Testimony of Mr. Howard Maier, Executive Director

Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Cleveland, Ohio

 

Prepa Testimony of Mr. Jerry Lasker, Executive Director

Indian Nations Council of Governments, Tulsa, Oklahoma

 

Representing: tThe Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA)

Representing: , Tthe Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG)

Representing: The

and the

 

NNational Association of Regional Councils (NARC)

 

Before the Senate of the United States of America

 

Committee on Environment and Public Works

Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, and Nuclear Safety

 

Hearing on Air Quality Conformity

 

March 135, 2003

 

 

 

What are NOACA and INCOG?

 

The Northeast Ohio Area Coordinating Agency (NOACA) and the Indian Nations Council of Government (INCOG) are two of over 300 federally designated metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in the country.  MPOs perform the planning component of the federal surface transportation act to keep the funding for transportation projects flowing into their regions.  Part of their responsibility is meeting Clean Air Act and Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) laws requirements and regulations relating to conformity and clean-air planning.

 

NOACA is an organization representing local governments regionally - operating in the heart of a home rule state.  There are over 170 units of local government in this region, all making autonomous decisions regarding roads, zoning and economic development within the confines of their respective boundaries. There is no state or federal mandate to compel these communities to cooperate on these issues.  NOACA is the one forum in which these communities come together and make decisions from a regional perspective.

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) and the Indian Nations Council of Government (INCOG) are two of over 300 federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in the country.  MPOs perform the planning component of the federal surface transportation act to keep the funding for transportation projects flowing into their regions.  Part of their responsibility is meeting Clean Air Act and Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) requirements and regulations relating to transportation conformity and clean-air planning.

 

NOACA represents 170 local governments in a five county region.  These five counties (Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina) account total for 2.1 million people.  This is one fifth of the State of Ohio’s population.  NOACA operates in the heart of a home rule state – where units of local government make autonomous decisions regarding roads, zoning, and economic development within the confines of their respective boundaries.  There is no state or federal mandate to compel these communities to cooperate on these issues.  NOACA is the one forum in which these communities come together and make decisions from a regional perspective.

 

The region is a very diverse group of urban, suburban and rural communities. The cooperative attitude exhibited by the 38 members of NOACAs board and dedicated committee members, all supported by a staff of planning professionals, speaks well for the region’s future.  NOACA’s regional boundaries include Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties.

 

INCOG is a voluntary association of some 50+ local governments in the five-county Tulsa, Oklahoma metropolitan area and has served as the MPO for over 20 years. The City of Tulsa, the region’s largest city, contains about half of the region’s approximately 800,000 population. Osage County, the region’s largest county, borders the State of Kansas, is bigger than the State of Rhode Island and has a population of approximately 405,000.

 

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC)

 

NARC is a 32-year-old organization serving the interests of regional councils, and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs).  NARC is an umbrella organization comprised of planning commissions and development districts made up of large urban and small rural councils, and MPOs from across the country.  NARC provides advocacy and technical assistance in and for environmental issues, economic and community development, emergency management, and transportation.  NARC emphasizes regional intergovernmental cooperation to resolve common problems in all of these important areas.

 

Regional councils and MPOs are created by compact and enabling legislation as consortia of local governments.  As such, regional councils and MPOs represent local elected officials from cities, counties, townships, and villages.  Their mission is regional planning and coordination across multiple jurisdictions.  Regional Councils and MPOs deliver a wide-range of programs and services such as , economic development, first responder and 9-1-1, health care, infrastructure development, aging services, air and water quality, land-use planning, work force development, emergency management and homeland security, and transportation. 

 

Among all of these programs, transportation is key to the continued prosperity and health of all regions across the country.  Access to employment and recreation and the movement of goods and services, drive regional economies and serves to bridge communities otherwise separated.  

 

The Committee is addressing one of the most complex aspects of transportation system development – transportation conformity.  First and foremost, Congress should consider whether air quality conformity as it currently exists is a tool that truly achieves clean air quality goals in our regions. 

