O P E N I N G S T A T E M E N T
Senator George Voinovich
Hearing on Transportation and Air Quality
Tuesday July 30, 2002
Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling today’s hearing on Transportation and Air Quality. I believe it is important to examine the effectiveness of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ) and conformity.
As the past Chairman and current ranking member of the Clean Air Subcommittee, and the past Chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee, I understand full well the importance and significance of the overlap between highway planning and air quality.
When I began my term as Governor, 28 Ohio counties were in non-attainment for ozone. I spent considerable effort to get them into attainment. In addition to working with utilities to reduce their emissions, I implemented an automobile emissions testing program, called E-check, to help bring Ohio counties into compliance. At that time, Ohio was one of only a few states to have an enhanced auto emissions test in its urban areas.
This program was a success. According to a 1997 EPA report, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, which are major components in the formation of ozone and are emitted by cars and trucks, have been dramatically reduced between 1970 and 1996 in Ohio. Emissions of VOCs were reduced by 49% and NOx by 26%. Additionally, air toxins in Ohio were reduced from approximately 381 million pounds in 1987 to 144 million pounds in 1996. Due to these reductions, all 88 Ohio counties have met the national air quality standards. But this was not an easy battle.
The E-Check program was criticized because it required vehicle owners in smoggy areas to pay for annual emissions testing and to make the necessary repairs. Due to its unpopularity, Ohio's General Assembly passed a bill revoking the program. However, I stood up for the program and vetoed the bill because I believed it was an important and necessary step to cleaning up Ohio's air.
I believe hard choices like these are important. The conformity program has helped encourage cleaner air and transportation planning has benefitted from coordination with the air quality planners.
As we move forward with the reauthorization of the Highway Bill we must reevaluate the conformity and CMAQ programs and be willing to make hard choices if we are not getting the benefits that we should be getting, or if the program should take on a new dimension.
Mr. Chairman, the National Academy of Sciences issued a good assessment on CMAQ. They have made some good recommendations and some constructive criticism and we should take their advice. In fact I wish they were testifying today.
I hope the Committee will use this time for a good hard evaluation of the program and I would like to outline a few areas in which deserve attention today and in the coming months.
Ø First, we need to examine the timing issues between the Air Quality SIP (State Implementation Plan) process and the transportation TIP (Transportation Improvement Plan) process. We need to see if there is room for improvement between the two processes.
Ø Are the CMAQ projects getting us the best air quality reductions for the money we are spending, in other words are they cost-effective? The NAS study has recommended that we broaden the pollutants covered to include for example particulate matter and to allow more cost-effective programs such as vehicle scrappage programs be funded at the local level.
Ø If the typical CMAQ project is not cost-effective, are there more cost-effective measures such as using the funds to retro-fit diesel engines? So often we spend money on projects to make us all feel better. I always say we need to work harder and smarter and do more with less. Maybe its time we re-evaluate the types of projects we have been funding and shift the focus to deal more with existing air quality problems.
These are just a few of the topics I hope we can address before we move forward with the reauthorization of the highway program next year.