Senator Bob Smith
Environment & Public Works Committee
Hearing on Transportation & Air Quality
July 30, 2002
††††††††††† Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome to our Administration witnesses, Mary Peters and Jeff Holmstead. This hearing is especially significant because this is the only Congressional Committee that has jurisdiction over both the Clean Air Act and the transportation authorization bill.
††††††††††† With over ten years of experience implementing ISTEA, TEA-21 and the related Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, I think we need to take a hard look at how well the transportation conformity program is working to improve air quality.
††††††††††† In New Hampshire the southern and seacoast areas are designated non-attainment for ozone.† The region has background ambient air quality problems primarily from out of state sources.
††††††††††† The regionís 3-year conformity update is due in October of this year, and on this Friday, the federal and state agencies will be meeting to discuss how to avoid a conformity lapse and the funding penalties associated with it.
††††††††††† Their discussion will be about data and models, not about transportation projects. They cannot significantly change the air quality modelís emission projections with changes to transportation projects.† They can, however, change the emission projections with adjustments to the data for vehicle fleet mix and truck percentages.†
††††††††††† Iím baffled that my stateís highway funds could be diverted and projects delayed --- not as a penalty for failing to properly consider the air quality impacts of transportation projects, but as a result of data flaws in an air quality model that is attempting to predict a precise emission level twenty years into the future.
††††††††††† Like many areas of the country, the air quality in southern New Hampshire is getting better, the congestion is getting worse, and the conformity program threatens to further delay badly needed highway projects.
††††††††††† There are a couple of major issues with transportation conformity that need to be addressed in reauthorization of TEA-21. First, we must address the CMAQ program funding levels and apportionment formula. †Second, we need to take a hard look at the air quality benefits and cost effectiveness of transportation control measures (TCMs) aimed at reducing vehicle travel.†
††††††††††† When the Senate was debating the 1990 CAA amendments, expectations were very high that transportation controls were a cost-effective and simple way to make large reduction in vehicle emissions. †
††††††††††† One reason for the role of TCMs in the conformity program is that historically the growth in the amount of vehicle travel was anticipated to offset much of the gains from EPA vehicle emission standards.†
†More recently, vehicle travel is having a smaller and smaller impact on emissions.
†-- The impact of cleaner cars and trucks on future vehicle emissions is shown by the EPA data on Chart 1.†
†-- This chart is significant because current projections show that emission levels continue to decline, even as VMT (vehicle miles traveled) increase
††††††††††† The steep decline in NOx and VOC emissions suggests that the impact of vehicle travel on emissions is substantially less than it was in the 1970s-1990s.† In TEA-21, Congress expressed its strong support for the CMAQ (SEE-MACK) program, increasing budget authority from ~$1 billion per year to ~$1.6 billion per year.† †At the same time, however, the Congressional debates raised questions concerning the programís efficacy.†
††††††††††† In response, Congress directed the National Academy of Sciencesí Transportation Research Board (TRB) to evaluate the programís benefits and cost-effectiveness. †This study came to several conclusions regarding the CMAQ program and the cost-effectiveness of transportation control measures.† †First, the report concluded that CMAQ was an extremely popular program and should be continued, potentially at an increased level of funding.† Secondly, emission reductions from TCMs are ďgenerally smallĒ and more expensive than technological approaches.
††††††††††† Lastly, technology and regulations like new-vehicle emission and fuel standards and vehicle scrappage programs ďgenerally have been more successful than most CMAQ strategies relying on changes in travel behavior.Ē
††††††††††† As the TEA-21 reauthorization proceeds, further discussion is needed to better understand the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and role of TCMs and conformity in meeting our transportation and clean air goals. †
††††††††††† Another concern to be addressed is the need for more information and tools to deal with particulate matter (PM 2.5) pollution, and to prepare for the new PM 2.5 NAAQS. †While it is known that PM2.5 represents a serious health risk, and that most transportation related PM 2.5 emissions come from diesel engines, more information and research is needed on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness for different PM 2.5 control strategies.†
††††††††††† Finally, transportation and air quality officials have raised concerns that conformity is becoming increasingly process driven, and that the result, cleaner air, is becoming a secondary factor. Moreover, there are ambiguities in the statute and regulations being resolved in litigation, which increasingly indicates a lack of clarity that Congress should address.
††††††††††† Let me conclude by thanking the fifteen cities that responded to the Chairmanís and my request for information on their experiences with the conformity program. Your responses are very helpful and will certainly help inform the reauthorization process.† †I ask unanimous consent to include these responses in the record of this hearing.