for it to be considered. From a quick review, it appears that the legislation provides too little in the way of reductions and they come much too late. The bill also ignores the dire warnings in the Administration=s own report about global warming, which is caused in part by U.S. power plant emissions of carbon dioxide.
Last August, the Committee held a general hearing on the impact of emissions from the transportation sector on public health and the environment. We found that statutory and regulatory limits on individual mobile sources and technology improvements will reduce total emissions of conventional pollutants from the sector. But, we also found that transportation will continue to be a significant source of our non-attainment problems, not to mention a major contributor to urban air toxics exposure or to global warming.
Today we will hear more testimony about the progress that has been made to control air pollution from transportation. We will hear the good news that today=s motor vehicles are cleaner burning than earlier models, so that each car or truck pollutes less. But, we will hear that Americans are driving so much more that many of the technology gains have been offset.
We will hear that the low emitting transportation control measures encouraged in our most polluted cities and regions have so far produced modest results. As cars get cleaner, some will suggest that investment in transit, or bicycle lanes, or more walkable development patterns may not be worthwhile. But we know that a pedestrian or a transit rider generates far less pollution per passenger mile than a motorist in even the cleanest of today=s cars.
We will hear that the process used to manage transportation pollution - conformity - is not always the most efficient. Achieving the twin goals of clean air and improved mobility is complicated and relies on the coordination of many people and resources. It takes cooperation and sound information.
In summary, we will hear that our campaign to clean up the transportation sector is well underway but has a long way to go. And as we renew the overall surface transportation program, we can and should refine the air quality linkage to build on success and make improvements.
Today=s hearing is the eighth in our Reauthorization series. We began in January, and will wrap up later this fall. Through these hearings, we have explored a wide range of topics, but with a consistent theme. We have called upon experts from around the nation to share the lessons they have learned over the last ten years. And we have asked them to cite any changing conditions that they foresee. Based then upon lessons learned and changing conditions, we have sought fresh ideas for improving our current national transportation program.
We have assembled a fine panel of witnesses today and I look forward to their insights.
Our first panel will represent the Administration. I am pleased to welcome Administrator Mary Peters, of the Federal Highway Administration and Assistant Administrator Jeffrey Holmstead of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Our second panel brings perspectives from around the nation. First and foremost, I am delighted to be joined this morning by Scott Johnstone, the Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources from my State of Vermont. Welcome, Scott. I=m guessing it=s a bit cooler in the Green Mountains today than here on Capital Hill!
Also on our second panel is the Honorable Ron Harris, county Judge from Collin County, Texas. Ron serves on the Board of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the metropolitan planning organization for the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He is also chair of the North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee.
Lynn Terry is the Deputy Executive Officer of the California Air Resources Board. Lynn will tell us about recent developments in the Golden State.
James Stevenson wears many hats. He is president of Yancy Brothers Company, a construction equipment supplier. He is also on the board of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority in the Atlanta area. Today, James represents the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, on whose board he also sits.
Finally, Michael Replogle is with us today. Michael is the Transportation Director for the non-profit group, Environmental Defense and a frequent witness before committees of Congress.
Again, my thanks to all of the witnesses.