In a recent report entitled Civil Aviation Growth in the 21st Century, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) develop strategies to integrate National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review into the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) implementation planning process in a way that would make NextGen environmental reviews

A recently announced plan by the San Bernardino County Association of Governments (SANBAG) to convert carpool lanes on the 10 and 15 freeways to toll lanes will not realize the proposal’s intended purpose, i.e., to reduce traffic in the carpool lanes. Rather, it will temporarily serve to push freeway carpool lane traffic out of the carpool “frying pan” into the main lanes “fire.”

Continue Reading Proposed Carpool Lane Tolls in San Bernardino Won’t Reduce Traffic

Proponents of California’s proposed high-speed rail project envision a high-speed rail network connecting Sacramento, San Francisco, Central Valley, Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire and San Diego. However, there are many obstacles, real or imagined, that could delay or derail the project. First, the House Subcommittee on Transportation voted to fund only $1.4 billion for high-speed rail in FY 2011, compared to the $4 billion they approved last year. The project appears to be plagued by unreliable cost, ridership and revenue projections, uncertainty about private investment and, given the State of California’s finances, the possibility that taxpayers may have to subsidize the project if revenue projections are not met. A high-speed rail system would reduce revenues for Metrolink and Amtrak. A number of cities and communities along the proposed routes oppose the project. Finally, the proposed project will require environmental review. Environmental review will include at least two alternatives (in addition to the mandatory “no-action” alternative) – a “shared track” alternative and a “dedicated track” alternative. Both present problems.

Continue Reading California High-Speed Rail Project Could Be Derailed

Much has been made by progressive bloggers and commentators of the 17 energy investments owned by Judge Martin Feldman of the Federal District Court in New Orleans. Judge Feldman recently granted a preliminary injunction to energy company challengers to the Obama Administration’s May 22, 2010 moratorium on deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Those commentators missed the point. While Judge Feldman may, or may not, have breached the Canon of Judicial Ethics by deciding a case in which he had a financial interest, it is Chevalier, Allen & Lichman’s view, based on extensive experience in litigation against government agencies in the Federal courts, that Judge Feldman made manifest errors of law by failing to grant deference to the Department of the Interior in its determination that further drilling without additional safety inspections would endanger the public safety, and by allowing the economic interests of drilling companies to carry the weight in the balance of harms.

Continue Reading Forget His Investments – Judge Feldman is Wrong for All the Right Reasons

As recently as early June, 2010, another competitor entered the field for the right to provide rail service from Las Vegas to Southern California: Genesis High Speed Rail America, LLC. The critical question is starting to emerge as to whether anticipated ridership can support not one, or two, but three entrants into the field.
Continue Reading The High Speed Rail Right of Way Gets Crowded

On Thursday, May 27th, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will consider approving the preparation of a comprehensive State Route 710 corridor study, which will include alternatives and environmental impacts of a project that would close the 4 mile gap in the Long Beach (710) Freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena. Alternatives will include

The January 2, 2010 edition of the Los Angeles Times contained an op-ed piece by David Steinberg (not the comedian, but a screenwriter from Santa Monica).  The editorial beautifully capsulizes the irrationality of the Transportation Security Agency’s response to the recent attempted bombing of a Delta airliner bound for the United States from Amsterdam in which the TSA instituted regulations during an overnight session (when participants were apparently not fully awake).  Those regulations, governing incoming flights to the U.S. from certain foreign airports, include requiring that passengers remain locked in their seats during the last hour of flight, and removal of all pillows and blankets to overhead bins during the same period. 

In his editorial, Mr. Steinberg recounts his family’s odyssey home from a vacation in Aruba the day after the attempted bombing.  Their adventure included: (1) the baggage handler, designated as “frisker,” becoming embarrassed as he patted down Mr. Steinberg’s four year old son; (2) the same “frisker” apparently recognizing the absurdity of his act, gratefully passing on the frisk of Mr. Steinberg’s two year old daughter; and (3) Mr. Steinberg’s two year old screaming “bloody murder” as the flight attendant yanked the pillow from under her head.

Honestly, when does enough arbitrary and capricious regulation become enough?  First, the government mandates that passengers have to practically disrobe to get on a plane.  Now the government wants to regulate when passengers can go to the bathroom once they get there.  And for all that nonsense, the attempted bomber got on the plane to the United States, with explosives, not in his shoes, but in his underwear!  Does that mean passengers will now have to take off their underwear and put it through the scanner?Continue Reading New TSA Regulations Are Arbitrary and Capricious

The House of Representatives Subcommittee on Highway and Transit is planning to start the transportation reauthorization process on June 24, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. EST by marking up the Surface Transportation Act of 2009 (“Act”). House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman, James Oberstar, has made a proposal which would fundamentally overhaul surface transportation programs drawing on many of the recommendations by a federally mandated Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission as well as on White House policy priorities. The Obama Administration, however, has a completely different political and legislative strategy in mind, causing a public disconnect between leaders of the legislative and executive branches.

First, on a negative note, the Act would consolidate or eliminate 75 existing Federal highway and transit programs including the “Indian Reservation Road Bridges Program,” and “The Public Transportation Participation Pilot Program.

