Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Transportation, Coordination, and the Climate Change Bill

Last week, the House passed a comprehensive energy policy and climate change bill (H.R. 2454). This bill faces an unpredictable future in the Senate, where it is likely to be debated this month.

The centerpiece of the House legislation is the establishment of a “cap and trade” system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Several features of the House bill would be likely to have effects on the planning and provision of public and community transportation services. Some of these are discussed below.

  • Within the trading of emission allowances, a portion of these allowances would be distributed to states’ State Energy and Environment Development (SEED) accounts (a new creation under this bill) for the purposes of supporting states’ renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. Up to 10 percent of the allowances states receive under this allocation could be used to pay the “non-federal” share of FTA Section 5307, 5308, 5309, 5310, 5311 or 5319 grants.
  • States and MPOs would be required to address greenhouse gas reduction as part of the development of their TIPs and STIPs. The bill would require these plans to be developed in coordination with air quality, environmental health, and transportation agencies, and would require these plans to be developed in consultation with housing, public health, economic development, land use, environment, and public transportation agencies. This section of the bill outlines a number of measures to be explored in the planning process, including setting targets for increased transit ridership and many facets of coordination between transportation and human or social service functions within the state or locality.
  • There are provisions to promote location-efficient mortgages, which offer a financial inducement to finance housing that is located near public transportation.
  • The “green” and affordable housing sections of the House bill would require local housing and planning agencies to coordinate housing strategies with their transportation planning efforts, and to make use of existing infrastructure in housing plans, programs and projects.
  • The House bill includes a "Climate Change Worker Adjustment Assistance" program to aid workers placed out of jobs as a result of changes in current energy-intensive industries. This program is modeled after the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, and includes transportation assistance to dislocated workers, and inclusion of transportation and various social services such as job training and child care as parts of the family of services eligible to be provided to these dislocated workers.
  • There would be an authorization, albeit without specific funding, for EPA-administered grants to support a "SmartWay" transportation efficiency program, aimed primarily at the freight transportation sector.
  • Other items in the bill include a small program of competitive grants for “clean business” innovation, transit agency participation in urban tree programs, a small program of competitive grants to promote sustainable low-income community development projects, and a national program to inventory fish and wildlife habitat corridors for consideration in transportation planning processes.
Although transportation is not directly discussed, the Washington Post recently posted a set of Q's & A's about the House legislation:

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