 

Our nation needs to maintain its commitment to clean air and healthy communities.  The nation has made great strides in the application of new technology to environmental betterment, in the maintenance of our freight and transport fleets, and in energy savings, all leading to cleaner air across the country.  However, the complex and burdensome system currently used for assisting our regions in determining standards, in applying data, and in selecting projects does not always work to improve community livability.  The current process, while proving itself over the years, also has proven challenging for MPOs.  shown structural weaknesses. Benefits gained in clean air through the law need to be measured against the increasing cost and complexity of clean air planning.

 

The Process in Northeast Ohio Experience with CMAQ and Conformity

 

The 1992 classification of Northeast Ohio as a moderate nonattainment area for ozone generated a planning challenge for the region.  Designated nonattainment areas must develop State Implementation Plans (SIPs) must be developed for nonattainment areas.  SIPs identify how an area will achieve attainment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).  Because earlier SIP planning efforts often generated documents that did not result in significant improvements in actual air quality conditions, USEPA required a specific format for the new SIPs for the newly classified nonattainment areas.  USEPA required that moderate ozone nonattainment areas develop plans that would generate 15% reductions in hydrocarbon pollutant emissions by 1996 beyond already mandated improved vehicle technologies (e.g., catalytic converters).  Hydrocarbons, a precursor of ozone, were believed to be the primary contributor to ozone attainment problems at that time.  In northeast Ohio, the required reduction amounted to roughly 75 tons per day.   This SIP requirement gave areas less than four years to generate a considerable decrease in hydrocarbon emissions.

 

Northeast Ohio, like many nonattainment areas, found itself facing a challenge.  The reductions identified in the 15% SIP had to be real, that is, the activities that were to generate the reduction had to be believedrecognized by USEPA to be certain to achieve the stated reduction.  USEPA held the authority to approve or reject any methodology submitted for a given reduction strategy.  In many instances (e.g. the Automobile Inspection Maintenance Program), USEPA supplied the approved methodology for local use.  Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funded projects also had to meet must also meet this “verifiable reduction” requirement.

 

Areas planning to achieve the 15% reduction generally adopted a two-tiered approach to the planning effort.  First, they identified the available control measures that could be mandated.  These included mthings easures likesuch as changes in fuel formulation, and the Automobile Inspection and Maintenance (AIM) Program.  OnceSecond, once all the possible reductions from these measures were identified, other measures were identified to make up the remaining reduction target.  These measures (e.g. signal projects) were generally not things that could be mandated.  They also generally required the development of some quantitative or qualitative methodology for estimating the emission reductions associated with them.

 

During this planning stage, USEPA approved a NOACA methodology for estimating emission reductions from signalization projects.  This approval, and the need for additional reductions towards the 15% target, led NOACA to ask local governments to identify signalization projects that could aid in meeting the target its goal.  Generally, only signalized corridors generated sufficient reductions to be worth consideration for this planning purpose.  Once a set of possible candidate projects was identified, NOACA asked municipalities to become project sponsors and to commit to implementing the projects by the summer of 1996.  The projects of those municipalities project sponsors who could make this commitment were added to the 15% Plan.  Twenty-two signalization projects made this cut.  CMAQ funds were the obvious choice for funding these transportation improvements.

 

 

These events led to three results that persist to this day:

 

 

In addition to signalization projects CMAQ dollars have also been used to fund the purchase of buses and the construction of park-n-ride lots.  These lots provide an increased opportunity for non-auto dependent travel to work and other destinations.  It is probable that many of these signal pprojects and park-n-ride lots would not exist in the absence of the CMAQ program.

 

The CMAQ program through its specialized focus affords a unique opportunity to pursue projects that are beneficial to air quality.  It is likely that given the limited resources available, these projects would not be completed with regular transportation dollars.  They would fall victim to the many competing priorities for these funds.  For this reason, NOACA believes that the CMAQ program should remain to give lifepriority to these air-quality projects.

 

 opportunities.

 

 

It should be noted that in the State of Ohio, as it is in many States, CMAQ funding is allocated by the Department of Transportation.  While there is general agreement about this process -  it is applied at the discretion of the State.  Direct apportionments to MPOs in this next surface transportation bill would eliminate any uncertainties they have concerning their share of CMAQ dollars.

