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ARTBA Challenges FHWA Greenhouse Gas Proposal

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) challenged the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) proposal to measure greenhouse gas emissions from new transportation projects.

The proposal is part of larger performance measures required under the 2012 “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” (MAP-21) surface transportation reauthorization law. In Aug. 19 comments to the agency, ARTBA charged the proposal “exceeds both the authority of the FHWA and the intent of MAP-21.”

ARTBA warned of this three years ago, when it urged the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) not to jeopardize the broad bipartisan congressional support for MAP-21 by including extraneous issues – such as climate change – in the law’s implementation. Specifically, a 2013 ARTBA task force cautioned:

“Focus on the goals enumerated in the law. The authors of MAP-21 had the opportunity to include a host of external goals such as livability, reduction of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, reduction of reliance on foreign oil, adaptation to the effects of climate change, public health, housing, land-use patterns and air quality in the planning and performance process … the U.S. Department of Transportation should focus on implementing the goals and standards as spelled out in MAP-21.”

In its latest comments, ARTBA noted that neither Congress nor the administration sought emission measurements in the MAP-21 performance management process, and that such proposals were not included in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act reauthorization law passed in December 2015.

ARTBA also raised a variety of concerns about the proposed measurement system. Specifically, it “does not define what exactly it will measure and how it will measure it,” ARTBA stated, and “[i]t is unfair to ask the regulated community to provide specific comments on such an abstract proposal.” Further, the association warned that the proposal could lead to a cumbersome regulatory process that undercuts progress from both MAP-21 and the FAST Act on expediting transportation project delivery and delay transportation improvements.

ARTBA concluded “it is hard to see this proposal as anything other than a maneuver to achieve a policy objective the administration failed to initiate during the MAP-21 and FAST Act deliberations.” The association has asked FHWA to withdraw its proposed measurement system.

NMA VP Testifies on Unwarranted Land Withdrawal

National Mining Association (NMA) Senior Vice President and General Counsel Katie Sweeney told a Senate panel that the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) withdrawal of more than 10 million acres of mineral-rich federal land from mining activity under the guise of sage grouse conservation “will cause serious hardship to the nation’s economic and mineral security,” while doing nothing to combat proven threats to the sage grouse.

In testimony before the Senate Public Lands, Forests and Mining subcommittee, Sweeney explained that the massive withdrawal, the largest in the history of BLM, contradicts the government’s own findings that identify the primary threats to the sage grouse come not from mining but from wildfire and the loss of native habitat to native species and conifer encroachment. In fact, said Sweeney, the U.S. Geological Survey concluded that habitat loss due to mining is minor, accounting for about 3.6 percent, and can be mitigated with appropriate project-specific conservation measures.

The withdrawal will come with few measurable benefits for sage grouse, but the economic repercussions of removing 10 million acres from new mining claims will be potentially severe. BLM must consider the impact of the withdrawal on the larger economy. “Mining provides for nearly two million high-wage jobs, generates $46 billion annually in taxes and provides key minerals to industries – from laptops and cars, to infrastructure and life-saving medical devices – that comprise 14 percent of U.S. GDP,” she said.

Even though 12 western states with vast BLM holdings account for 75 percent of our nation’s mineral production, the agency never quantified the number of existing mining claims in the area it recommended for withdrawal. Using BLM’s database and maps of the proposed withdrawal area, Sweeney identified nearly 6,000 existing mining claims throughout impacted states – Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

NMA’s analysis of agency land use planning data further calls into question the purpose of this massive withdrawal from mining operations. “In no state did existing mining claims impact more than three percent of the withdrawal area and, in total, effected only about one percent of the 10 million acres,” said Sweeney. Equally questionable, she said, is the agency’s decision to depart from the multiple-use and sustained yield mandate enshrined in its organic act. Among the goals of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Sweeney noted, is the requirement to manage public lands in a manner that ‘recognizes the nation’s need for domestic sources of minerals.

“The proposed withdrawal is simply bad public policy that comes with a dangerously high price tag,” said Sweeney.