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AASHTO Journal

FHWA Repeals GHG Highway Performance Measure

The Federal Highway Administration is formally repealing a final rule that added tailpipe carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions measurement requirements to highway performance assessments.

Known as the "greenhouse gas" or "GHG" measure, the rule would have mandated state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations to measure the percent change in CO2 emissions as part of assessments required by the National Highway Performance Program.

FHWA said repealing this rule – which will formally happen on July 2 – will reduce the federal burden on state DOTs and MPOs by "eliminating a measure that imposed costs with no predictable level of benefits and one that was not specifically required by law."

The agency added that state DOTs and MPOs are free to adopt their own GHG measure voluntarily, but such a measure will no longer be mandated. It also stressed that the repeal of the GHG measure "does not affect implementation of the other national performance management measures, for which state DOTs and MPOs are responsible."

060118traffic.jpgFHWA acknowledged criticisms the agency faced which include the lack of legislative authority to impose GHG measurement criteria and that a "one-size-fits-all" standard would not be flexible enough to accommodate state-to-state performance differences.

Last May, FHWA announced that it would delay implementation of its GHG rule. California and seven other states went to court in support of the proposed rule.

Other groups, notably the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, expressed concern that the GHG rule proved too "abstract" as conceived for effective use as a performance measurement tool.

"It is extremely difficult to discern what exactly FHWA is proposing to measure," T. Peter Ruane, ARTBA's president and CEO, noted in his written comments on the rule last year, with the proposal "presenting a wide array of possibilities," from on- and off-road tailpipe emissions, "upstream emissions" from the "extraction/refining of petroleum products," or "gasoline/diesel fuel sales, vehicle miles traveled, or other surrogates."

Ruane stressed that "the vagueness of the proposal presents a variety of dangers to the regulated community," including the ability of "project opponents to suggest GHG measurements that would essentially preclude new transportation improvements from being built."

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