 

It is also important to note that CMAQ is a cost effective solution to many of the transportation sectors air quality planning goals.  CMAQ projects reduce congestion and improve air quality at a fraction of the cost of building additional roads and adding lanes to existing facilities.

 

NOACA’s experience with transportation conformity analyses has been somewhat different than that experienced in many metropolitan areas around the country.  Conformity analyses were introduced as a required element of transportation planning in December 1993.  Since that time all proposed new projects ortransportation plan, program, or project  revisions that could generate a possible air quality impact must be evaluated for their conformity to the purposes of the State Implementation Plans (SIPs) in nonattainment and maintenance areas.  Conformity determination in nonattainment areas involves the comparison of the aggregate system-wide emissions resulting from the construction of a project with those existing in its absence.  This is referred to as the Build/No-Build Test.  Conformity determination also involves the comparison of the resulting emissions with those in the emissions budget from the applicable SIP.  This is called the Budget Test.  In maintenance areas, only the SIP Budget Test is required.

 

Prior to its redesignation to attainment of the one-hour ozone standard in 1996, NOACA had to conduct both the Build/No-Build and the Budget Tests for its transportation plans, programs, and projects.  During this period, the Build/No-Build test was the only aspect of the conformity process that posed a potential problem in the NOACA area.  This is because in a long established area like Northeast Ohio, new capacity additions are responsible for very small changes in total area wide emissions.  As a result, differences between Build/No-Build scenarios were very small and the demonstration of a net improvement from an analysis frequently needed to rely on the use of off-network reductions to offset tiny increases generated by the model.  Off-network reductions are reductions from activities that cannot be captured by the transportation- modeling environment.  Signalization projects are an example of such a reduction.  Changes in signal number and or timing are not captured in a traditional four-step transportation model.  As a result, their impact must be determined separately and then combined with the model results.  Using these off-network results, NOACA successfully passed both Build/No-Build and Budget Tests during its period of nonattainment.

 

Following redesignation, NOACA only experienced problems with conformity determinations when changes in the MOBILE model resulted in dramatic changes in the forecast of emissions from the transportation system.  The MOBILE model, which is developed and updated by USEPA, has been updated several times during the past decade.  Twice during this period, NOACA has had to seek revision to its SIP Budgets in order to allow for conformity of its transportation plans with the SIP budget.

 

Outside of the aforementioned modeling circumstances, the only real remaining conformity challenge for the area has been the fact tthat its transportation plans, programs, and projects must be conformed based on the entire nonattainment/maintenance area.  In ourthe region area this has meant the need to conduct conformity on for the combination of two MPOss areas and one additional county.’s transportation systems...   This situation has resulted in the need for significantly more coordination, and therefore, time than would be experienced in the absence of this requirement.  Compounding this situation have been efforts by FHWA to require the two MPOs to share identical transportation planning time frames as a result of their participation in conformity planning for this multi-jurisdictional area.  It severely taxes the seems unjust and untenable for the governing bodies of two independent MPOs to be required to establish transportation planning schedules based solely on a required conformity finding.  The conformity process in and of itself is expensive and time consuming – when the coordination of two Federal agencies, a State DOT, and multiple local jurisdictions is added the costs become unmanageable.  This experience is similar for all MPOs – and many of them have multiple State boundaries and many more local jurisdictions.

 

 

NOACA recognizes that its experience of CMAQ and conformity analyses has been different from many other metropolitan areas.  The area’s relatively stable population has resulted in slower VMT growth than in many other areas.  As a result, emission reductions from new vehicle improvements have always outweighed any emission increases associated with VMT growth.  This has prevented aaverted any of the planning difficulties associated with major population growth and capacity increases realized in other urbanized areas.  It has also resulted, as previously noted, in limited usage of CMAQ dollars for creative or innovative projects.

NOACA expects however along with our colleagues from other MPOs that we will have difficulty in planning for the new eight hour standards.

