Sanctions may occur due to deficiencies involving State Implementation Plans (SIPs) and involve EPA findings of non-submittal, incompleteness, lack of implementation, or disapprovals of control strategy SIP submittals required under the CAA. Sanctions are not imposed for maintenance plan failures. Highway sanctions are used for purposes of enforcing deadlines for SIP submittals and the implementation of approved SIP measures or elements required under the CAA. Under the CAA, two types of sanctions are available to the EPA Administrator (mandatory and discretionary) for consideration upon determination of a SIP deficiency.
EPA must impose sanctions through a rule making process. Once an area is officially notified by EPA of certain SIP deficiencies, the sanction's clock is triggered. Eighteen months after the sanctions clock has started, a 2 to 1 offset sanction on new or modified major stationary sources will be imposed. Under offset sanctions, each ton of emissions created by a new stationary source must be offset by a two ton reduction in existing stationary sources. Six months after offset sanctions, highway sanctions will be imposed. If the SIP failure is corrected by the State, the sanctions clock is stopped.
When highway sanctions are imposed, only those specific categories of transportation actions identified as "exempt" under the CAA and those specific categories of actions shown within FHWA's exemption criteria policy may proceed forward toward final construction and implementation. Other "non-exempt" actions (involving air quality improvement programs that do not encourage SOV capacity) may also be found exempt after individual review of each project per U.S. DOT's exemption criteria policy.
Sanctions are intended under the CAA as an incentive for areas to comply with air quality planning requirements. Highway sanctions may be imposed even when the SIP failure or deficiency is not transportation related. Therefore, transportation agencies have a continuing interest in all SIP activities and deadlines.
Projects that are exempt from highway sanctions include:
Highway sanctions apply to projects where funds have not yet been obligated by FHWA by the date the highway sanctions are imposed. Projects that have already received approval to proceed and had funds obligated may proceed, if no other FHWA action is required.