U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   03/13/2003
Sen. James M. Jeffords, of Vermont
CMAQ and Conformity programs

Thank you Mr. Chairman. In July 2002, the Committee held a hearing similar to the one we are having today. From that hearing, I concluded that while there may be occasional conflicts between air quality protection and transportation investments, the overall system is working pretty well and continues to improve.

Today, I hope we will hear about the Administration’s plans for increased funding for the CMAQ program and tightening the linkages between air quality and transportation planning and policies. Strengthening the conformity process and ensuring that adequate resources are available for planners is essential.

It is becoming clearer all the time that our ability to meet national air quality standards and continue economic growth requires a very thoroughly integrated approach.

There is no doubt that coordinating these two policy areas and disciplines is complicated. But, our CMAQ investments and conformity have encouraged smarter growth, better land use decisions, and provided air quality benefits.

We should continue moving aggressively along this same path. If we don’t, even tomorrow’s cleaner vehicles could swamp our efforts to achieve cleaner air as their numbers grow and they travel ever farther.

The total vehicle miles travelled (VMT) has grown 4 times faster than the rate of population growth in the last 30 years. And, at least one study in Tennessee indicates that the VMT increases there will overwhelm the reductions from the cleaner Tier 2 vehicles and heavy duty vehicles. This may make it difficult for them to attain the national air quality standards.

There is no question that attaining the revised ozone and fine particulate standards will be a challenge for all communities across the U.S. Fortunately, nonattainment status and conformity requirements due to that status will only be new to a relatively small portion of the areas.

For those that may experience nonattainment for the first time, EPA and DOT should already be providing guidance, training and resources, so these new areas can be ready with the necessary expertise. I hope our witnesses will comment on that.

Expanding and increasing funding for the CMAQ program will make it an even more important tool for communities to reduce vehicle emissions creatively and permanently so that the standards can be attained. We also need to look at possible ways that CMAQ can be used effectively in clean areas so they might stay clean and avoid being designated as a nonattainment area at all.

The first transportation authorization bill of the 21st Century should, in all respects, bring us closer to the point at which vehicle emissions are a trivial or disappearing source of air quality and environmental health problems. That means dealing with all emissions, not just those that contribute to nonattainment.

Mobile sources are a significant source of toxic air pollutants. In 1998, the entire transportation sector was responsible for emitting 2.3 million tons or 4.6 billion pounds of toxic air pollutants, such as benzene and 20 other hazardous chemicals.

Recent studies indicate that people living within a short distance of high-volume freeways have a much higher than normal risk of cancer and other adverse health effects. EPA’s final rule on mobile source air toxics, which is scheduled for July 2004, should consider these studies.

Federal Highways should use this information in conducting NEPA analyses too.

As the Committee heard in the August 2001 hearing on mobile source air pollution, the transportation sector is a huge and growing component of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. One third or 1.8 billion tons in carbon emissions comes from the sector, about 18% above 1990 levels and continuing to rise. Senators know my belief about global warming. Scientists appearing before this Committee have told us that unmitigated increases in emissions increase the risks associated with global warming and climate change.

This year’s reauthorization bill is the place to start thinking about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from this sector. We must also look for ways to strengthen the linkages we have already forged between transportation and air quality and environmental health protection.

I hope we will hear today from DOT and EPA on their proposals, if any, to change policy or law in this area as part of reauthorization, rather than revisiting this again later.