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Transportation Conformity Highlights

March 2010

Prepared by the Office of Natural and Human Environment Federal Highway Administration

Announcements and Recent Events

EPA and DOT Finalize Rule on Greenhouse Gas Emission Levels for Passenger Cars and Light Trucks. On April 1, EPA and DOT (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)) jointly released the final rule on fuel economy standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Beginning with model year 2012 passenger cars and light duty trucks, automakers will be required to increase fuel economy and reduce fleet-wide greenhouse gas emissions to achieve an estimated 34.1 mpg for the combined fleet by 2016. This would translate into an average vehicle emissions level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. For more information, see: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/regulations.htm.

EPA Releases Final Revisions to General Conformity Requirements. EPA recently released the final revisions to the General Conformity regulations which were proposed in January 2008. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on April 5, 2010 with an effective date of July 6, 2010. General conformity does not apply to highway and transit projects which are subject to transportation conformity requirements but applies to such actions as airport construction or expansion or dredging projects. The revisions improve the process used by federal entities to demonstrate that federal actions will not cause or contribute to violations of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The rule provides a number of flexibilities such as allowing federal entities to negotiate a facility-wide emission budget that would cover future expansion or modifications, incorporates an early emission reduction credit program, and allows for the emissions of one precursor pollutant to be offset by the reduction of another. For more information, see: http://www.epa.gov/airquality/genconform/index.html.

NCHRP Report Released on Conformity-Style and Other Approaches to Address Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction Strategies and Integrating GHG Objectives into Transportation Decision Making. NCHRP Report 20-24 (64) was recently released which looks at alternative methods that DOTs and MPOs can use for addressing GHG emissions from transportation. The project was intended to help policy makers to understand how alternative approaches to GHG emissions would affect states and metropolitan areas. The report does not make recommendations but considers approaches that may be effective for evaluating mobile-source GHG emission-management strategies. The report also discusses tools that are available to support implementation of these alternative approaches. The report summary and a link to the full report can be found at: http://144.171.11.40/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=2481.

EPA Provides Access to Research and Studies Used in Key Regulatory Decisions. EPA recently released its Health and Environmental Research Online (HERO) database, which provides on-line access to the scientific and research information used in regulatory decision making (including the NAAQS) for six major pollutants. The database includes more then 300,000 scientific assessments used to support EPA decision-making. For more information see: http://www.epa.gov/hero .

DOT Releases Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation. On March 17 U.S. DOT Secretary LaHood released a new policy statement urging transportation agencies to make pedestrian and bicycle facilities an integral part of the transportation system. U.S. DOT Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation reinforces existing authorities and planning requirements and discusses actions that transportation agencies should consider in their planning and project development activities in order to better serve bicyclists and pedestrians. The policy emphasizes U.S.DOT's leadership in this area and requests an increased commitment by transportation agencies to improve these travel options. For more information, see: www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/overview/policy_accom.cfm.

EPA Finalizes Transportation Conformity Rule PM10 and PM2.5 Amendments. On March 10, 2010, the final Transportation Conformity Rule was published in the Federal Register. The rule includes requirements for demonstrating conformity in 2006 PM2.5 areas, which is required by December 14, 2010, updates the baseline year to 2008 for interim tests in 2006 PM2.5 nonattainment and maintenance areas, discusses which budgets should be used in PM10 areas to demonstrate conformity now that the PM10 annual standard has been revoked, and clarifies that federally funded or approved highway and transit projects in PM2.5, PM10 and CO nonattainment and maintenance areas must not delay timely attainment or achievement of other interim milestones. The rule and additional information can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/stateresources/transconf/conf-regs.htm.

EPA Releases Latest Air Quality Trends Report. EPA recently released the updated air quality trends report, Our Nation's Air, Status and Trends Through 2008. The report provides EPA's most recent evaluation of the nation's air quality status and also looks at the relationship between air quality and climate change. EPA reports that significant air quality improvements have been made since 1990 for all six criteria pollutants. Yet, in 2008 approximately 127 million people lived in counties that exceeded any NAAQS. The largest reductions between 1990 and 2008 were for lead with a 78% reduction followed by 8-hour CO with a 68% reduction. Reductions under the annual PM2.5 NAAQS were 19%, for PM10 a 31% reduction was achieved and for 8-hour ozone a 14% reduction occurred nationally between 1990-2008. To see the report, go to: http://www.epa.gov/airtrends/2010/.

Reminders

MOVES2010 Approval and Start of Grace Period Announced in Federal Register. The March 2 Federal Register includes EPA's announcement of the approval and availability of MOVES2010 for SIPs and regional emissions analyses in all states except California. The notice starts the two-year grace period before MOVES2010 is required to be used in new regional emissions analyses for transportation conformity. EPA did not approve the use of MOVES2010 for project-level transportation conformity hot-spot analyses, this will occur in the near future when the guidance for use in hot-spot analyses is finalized. The Federal Register notice can be found at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2010-03-02/html/2010-4312.htm. Guidance on implementing MOVES2010 for SIP development and conformity purposes can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/stateresources/transconf/policy.htm. The MOVES2010 model and supporting materials can be found on the MOVES website: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/models/moves/index.htm.

White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Releases Draft Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gases in NEPA Documents. On February 18, the CEQ released draft guidance on how to consider greenhouse gases in NEPA documents and asked for public input prior to making the guidance final. While not directly related to transportation conformity, this draft guidance provides insights into the Administration thinking on assessing impacts of climate change on federal actions and will have implications for MPOs and State DOTs in their conduct of NEPA analysis. The CEQ will be accepting comments until May 18, 2010. For more information, see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/nepa.

Upcoming Events

TRB Environment and Energy Research Conference. The 2010 TRB Environment and Energy Research Conference will be held in Raleigh, NC on June 6-9. The event will start with a Research Needs Workshop which is an opportunity for transportation professionals from all sectors to identify research needs on transportation, energy and environmental topics. This will be followed by conference sessions. Discounted registration ends April 15. For more information, see: http://cte.ncsu.edu/CTE/EEConference/index.asp.

Save The Date for Northern Transportation Air Quality Summit (NTAQS). NTAQS 2010 will be held August 24 - 26 at the Cambridge Marriott in Cambridge, Massachusetts. NTAQS, like the Southern Transportation Air Quality Summit (STAQS), is held every two years to discuss regional air quality issues. Topics such as conformity, the CMAQ Program, modeling and analysis associated with conformity and project analysis, revision of air quality standards, climate change, and other issues relating to air quality, the environment and planning are covered. The FHWA and EPA Regions 1, 2, and 3 are co-sponsoring the Summit, along with the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management and other regional and local organizations. For additional information, contact Kevin Black at 410-962-2177 or Kevin.Black@dot.gov.

Training Opportunities

FHWA Resource Center Training Activities. FHWA's Resource Center Air Quality Technical Services Team is available to offer air quality-related training opportunities and information is available at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/resourcecenter/teams/airquality/courses.cfm. For further information, contact: Mike Roberts at 404-562-3928 or at Michael.Roberts@dot.gov.

Contacts

FHWA Resource Center Air Quality Team:
http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/resourcecenter/teams/airquality/index.cfm.

If you have any suggestions for future monthly conformity highlights, please email: ssiwek@aol.com.

Updated: 05/09/2012
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