What are friends for?

Oct. 5, 2017

DOT environmental fight should have more support

Nobody should be feeding paste to their imaginary friend.

Well, I guess you could include the invisible comrade, but as parents we want our kids, as early as Kindergarten, to be the ruler of the nap blankets. A lot of friends give Mom and Dad a sense of security (albeit a false sense) that our children have the ability of holding court. The litmus test comes when you are planning your kid’s first invite-only birthday party. As silly as it sounds, the biggest fear I had was that only two or three would make themselves available for the trampoline of terror, laser gun chaos or whatever it was. The RSVPs trickled in, and every day drew the same response from me: “What, only (fill in your own number here)?” In the end, pretty much all those who wiped their nose showed up, and the price had me wiping my eyes.

On Sept. 20, eight states filed suit against the U.S. DOT over the Trump administration’s suspension of a greenhouse gas (GHG) performance measure for the federal-aid highway system, which was a regulation that was going to kick in as soon as President Trump opened his remote office in the White House. Since Trump claims to be agnostic to the church of global warming, before he warmed up the chair behind the desk the daddy-made millionaire threw a bolt of lightning at all regulations that had not taken effect. The FHWA issued a May 19 Federal Register notice saying it would indefinitely delay the GHG portion and deal with it in a separate rulemaking. The FHWA, on Sept. 25, feeling the peer pressure from the eight DOTs, reinstated the federal requirement that state and local planners track and curb carbon pollution from cars and trucks on the national highways. However, the agency also signaled its intent to start new rulemaking this year to be finalized in the spring of 2018. Under this rulemaking the FHWA seeks to repeal the rule through proper, legal procedures. The rulemaking process includes a robust opportunity for public notice and comment, and environmental groups plan on sitting at this party table to make sure GHG measures are not permanently crossed out.

Over the past month, the U.S. has been physically abused by two of the most powerful hurricanes in recent memory. Hurricane Harvey put the hurt on Houston, dropping the second-highest rainfall total in the nation’s meteorological history. Then came Irma, which weakened a little before it laid into Florida. Two other storms with powerful eyes just missed making landfall in the U.S. In my mind, global warming is a living, breathing animal that is starting to make more appearances. The polar ice cap is melting, sea levels are rising and oceans are warming, which is like protein powder for a hurricane. Controlling every bit of GHG is paramount.

But I have to ask, with a touch of a cringe, why only 8? Why were there only eight state DOTs going after the feds? Were there others, but California, Iowa, Maryland, Masschusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont and the state of Washington were like, “No, we’re good. We got you.”? If most or all of the states joined together in this fight, maybe the Trump administration would lay off (there is always a chance, right?). Perhaps that would be a powerful message not even a tweet could combat. It’s an environmental fight that needs to be fought, because we all know paste is not going to fix this.

About The Author: Wilson is editorial director of Roads & Bridges.