Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration

Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
PlanningEnvironmentReal Estate

HEP Events Guidance Publications Awards Contacts

Highways and Climate Change Newsletter

February 2010

Prepared by the Office of Planning, Environment and Realty
Federal Highway Administration

To view PDF files, you need the Acrobat® Reader®.

Recent Events

FHWA Publishes Brochure on Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure: Gulf Coast Study, Phase I. Phase I provided an overview of projected climate change effects and their impacts on transportation in the Gulf Coast Region. FHWA, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Transportation Center for Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting, has begun Phase 2, which will build on the findings of Phase 1 to develop more definitive information about multimodal impacts at the local level. This study will focus on the Gulf Coast, and in particular develop precise tools and guides for State DOTs, the MPOs, modal planners and municipalities that can facilitate long-term planning architectures to help communities better adapt to potential climate impacts by conducting a detailed analysis in one area within the Gulf Coast region.

White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Issues Draft Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and Climate Change in the NEPA Process. The guidance covers when and how Federal agencies should analyze the environmental impacts of GHG emissions and climate change when they describe the environmental impacts of a proposed action under NEPA (the deadline for comments is May 24, 2010). The draft guidance provides practical tools for agency reporting, includes a presumptive threshold of 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from the proposed action to trigger a quantitative analysis, and instructs agencies how to assess the effects of climate change on the proposed action and their design. The draft guidance does not apply to land and resource management actions and does not propose to regulate GHGs. CEQ has been asked to provide this guidance informally by Federal agencies and formally by a petition under the Administrative Procedure Act.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Launches Prototype Portal for Climate Science and Services. The drivers behind the creation of www.climate.gov included the need to enhance NOAA's Web presence in response to customer requirements, the need for improved decision-making capabilities across all sectors of society facing impacts from climate variability and change, and the importance of leveraging climate data and services to support research and public education. The goal is for www.climate.gov to become the "go-to" website for NOAA's climate data, products, and services for all users. The initial intent is to highlight some of NOAA's most popular datasets/products, such as can be found under the "Global Climate Dashboard." The site includes a section directed to the transportation sector.

U.S. Department of Commerce Proposes Establishment of NOAA Climate Service. Drawing from NOAA's climate research, observations, modeling, predictions, and assessments, the Climate Service would collaborate with policy makers, business leaders, local governments and other decision-makers to enhance their capacity to use science-based climate information, products, and decision support tools. It would provide products such as:

U.S. EPA Issues Revisions to the National Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The revised standard reflects new lifecycle analysis of gas emissions from corn ethanol and soy biodiesel, including updated estimates of GHG emissions from land use change, fertilizer usage and other indirect impacts. The new data show that these conventional biofuels, produced in the most energy efficient manner, could meet GHG reduction thresholds established under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. EPA's earlier analysis had suggested that the lifecycle GHGs from these fuels exceeded the EISA GHG reduction threshold. As a result of EPA's updated findings, corn- and soy-based ethanol may be eligible to claim a larger piece of the renewable fuel market, set to reach 36 billion gallons a year in 2022 under EISA. Biofuel facilities constructed before December 2007 are presently eligible to produce up to 15 billion gallons of conventional fuel (irrespective of GHG benefits), and newer, more advanced plants could also be eligible to produce a share of the remaining volume based on estimated GHG reductions. The EPA action also established specific annual volumes for advanced biofuels. Most notably, the 2010 standard for cellulosic ethanol was set at 6.5 million gallons, compared with the 100 million gallons specified under EISA, reflecting current limits in production.

NOAA Explains Record Low Temperatures Relative to Climate Change. Although record low temperatures were experienced in February 2010 in some regions, these are part of the short-term regional variability that has always been a characteristic of weather and will continue to be even as the Earth's climate experiences an overall warming trend. The contrast in weather between Washington, DC and Vancouver, Canada illustrates why scientists don't draw long-term, large-scale conclusions about climate from short-lived, local weather patterns. The data showing that the world as a whole has been warming on the average are unequivocal, and over time this means there will be fewer (but not zero) cold spells and more (but not constant) hot spells. In the 1950s, the number of record hot days was about the same as the number of record cold days, but in the 2000s there were twice as many record highs as record lows. The record snowstorms in February and the heavy snow in December 2009 were strongly influenced by the current El Niño, which was predicted, combined with an unusually strong, long-lasting occurrence of a climate pattern that delivers cold air from the Arctic to the middle latitudes around the globe. These phenomena are a naturally occurring part of the climate system.

State and Local News

Groton, CT and ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability USA Collaborate to Plan for Climate Change. Groton Coastal Climate Adaptation Workshop three part series is bringing together federal, state, and local stakeholders to address the question "how do we collaborate across political boundaries to prepare for climate change impacts?" The first Workshop provided an overview of regional climate impacts and started dialogue on how different political sectors are vulnerable to forecasted impacts. The second Workshop, to be held March 31st, will refine how federal, state, and local governments are vulnerable to changes in climate, particularly sea level rise, in the context of various planning horizons and begin identifying adaptation strategies that could increase resilience. The third Workshop will be held in May 2010 and will focus on identifying strategies for implementing adaptation actions across political boundaries.

National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Publishes Report and Presents Webinar on Climate Change. NADO believes that the best way to approach climate change is not to view it as a threat, but to embrace it as an economic opportunity that will create jobs, lower energy costs and allow us to plan more intelligently for future generations. Their 12-page report A Time for Action: Regional Efforts to Mitigate Climate Change highlights regional councils around the country who realize the importance of proactively linking climate, land-use, and energy strategies to economic development. Highlighted in the report are the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission in New Hampshire, and the non-profit group "Clean Air Cool Planet." Based on the report, NADO held a webinar for planners to learn about best practices in climate change planning methods and approaches. The speakers' presentations can be found at http://nado.org/rf/innocenters/envtrain.php.