 

ThThe Experience of e Process in TuTulsa, Oklahoma in CMAQ and Conformity

 

Tulsa County was a non-attainment area until 1990.  INCOG worked very hard locally to achieve attainment status and  Tulsa became a clean air county prior to the signing of the Clean Air Act Amendments.  It was very important to avoid the stigma associated with being on the EPA non-attainment list, especially for economic development purposes.  Since that time, INCOG worked even harder to maintain our clean air status.  While efforts were wide ranging, perhaps most notable was the creation of the nationally recognized Ozone Alert! Program, the nation’s first episodic voluntary emissions control program.  This program reflects INCOG’s philosophy of seeking voluntary common sense measures that are most effective in improving air quality rather than the command and control approach too often used by state and federal regulators.  As part of this program, gasoline suppliers and distributors agreed to voluntarily reduce the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) of gas sold in the Tulsa area. The Rregional transit agency provided free bus rides on Ozone Alert! Days and citizens and businesses were asked to voluntarily reduce their driving and other pollution causing activities.

 

In addition to the Ozone Alert! Program, Tulsa, by formal agreement with EPA and a host of other federal, state and local partners, became the nation’s first Flexible Attainment Region (FAR). Beginning in 1995, Tthe FAR provided the region a locally crafted strategy to reduce emissions and adequate time to evaluate results before implementing more stringent measures to meet regional goals. This approach avoided the “one size fits all” command and control system approach which, which has been historically imposed by EPA.  The FAR agreement came about because the region as local governments and private industry are committed to improving air quality.  The necessary ingredients to make this work are flexibility and common sense.  When the regions are allowed to develop their own program the local “buy in” is assured and the willingness to commit financial and political capital to achieve results is more readily accepted.

 

The Tulsa area successfully maintained the 1-hour ozone standard during the 5-year FAR agreement . agreement. After the expiration of the Flexible Attainment Region FAR agreement in 2000, the Tulsa area experienced a unique weather pattern that resulted in a number of exceedences of the ozone standard, putting usthe region close to violating the standard.  Again, in order to avoid going into non-attainment t INCOG entered into EPA’s Ozone Flex program which was designed to defer redesignation until it was shown that locally imposed emission control reduction measures would not work. INCOG is proud to relate that their continuing efforts have been successful and they have remained in attainment forof the 1-hour r. sstandard.

 

NowPresently, Tulsa faces its next challenge in meeting the 8-hr. standard.  Current readings at two of the five ozone the monitors in Tulsa County place the entire five-county Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) region on the verge of non-attainment.  . EPA provided two strategies for reaching attainment.  The conventional nonattainment approach requires the governor of each state to submit to EPA a classification of  ‘attainment’, ‘nonattainment’ or ‘unclassifiable’ based on information available for each affected area.  This conventional approach then requires nonattainment areas to develop enforceable control measures to reduce emissions, modify the State Implementation Plan (SIP) accordingly and reach attainment by as early as 2009.  Transportation conformity analysis begins one year after nonattainment designation and is required to continue for twenty years after reaching attainment.  Specific EPA guidance for the implementation of this strategy is not yet available for the 8-hour standard.  The second strategy provided by EPA is the Early Action Compact (EAC). 

 

The EAC is a five-year agreement allowing local areas to develop an area specific program identifying and implementing effective control measures to achieve attainment at the monitors by 2007.  Further, EAC defers the effective date of the nonattainment designation.   If an area fails to achieve EAC commitments, then the conventional nonattainment strategy kicks in.  This next ozone season will be the most important one.  The weather cannot be trusted, to compensate INCOG has pr oactively entered into an the EAC.  Early Action Compact (EAC) with the EPA. The EAC will allow INCOG EPA  to defer the effective date of redesignation. and avoid performing conformity analysis and other requirements associated with being redesignated.   In return, the EAC commits INCOG and has agreed to work with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to develop additional the modeling necessary to identify control measures that would will be implemented to bring the area into compliance by 2007 rather than 2009, the date required if INCOG were to slip into non-attainment this next season.

 

Sincece the Tulsa area is in compliance with our EAC, weINCOG is requesting thethe definition of ‘unclassifiable’ designation be expanded to include areas under EAC agreements. 

