Highway Stakeholder Groups Oppose GHG Measurement for Highway Performance

August 24, 2016

On August 19, 2016, a coalition of 23 highway stakeholder groups submitted comments for the record (available here) to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in opposition to the idea of using greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as one of the measurements of highway performance. FHWA requested public comment on the idea of a GHG measurement in a proposed rule implementing performance measurements as required under the 2012 MAP-21 law.

The comments track those of Senate Environment and Public Works chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) in his op-ed in last week’s Eno Transportation Weekly in that they deny that FHWA has the statutory authority to proceed with a GHG measurement. The stakeholder comments also make two additional arguments:

  • The stakeholder groups state that even if FHWA does claim statutory authority to use a GHG emission metric, they should not exercise it. They note that most highway projects are system preservation, and that bad system preservation leads to erratic travel speeds which actually increase emissions. They also point out that the White House issued separate guidance to federal agencies earlier this month for the measurement of GHG emissions in all environmental reviews for construction projects and argued that a separate FHWA metric would be redundant.
  • The stakeholder groups also argued that even if FHWA decided to move forward with some kind of GHG metric for highway performance, it should not be part of the current proposed rule but instead should have a separate proposed rule promulgation and comment period.

It should be noted that others disagree with the stakeholders and Senator Inhofe. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wrote an op-ed in ETW last week on the subject. Several other Democratic Senators submitted comments to FHWA last month that include support of a GHG metric. However, comments submitted by the National Association of Regional Councils ask that “FHWA not use this NPRM as the vehicle for establishing a GHG measure. This concern exists even among organizations that are already measuring GHG emissions or otherwise generally agree with the concept of doing so as part of the larger performance program.”

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