EPA Launches Website to Help State and Local Governments Understand, Plan, and Implement Strategies to Reduce GHG Emissions. The State and Local Climate and Energy Program website brings together EPA resources to serve as a one-stop shop for government officials seeking information and resources related to climate change and clean energy. The site provides:

NOAA Awards Grants to Eight Coastal Regions to Prepare for Climate Change. Local Sea Grant college programs and NOAA will jointly lead the projects. For example, the Great Lakes Region will create training modules to prepare leaders of coastal communities around the Great Lakes to develop climate adaptation plans. The Gulf of Mexico Region will present a week-long training session for local government, Sea Grant and NOAA staff on how local communities can adapt to impacts of climate change such as sea level rise, increased flooding and more extreme weather events. Workshop participants will be able to continue collaborations through a discussion forum on the NOAA Coastal Storms website.

Eastern Governors Agree to Regional Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. Governors from eleven states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work toward implementation of a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) that would cover transportation fuels. The MOU targets a 10 percent reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels, consistent with California's LCFS. The MOU proposes the development of a draft rule by early 2011 that would be implemented through administrative rulemaking or considered for approval by each state's legislature.

Announcements

REMINDER: AASHTO/FHWA/FTA Climate Change Webinars
With assistance from FHWA and FTA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is sponsoring a series of six webinars on climate change between now and June 2010. The webinars are designed for state DOTs-CEOs; chief engineers; and planning, communications, environment, engineering, and government affairs staff-and anyone else who is interested in the topics (e.g., MPOs or other local and regional agencies). The next webinar is:

U.S. EPA State and Local Climate and Energy Program Webinars
EPA hosts monthly webinars to assist local governments as they explore and plan climate change and clean energy efforts. These webinars highlight EPA resources available to local governments, and present examples of successful climate and energy programs and policies implemented locally. All webinars are free, but space may be limited. The next webinar is of interest to transportation professionals:

State and local officials interested in additional information about developing and implementing cost-effective climate and energy strategies that help further environmental goals and achieve public health and economic benefits may visit: http://www.epa.gov/statelocalclimate. To subscribe to EPA's State and Local Climate and Energy listserv, go to: http://www.epa.gov/statelocalclimate/newsletters/index.html.

FYI

We hear that EPA is about to officially release the MOVES model. What is it and can it help transportation agencies to develop their GHG emissions' baselines and inventories?

In a March 2, 2010, Federal Register notice EPA announced their approval of the MOtor Vehicle Emission Simulator model, called MOVES2010, for official purposes. This final version of the model was released on December 23, 2009.

MOVES2010 is a significant improvement over MOBILE6.2 and previous versions of MOVES, and is the best tool EPA has for estimating GHG emissions from the transportation sector. For example, it can generate fuel consumption and GHG emissions estimates based on vehicle power output/speed, unlike MOBILE6.2 which reported the same fuel consumption and GHG emissions estimates regardless of speed. Several state and local agencies have used draft versions of MOVES for estimating GHG emissions in the transportation planning process already. EPA encourages agencies to use MOVES for this type of analysis because of its superiority over previous tools.

MOVES2010 estimates emissions of three GHGs-carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (NH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). It currently only models emissions from on-road mobile sources (cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles), but EPA plans to add non-road emissions sources plus additional energy and GHG enhancements to future versions of the model.

Users can calculate emissions inventories for transportation networks or individual projects, and/or automatically generate lookup tables of fuel consumption and GHG emissions by speed (in 5 mph increments).The model does not reflect the pending fuel economy standards jointly developed by EPA and NHTSA (see September newsletter) because those standards have not been finalized. Once they are, FHWA will work with EPA to develop guidance on accounting for the new standards in MOVES2010.

EPA has published several useful guidance documents with MOVES2010, including Policy Guidance, Technical Guidance on appropriate sources for model input data, a User Guide, example input and output files, and a Questions & Answers document. FHWA and EPA will be providing a series of web conferences and hands-on training sessions starting this spring (electronic versions of materials from the 2009 training sessions on the draft model are available), which will cover topics such as the MySQL database software used by MOVES, an introduction to MOVES, and the use of MOVES for GHG analyses. Visit the MOVES website to download MOVES2010 and supporting information.

Previous Newsletters

If you have any suggestions for inclusion in future issues of Transportation and Climate Change News, or if someone forwarded this newsletter to you and you would like to receive it directly in the future, please send your suggestions or request to Rebecca.Lupes@dot.gov or Heather.Holsinger@dot.gov.

FHWA HQ Contacts:

Office of Planning, Environment & Realty

Office of Natural and Human Environment, Sustainable Transport & Climate Change Team
Rob Ritter, Team Leader, Robert.Ritter@dot.gov
David Carlson, David.Carlson@dot.gov.
John Davies, JohnG.Davies@dot.gov.
Connie Hill Galloway, Connie.Hill@dot.gov.
Robert Kafalenos, Robert.Kafalenos@dot.gov.
Becky Lupes, Rebecca.Lupes@dot.gov.
Diane Turchetta, Diane.Turchetta@dot.gov.

Office of Planning
Robin Smith, Robin.Smith@dot.gov

Office of Project Development and Environmental Review
Shari Schaftlein, Shari.Schaftlein@dot.gov

Globe icon used to deliniate the FHWA Highways and Climate Change website

www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/climate_change/

FHWA Highways and Climate Change website

Circle image with globe in the center surrounded by icons of various modes of transportation: airplane, bicycle, boat, train, truck, car, and bus, which is the brand for DOT's Transportation and Climate Change Clearinghouse

www.climate.dot.gov/

USDOT Transportation and Climate Change Clearinghouse

Updated: 10/31/2014
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000