 

Even though weINCOG areis under an EAC, and the effective date of the designation is put off, wethey are told that EPA designations of nonattainment will still occur.  This is doubletalk.  This being the case,  ourTulsa area will be designated nonattainment.  The problem will be solved if states are given the opportunity to defer the designation by recommending an  ‘unclassifiable’ designation.  

 

Tulsa is very nearly meeting the 8-hour standard, clearly meeting the 1-hour standard, and through EAC MOA, committed to meeting the standard by 2007.     The EAC provides a ‘deferring the effective date of a non-attainment designation’ for the Tulsa area.  With the past thirteen years of pro-active air quality improvements, Tulsa’s air quality continues to improve.  At present, Tulsa area monitors are only slightly above revised standard and are expected to be in compliance before the end of 2007.  Given that the EAC effectively is intended to provide a transition status only for those areas meeting the 1-hour standard but only marginally not meeting the 8-hour standard, we feel it only reasonable to be considered “unclassifiable” on the basis of available information as EAC committed milestones are underway and monitor data reflecting these aggressive EAC strategies pending near-implementation (By July 15, 2003, state Governors are to submit to EPA a list of all areas in the state recommending designation of nonattainment, attainment, or unclassifiable on the basis of available information as meeting or not meeting the revised NAAQS.  These designation and boundary recommendations will precede the EPA’s April 2004 designations). It may be necessary to clarify the CAA language for “unclassifiable” areas, (CAA, sec. 107, D-1, A, iii) to provide appropriate designation status for EAC areas across the country which are meeting all milestones, including the submission of early SIP revision by 2004).  For a complete discussion of the EAC, of EACs please see the attached material in ATTACHEMANT A.  

 

As you can see INCOG has taken a pro-active approach to improve regional air quality. The stigma associated with being designated non-attainment will have adverse effects on the region’s economic development initiatives that so desperately need to be effective during these tough times.  INCOG is also very concerned about the health related implications of poor air quality and its program is designed to address those concerns.

 

For all of our regions, it is clear that clean air is one of several key health goals. They do everything possible to balance accessibility and development goals with a healthy environment. It also is clear that air quality planning is very complex, often misunderstood, and misapplied. 

 

There is also concern in our regions and local communities that current conformity law may strip local elected officials of the authority they exercise through the comprehensive transportation decision-making process.  This process is adopted in coordination with their citizens, environmental groups, and the business community.  Conformity law has the capacityability to alter decisions made locally and change the very structure of decision-making process in a sweeping and possibly regionally detrimental fashion.  Therefore, NARC believes, with this new reauthorization, we have the opportunity to fix provisions that will serve only to enhance the current process.

 

NOACA, INCOG, and NARC and all as well as all itsthe associations regional members have undertaken an extensive look at current conformity processes and what  we can be done do to make the process smoother, easier to apply, and more effective and meeting clean air goals.  The key issues are summarized as follows:

 

Clean Air Planning Cycles and Conformity

 

MPOs are required by law to undertake a comprehensive planning process. Concurrently, air quality plans are undertaken as well.  There is no synchronization of timing on all the different plans that MPOs are doing.  Plans start and stop at different times and for different reasons. Because this makes coordination extremely difficult between transportation and air-quality planning, NARC proposes the following revisions.

 

Congress mustshould makerequire the planning horizons of State Implementation Plan (SIP) and transportation plans consistent. Furthermore, the Metropolitan Plan would only have to conform every five years - when it is updated.

 

"Maintenance" should demonstration will be reduced to five years.

 

There is also the problem of implementing new national modeling standards. that MPOs are faced with.  NARC is concerned about the implementation of these new standards and the effect new data runs in new models will have on transportation programs.   NARC recommends that:

 

 

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program

 

CMAQ has been demonstratively successful in helping to relieve congestion and improve air quality.  Recently released reports indicate that CMAQ is a very effective program and well received by MPOs.  Some specific adjustments will improve the program and the use of it at the regional level:

 

 

Eight- Hour Standards

 

NARC is also aware that current advances in attaining clean air goals may change as a result of the implementation of USEPA’s new more stringent 8-hour ozone standard.  This will place Northeast Ohio, Tulsa, and many other regions, under a nonattainment status once more.  Depending on how conformity analysis is handled under this new standard, this could result in more difficulty in demonstrating conformity, and could influence how the area chooses to spend available CMAQ dollars.

