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Federal Transportation Bill Bulldozes Clean Air and Environmental Protections

Posted Nov. 20, 2008 / Posted by: RConnors

Fails to Adequately Fund Transportation Alternatives

Contact:

Colin Peppard, 202-222-0747
617-833-3875 (mobile)

Washington, DC – Friends of the Earth criticized the House of Representatives for passing the six-year transportation authorization bill (H.R.3/TEA-LU) that would weaken clean air and environmental protections that protect the suffering health of children and communities. The bill also fails to adequately fund transportation choices including Amtrak and other forms of public transportation.

“Members of Congress must be inhaling too much of Washington’s famous air pollution,” said Colin Peppard, of Friends of the Earth. “Despite mounting evidence that highway pollution increases health problems in children, they are pumping more than $231 billion into new highways and roads, while weakening laws that protect our health and environment.”

Over the past year, several new studies have shown how highway pollution including soot, smog, and toxic gasses found in exhaust can be linked to adolescent cancers, childhood asthma, and stunted lung development. The studies all showed a strong correlation between the intensity and frequency of these diseases and the distance to major sources of highway pollution along with the amount of highway pollutants in the air.

“With more cars on the road and highway pollution on the rise, it is no wonder that half of all Americans still live in areas where air pollution exceeds national health standards,” remarked Peppard. “Now we are beginning to understand the ugly effects of this pollution.”

Despite these findings, the House transportation legislation rolls back parts of the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and historic preservation laws that protect parks, wildlife refuges, and other important natural resources. The bill eliminates critical tools for addressing air pollution from highway sources like cars and trucks. Changes to NEPA limit public input and participation as well as environmental review and have the potential to undermine reviews conducted under other statutes such as the Clean Water Act. Changes to historic preservation laws weaken provisions, in place since 1966, that ensure consideration and selection of realistic alternatives to help avoid negative environmental impacts.

“The House of Representatives kowtowed to the highway lobby and weakened fundamental environmental laws,” said Peppard. “The bad news is that the Senate bill will probably be worse.”

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