Saturday, June 28, 2008

EPA, FHWA and I-94: part of a larger scandal?

At first, the Federal Highway Administration's position on the global warming impacts of expanding North-South I-94 just seemed completely looney tunes. Now, though, with revelations in the New York Times this week that the White House just refused to open an email from the EPA concerning global warming, FHWA's dismissal of global warming concerns seems to transcend idiocy and elevate itself into a piece of a larger scandal.

Here is the relevant passage from the FHWA's record of decision approving WisDOT's proposal to expand the freeway even though people are driving less and expansion won't improve drive times in the vast majority of the project area.

Comment - "The report's analysis of greenhouse gas impacts is inadequate. The analysis is not much of an improvement over the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which did not mention greenhouse gases at all. The Final EIS talks about greenhouse gases, but doesn't say much useful and offers no mitigation plans." The FEIS violates NEPA requirements by not committing to mitigation of GHG emissions.

Response - FHWA's position is that greenhouse gas emissions/climate change is a global issue, the affected environment is the entire planet, and no individual project's emissions will be large enough to perceptibly impact global greenhouse gas emissions and/or climate. FHWA commits to mitigation measures when 1) the impacts for which the mitigation is proposed actually result from the proposed action, and 2) the proposed mitigation represents a reasonable public expenditure (23CFR 771.105(d)).

Because global climate change cannot be attributed to a specific project FHWA will not mitigate potential greenhouse gas emission impacts of the proposed action. (Emphasis added.)

To date, no national standards have been established regarding greenhouse gases, nor has the U.S. EPA established criteria or thresholds for greenhouse gas emissions. On April 2, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Massachusetts et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency et al. that the U.S. EPA does have authority under the Clean Air Act to establish motor vehicle emissions standards for carbon dioxide emissions. The U.S. EPA is currently determining the implications to national policies and programs as a result of the Supreme Court decision. However, the Court's decision did not have any direct implications on requirements for developing transportation projects.

FHWA is actively engaged with the U.S. DOT Center for Climate Change to develop strategies to reduce transportation's contribution to greenhouse gases — particularly carbon dioxide emissions — and to assess the risks to transportation systems and services from climate change. FHWA will continue to pursue these efforts as productive steps to address this important issue.

Well, hell. The Bushies in the Federal Highway Administration are saying that because the global warming impact of each individual highway project cannot be precisely measured, nothing will be done concerning any project to try to mitigate the impacts we know to exist.

Idiotic reasoning? You bet. (That idiocy, unfortunately, was warmly embraced by Secretary Frank Busalacchi and his merry minions at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Does Gov. Doyle really feel comfortable with his administration being so closely associated with George Bush's pseudo-science?) But it may be more than idiocy -- The New York Times reported this week that the Bush loyalists
just ignored what they did not want to acknowledge.

From the Times:

The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said.

This week, more than six months later, the E.P.A. is set to respond to that order by releasing a watered-down version of the original proposal that offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant.

Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter....

In early December, the E.P.A.’s draft finding that greenhouse gases endanger the environment used Energy Department data from 2007 to conclude that it would be cost effective to require the nation’s motor vehicle fleet to average 37.7 miles per gallon in 2018, according to government officials familiar with the document.

About 10 days after the finding was left unopened by officials at the Office of Management and Budget, Congress passed and President Bush signed a new energy bill mandating an increase in average fuel-economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The day the law was signed, the E.P.A. administrator rejected the unanimous recommendation of his staff and denied California a waiver needed to regulate vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases in the state, saying the new law’s approach was preferable and climate change required global, not regional, solutions.

California’s regulations would have imposed tougher standards.

The Transportation Department made its own fuel-economy proposals public almost two months ago; they were based on the assumption that gasoline would range from $2.26 per gallon in 2016 to $2.51 per gallon in 2030, and set a maximum average standard of 35 miles per gallon in 2020.... (This delusion about gas prices is in contrast to WisDOT's, where folks believe that gasoline will be $2.51 a gallon this year.)

The House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, led by Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, has been seeking the discarded E.P.A. finding on the dangers of climate change.

After reading it last week, Mr. Markey’s office sent a letter to Mr. Bush saying, “E.P.A. Administrator Stephen Johnson determined that man-made global warming is unequivocal, the evidence is compelling and robust, and the administration must act to prevent harm rather than wait for harm to occur.”

Simultaneously, Mr. Waxman’s committee is weighing its response to the White House’s refusal to turn over subpoenaed documents relating to the E.P.A.’s handling of recent climate-change and air-pollution decisions. The White House, which has turned over other material to the committee, last week asserted a claim of executive privilege over the remaining documents.

Did EPA ever suggest specific steps to mitigate greenhouse gas impacts from highway projects? Did the agency recommend a new emphasis on transit? We don't know, because Bush is hiding records.

It is absolutely clear, though, that the US DOT and its Federal Highway Administration is dancing around the real EPA assertions that greenhouse gases pose a threat and should be controlled. Surely the actions of the Bush administration should compel WisDOT to take a new look at the record of decision.

It's just too bad that WisDOT leadership has climbed into bed with Bush's charlatans and pulled the blankets high and tight over their collective heads.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Democrats’ Empty Rhetoric on Oil Prices.
1. OPEC should pump more oil.
Only more oil supply from OPEC (not from the US…) can bring down prices…

2. Drilling for oil in the US will not have an impact on oil prices.
Drilling for oil in ANWR, Off Shore, Oil Shale and Oil Sands will add millions of barrels daily to the oil market.

3. Stop filling up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Daily DOE purchases of just 76,000 barrels will not have an impact on oil prices. President Bush was right on the button on this argument. This move had no impact on the oil market since it was announced in May.

4. Only (expensive) alternative energy can bring down oil prices.
If the rule of supply and demand doesn’t apply to oil prices and increasing supply won’t shift the lower prices, why would a decrease in oil demand help.

5. “Big Oil” already leases millions of acres, but they don’t drill to keep prices high.
Didn’t you just argue that drilling won’t bring prices down?
(To get a brief explanation on this issue click here, here and here.)

6. The Oil Companies are pushing for new drilling to make more profit.
This contradicts your previous argument, Stupid.

7. End Oil Speculating.
As if Speculators only trade one way. If it’s for empty speculation, why doesn’t the DJIA go up to 35,000 points? (For a “Liberal” dispute of this argument click here)

8. Tax the Oil Companies.
How will this affect the price of oil?

9. The current price of oil is a result of Bush’s failed energy policies.
The price of Crude was at approximately $65-$70 when the Democrats took control of congress. It’s currently at $137, a 100% increase. The price of Gasoline was at approximately $2.33 when the Democrats took control of congress. It’s currently at $4.10, a 76% increase.

If it wasn’t for the Democrats resistance to increasing oil production for the last 13 years, we would have been busy debating other issues at this time.