 

The new 8eight-hour standards (NAAQS) were revised by EPA in July of 1997.  The standard set at 0.08 parts per million (ppm) with 8-hour readings that would be averaged over three years.   If an MPO is designated nonattainment then requirements will result in a State Implementation Plan (SIP), Conformity, New Source Review, and other planning requirements – a cumbersome process. 

 

MPOs are concerned by the litigation that took place under the 1-hour standards and the potential for a similar flux rash of lawsuits once the 8eight-hour designations are made and the SIPs are submitted.  MPOs and states would like to find a legislative solution to this problem in order to avoid the financial burden of defending their TIPs and SIPs.    

 

Rural communities and counties are also aware that their designations for nonattainment may change.  Under the new eight-hour standards over 400 counties may be newly designated for nonattainment.  Many of these areas are small city or rural counties not covered by MPO planning areas.  These areas have neither the tools nor expertise necessary to prepare for and/or meet the standards.  The costs of compliance far outweigh the ability of rural counties to fund air-quality initiatives.

 

To help MPOs prepare for the new standards NARC has a cooperative agreement with EPA and FHWA to provide outreach to all regional councils and MPOs on integrating transportation and air quality planning.  A series of workshops have been provided to help our members understand the 8eight-hour standards and the implementation.  NARC is in the process of preparing Guidelines for Regional Councils and MPOs on Integrating Transportation and Air Quality Planning. 

 

Clean Air Incentives

 

The only "incentives" that exist relative to clean air and conformity are disincentives aimed at punishing regions that fail current air quality standards. These disincentives may, in the extreme, shut down a region’s transportation program. The only extra funding regions receive to combat air quality problems are those from the CMAQ program, applied when a region reaches non-attainment or maintenance status. To correct this imbalance and reward those regions that are in attainment or moving toward a maintenance or attainment status, NARC proposes the Clean Air and Attainment Pilot Program (CAAPP).

 

Congress should consider setting-aside, above the normal allocation of category funding, a reward to those regions that are in attainment or in demonstrated maintenance for a set number of years.  This allocation would be discretionary and allocated directly to regions to fund strategies to promote clean air.  The funding could be used to fund planning, management and operations, and other "clean-air" activities.  The program would help create a set of ‘best practices’ that could be emulated by other regions to improve air quality.

 

Funding for the CAAPP shall not be taken from the CMAQ program.

 

Of concern to our regions is the purported linkage between congestion and air-quality.  - evidence ways in the opposite of this conclusion.  Our MPOs across the country do not necessarily believe there is always a direct linkage between the two.congestion and air-quality. 

WWhile our cities grow and become more vibrant,  and yes, while our roads in some areas become more congested – our air is becoming cleaner.  Government reports have concluded that the application of new vehicle technology has been a positive contributor to our air being the cleanest it has been in decades.  We NARC respectfully encourages Congress to look at congestion mitigation in other discussions and through other programs – not through the conformity process.

 

Mr. Chairman, NARC proposes changes in TEA-21 to allow all States and regions the flexibility to achieve air quality goals and implement world- class transportation systems.

 

NARC is urging Congress to consider all its partners as important to building and maintaining the best transportation system in the world.  NARC has released a twelve- point program to help our lawmakers help regions.  NARC seeks more funding for MPOs, better coordination within State and Federal programs, and new and innovative programs aimed at alleviating urban transportation problems such as congestion, funding flexibility, and freight and goods movement. To this end, Congress should guarantee States the flexibility to spend funds and program projects based on their priorities and extend that same responsibility and authority to all local elected officials.

 

Our association hopes Congress will also consider the role of fiscal constraint on MPOs and councils.  While absolutely necessary to allow for the accurate accounting of our public expenditures it is critical that revenue forecasts are precise and fiscal standards remain consistent.  MPOs and regional councils are held to higher fiscal standards in their planning and programming processes then the States that fund them.  Congress should require States to provide accurate revenue forecasts to MPOs and councils and engage them in calculating these forecasts as well.

