Proposed Legislation Would Worsen Air Pollution In US Cities

July 14, 1999

In a letter to Congress, the leaders of several major environmental groups called for opposition to Clean Air Act amendments proposed by Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) that could lead to increased air pollution in US cities.

Bond is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1053, which would overturn a recent federal court ruling stating that highway projects must conform to state air pollution reduction plans. The Federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decided on March 2, 1999, that EPA regulations for approving highway projects violate the Clean Air Act. The court agreed that highway projects should not be granted new funding agreements in areas where transportation plans violate state air pollution control plans.

“Senate Bill 1053 creates a huge loophole that exempts road builders from meeting the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act and state air pollution control plans, shifting the full burden of meeting these requirements onto individuals and large and small businesses,” said Michael Replogle, EDF’s federal transportation director, who will testify today at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. “The reasoning behind the court decision is as clear as a smog-free day: new or wider roads are likely to spur more car and truck traffic and encourage sprawl. If more traffic can lead to more air pollution, the potential health impacts of higher pollution levels need to be assessed before anyone starts laying pavement.”

In a letter to the US Senate, the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group, Izaak Walton League, League of Conservation Voters, National Environmental Trust, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Zero Population Growth charged that road builders are seeking to avoid accountability for the effects of scores of taxpayer-financed road projects on public health and air quality. “The court ruling restores the incentive for regional and state transportation agencies to take seriously their obligation to develop metropolitan transportation systems that serve both mobility needs and the public health protection goals of clean air. It will cut the cost and time needed to achieve healthful air quality for all Americans,” the groups said in the letter.

“The recent Court ruling assures that taxpayer dollars will support new transportation projects only when consistent with a state’s air quality plans,” said Replogle. “There are lots of ways states can meet these Clean Air Act requirements, other than trimming road development. States can require cleaner fuels and better vehicle maintenance, invest in smart growth and projects to reduce traffic and impose more stringent controls on other polluters. Congress should reject Senator Bond’s proposal. It would leave the road builders unaccountable and keep Americans breathing engine exhaust for years to come.”