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Tulsa World: State transportation secretary blasts EPA proposal, highway agency
April 14, 2011

Posted by Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov

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Tulsa World

State transportation secretary blasts EPA proposal; highway agency

By Jim Myers

April 14, 2011

Link to Article  

Watch: Sec. Ridley Opening Statement

Watch: Inhofe/Ridley Discuss Ways To Keep Highway Dollars Focused on Roads/Bridges

WASHINGTON -- Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley on Thursday accused one federal agency of running amok by dismissing sound engineering judgment and another one of pushing an agenda that will leave Tulsa and other areas on the dirty air list.

Testifying before a U.S. Senate committee, Ridley also took off the gloves when discussing the impact of a number of federal laws and policies on the state. [Ridley Testimony/Video]

The goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said, can be supported without the abandonment of common sense.

Ridley used his oral testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to take on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose recent actions have made it a top target of Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe and other Republicans.

Ridley called for air quality standards that both states and the private sector consider reasonable in response to EPA's current efforts that could lead to beefing up ozone standards, a process that has faced multiple delays.

In his written testimony, Ridley also took on the Federal Highway Administration and its changes in a manual that he says blocks states from using "sound engineering judgment.''

The highway administration "is running amok," he wrote, adding the agency's changes are not only unacceptable but will invite litigation.

Asked later about his testimony, which sounded much more aggressive than his statements in previous appearances before Congress, Ridley spoke of the growing frustrations states face in moving transportation projects along.

As the top Republican on the committee, Inhofe is a major player on transportation and environment issues in Congress.

He repeated his concerns over EPA's ozone proposal.

"This creates tremendous confusion for state and local communities and businesses that have to meet the requirements," Inhofe said, accusing the Obama administration of making a political decision to seek a revision of current ozone standards.

EPA has insisted its process is based on science.

Several of the senators used Thursday's hearing to address funding issues that are expected to impact the next rewrite of a massive transportation law.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who chaired the hearing, raised the possibility that Congress could end up with a two-year revision instead of the more traditional six-year approach, which would be viewed as a setback for Oklahoma and other states that historically support the longer period for planning purposes.

"I encourage all of us to step up,'' Baucus said, challenging the witnesses to get involved in helping Congress find a way to fund a six-year version.

When specifically asked for his opinion, Ridley declined, saying he did not think he should tell Congress how to fund a transportation measure.

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