 

NARC will also urge Congress throughout this and the coming year to consider greater emphasis on safety in rural and urban communities, a balanced and intermodal approach to Federal funding, comprehensive review and consideration of technology deployment, and greater consideration of freight movement as an essential part of the transportation planning process.

 

Of particular concern to NARC members and the citizens they represent are the tens of thousands of accidents and deaths on rural roads each year.  Coupled with increasing safety concerns in urban areas, this presents a sobering picture of travel on America’s roads.  NARC is urging Congress to apply resources in new and innovative ways to lessen this tragedy.

 

NARC is also urging Congress to consider ways to streamline the project delivery process, while ensuring the health of our natural environment.  The ability to move projects quickly, especially those that will make our roads safer and eliminate bottlelnecksr, is of key concern.  Bound intimately with safety are new concerns for security.

 

Given the fact that many regional councils are currently involved in emergency management planning, NARC will also urge Congress to consider regional councils and MPOs as primary recipients of homeland and surface transportation security funding.   

 

NARC would like to help all MPOs achieve the same success as that of Cleveland, Tulsa, and in other places, through a balanced, intermodal, comprehensive, and locally and regionally led process of planning, programming, and project selection.

 

ATTACHMENT A

 

Consideration of Early Action Compact Areas and Regions Currently in Attainment.

 

A. The Tulsa area’s designation for the revised NAAQS should be “Unclassifiable”.  It may be necessary to clarify the CAA language for “unclassifiable” areas, ( CAA sec 107 D-1 A iii) to provide appropriate designation status for EAC areas which are meeting all milestones.  ,

 

including the submission of early SIP revision by 2004. 

 

By July 15, 2003, state Governors are to submit to EPA a list of all areas in the state recommending designation of nonattainment, attainment, or unclassifiable on the basis of available information as meeting or not meeting the revised NAAQS.  These designation and boundary recommendations will precede the EPA’s April 2004 designations.  We feelbelieve it appropriate and critical that the Tulsa area be “unclassified” during this initial revised NAAQS designation process.  We believe we meet the intent of the CAA’s unclassifiable provision through the Tulsa area’s EAC commitment and efforts. 

 

Tulsa is very nearly meeting the 8-hour standard, , clearly meeting the 1-hour standard, and through EAC MOA, committed to meeting the 8-hour standard by 2007.     The EAC provides for a ‘deferring the effective date of a non-attainment designation’ for the Tulsa area.  With the past thirteen years of pro-active air quality improvements, Tulsa’s air quality continues to improve.  At present, two of the five Tulsa area monitors are only marginally slightly above 8-hour revised standard and are expected to be in compliance before the end of 2007.  Given that the EAC effectively is intended to provide a transition status only for those areas meeting the 1-hour standard but only marginally not meeting the 8-hour standard, we feelbelieve it only reasonable and appropriate to be considered “unclassifiable” on the basis of available information as EAC committed milestones are underway and monitor data reflecting these aggressive EAC strategies pending near-implementation. 

 

Once EAC areas are determined to be fully incompliance with all milestones and meeting the standard at the monitor, a designation of attainment could be issued.  The EAC agreement includes a local area ‘maintenance plan’ plan for growth.  This maintenance plan takes the place of transportation conformity maintenance requirements and includes updating and modeling for future transportation projects for 5 years beyond December 2007. 

 

Additional support for not designating EAC areas, rather defining them as unclassifiable,  can beis  provided by EPA’s own statement in the November 14, 2002 Jeffrey Holmstead, EPA Memorandum, page 7, 2nd paragraph 3rd sentence:  “If any milestone is missed and EPA withdraws the deferred effective date, thereby triggering a nonattainment designation and applicable statutory requirements, a nonattainment SIP would have to be submitted to EPA within 1 year of the new effective date of the nonattainment designation. 

 

B.  Transportation Conformity Issues. 

 

Transportation conformity is intended to encourage municipalities and states to consider the impacts of transportation projects on air quality.  State tTransportation iImprovement pPlans (TIPs) must conform to sState iImplementation pPlans (SIPs).  S pecific mandates are placed on areas not in attainment with clean air standards.  Conceptually, we support transportation conformity.  However, tThe current transportation conformity law holds several requirements we find counterproductive to cleaner air, and more costly than beneficial.  Additionally, because the Tulsa area is an EAC Agreement area and expected to meet NAAQS by 2007 or earlier, the ‘triggers’ for transportation conformity requirements are unclear.

 

Transportation conformity requirements add burden and significant cost onto MPOs and local regions by requiring modeling of mobile source emissions for future year modeling.  The non-attainment SIP already takes into account the prescribed future growth for all area emissions.  Mobile source emissions are modeled for future growth and incorporated into an EPA approved SIP. 

 

There is a disconnect between areas covered by EAC agreements and federal transportation conformity requirements.  If a nonattainment designation (with a deferred effective date on non-attainment designation and related requirements) were to occur for the Tulsa area in 2004, it is unclear whether or not conformity would kick-in within one year.  Reasonably, transportation conformity would also be deferred under the EACs “related requirements” clause. 

 

There is a disconnect between whether or not – and when - transportation conformity would begin for EAC areas meeting milestones and meeting attainment at the monitors in 2007.   The problem arising from this issue is resolved through our earlier recommendation that EAC areas, like Tulsa, be eligible to be designated unclassifiable until 2007.  At the end of 2007, when EAC area monitors are in compliance with the revised NAAQS, transportation planningtransportation-planning maintenance requirements as planned for in the EAC agreement and SIP planning process would begin. 

 

Once an area reaches attainment, the 20 year maintenance transportation conformity requirement for areas redesignated to attainment creates an arbitrary and unreasonable burden for areas, like Tulsa, that have who never been more than marginally above the standard.  A reasonable rule for maintenance conformity requirements would take into account the degree of nonattainment an area reached.  Areas like Tulsa should not be required to perform conformity nearly as long as areas classified as ‘serious’ or ‘extreme’.  A five yearfive-year maintenance conformity period is more reasonable.   areas like Los Angeles.  Also, maintenance requirements for conformity should be better partnered with SIP planning, providing reasonable synchronization of modeling efforts. 

 

 

Local transportation projects of major significance may be those approved by voters in local elections, funded entirely with local funds. Transportation conformity analysis and regulations are required on all projects – not just federally funded.  Local taxpayers approved and funded a local area transportation project, it is not reasonable that federal conformity analysis override the will of local citizens. 

 

Newly designated nonattainment areas will be faced with data inadequacies.  Local areas, like Tulsa included, will need time to accumulate the necessary resources and data to produce updates to the long range plan every three rather than five years.  There should be some consideration for a necessary delay in shifting the requirement to update the long rangelong-range transportation plan from five to three years at a minimum.  We believe retaining a 5 year5-year plan update is appropriate..   

 

C.  Other Related Issues

 

The current limitations placed on Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding is constraining and minimizes effective project implementation especially in the area of using funds for operational purposes. For example, our transit agency provides free bus rides on Ozone Alert! Days - an important part of our program. They are constrained by the current CMAQ rules for continuing this program for more than three years.  We recommend allowing more flexibility in both the type of CMAQ projects selected and increasing removing the three-year limitation for number of years selected projects are eligiblityeligibilitye for funding. 

 

The current TEA-21 legislation does not provide for areas that are in attainment, like Tulsa, to receive CMAQ funds to undertake air quality improvement programs.  We would recommend that consideration be given to expanding the eligibility for receiving CMAQ funds to those areas that have entered in to Early Action Compact agreements with EPA. Simply put, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. 

 

EPA defines the Metropolitan Statistical Area as the default nonattainment boundary.  In Tulsa’s case, one of our 5 counties, Osage County, has a population density of less that 20 people per square mile, and is larger than the state of Rhode Island.  EPA has developed guidance which we are following to, with a relatively high level of effort, request redefining the boundary based on reasonable population and commuting data.  However, the local area is required to carry the burden of proving why the entire MSA should not be included. A more effective and least costly process would allow local areas the opportunity to define and justify its own nonattainment boundary.