On the positive side, the Act would create a new rail section to promote President Obama’s proposal of a high speed passenger rail network. Also, at the urging of the Administration, Oberstar would create an Office of Livability in the Transportation Department, to link transportation planning to housing and business development. The Act would also overhaul the Transportation Department’s inner workings by creating a position of Undersecretary of Intermodalism. That Undersecretary would help coordinate planning by agencies responsible for different methods of transportation, including the aviation, railroad, transit, highway and maritime administrations, along with Amtrak, the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers. “It’s an opportunity to restructure all of transportation,” Oberstar said at a briefing Wednesday. “Those modal administrators have not done so much as what we’re doing here – sat around a table, had coffee together – in 40 years. It’s time to do that.”Continue Reading Trouble in Paradise – Dissension Surrounds the Surface Trasnportation Authorization Act of 2009

Day Two of the Hearings on the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, proved to be as contentious as expected.  There was much evidence that the Bill would not have an easy road ahead of it, since the Committee is deeply divided.  Although there were a few forays into the ridiculous, (Rep. John Shimkus (R.-Ill.:  "I think this is the greatest assault on democracy and freedom that I’ve ever seen in Congress;" Energy Secretary Steven Chu comparing the Bill to Wayne Gretsky’ famous comment that "I was good because I skated to where the puck will be" (upon reflection, that comparison does work)), the Committee focused its questions to Panels (which featured EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood) on the issues of jobs, allowances, energy costs, and American leadership in the world.

Jobs

In these times of economic uncertainty, no issue pulls at the hearts of politicians than jobs, especially when it can be used to hammer a point home.  Rep. Joe Barton (R.-Texas) led the way citing statistics from the National Association of Manufacturers, the Heritage Foundation, and Charles Rivers Associate claiming that the bill would result in anywhere from 1.8 to 7 million jobs "destroyed."  Rep. Shimkus made his statement about jobs in a more theatrical way, stating that "those of us who want jobs are going to try to defeat this bill" while hoisting a small lump of coal for the panelists to see.

On the other hand, the proponents of the Bill were not about to concede that the Bill would cause mass unemployment.  Rep. Waxman asked EPA Administrator Jackson, Secretary Chu, and Secretary LaHood if they believed that the Bill would create jobs.  Administrator Jackson replied that she believed the Bill is a "jobs bill."  Secretary LaHood added that the legislation would create jobs, "especially green jobs."  Secretary Chu agreed that the Bill would create millions of jobs and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Cap-And-Trade and Allowances

The part of the Bill that drew the most fire were the allowances:  should they be given away or should be they auctioned or should there be some sort of hybrid.  Administrator Jackson stated for the record that the Obama Administration supported the idea that 100 percent of the allowances should be auctioned.  In response to Rep. Jay Inslee’s (D.-Wash.) statement that we have to multiple approaches to addressing the problem through EPA regulations and a cap passed by Congress, Administrator Jackson stated that she "could not agree more."  A cap-and-trade law, she continued, was "powerful and necessary," but we need other regulations as well.

Understandably, the energy company officials who testified were not so eager to embrace a 100% auction.  They wanted at least some free allowances, while various scientists ad economists stated that a cap-and-trade with an auction is the only way to go.  Rep. Cliff Stearns (R.-Fla.) stated that "free carbon credits were windfall profits in Europe."  Contrast that statement with  Rep. Ralph Hall’s (R.-Texas) statement that "we’ll be in a weakened position if adopt cap-and-trade."  Thus, there is much work to get to a point where there can be agreement on whether there should be a cap-and-trade, let alone whether it should be a 100% auction of allowances or something else.

Energy Costs

The other big issue at the Hearing, particularly with respect to the later panels, was energy costs.  Rep. Barton told the Committee that "the debate is not about whether cap-and-trade legislation will raise energy costs; the only dispute is by how much." He then went on to cite "findings" that the Bill would increase household energy costs up to $3,128 per year and that "filling your gas tank will cost anywhere from 60 to 144 percent more.  The cost of home heating oil and natural gas will nearly double."  Rep. Fred Upton (R.-Mich.) commented that this was not a "cap-and-trade," this was a "cap-and-tax."

The response to this onslaught was a little more nuanced.  Secretary Chu responded that "it would be unwise to want to increase the price of gasoline" and then went on to outline the plans to lower transportation costs with electric cars, and low-carbon fuels, among other things.  In response to a question from Rep. Jane Harman (D.-Calif.) Secretary Chu indicated that refrigerators use one quarter the amount of energy they used in 1975 and these are real savings seen by households.  He then concluded by stating his belief that the "overall costs of living . . . can be held constant."  Even the ConocoPhilips Executive Red Cavaney stated that although there will be costs "the benefits to the overall American economy will outweigh these costs."

American Leadership

Another area of concern addressed at the Hearing was the wisdom of the United States regulating climate change when there are no assurances that the number one and two emitters in the world – China and India – will also take steps to reduce their emissions.  Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) asked Secretary Chu:  "If we unilaterally move to take steps and China and India and other countries are not, how do we deal with that?"  Chu responded that that he believed that the United States should take a leadership role on this issue.  This sentiment was echoed by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) who stated that she believed that America should lead and not wait for India and China to get their act together.

Compromise

Outside the Committee Room Rep. Rick Boucher (D.Va.) and Rep. Jim Matheson (D.Utah) stated that they would meet with Chairman Waxman to discuss a comprehensive amendment that could be presented on Thursday.  Rep. Boucher stated that the Bill’s schedule was "achievable" but it would depend on whether an agreement could be quickly reached on issues including how to allocate credits to existing industries, the schedule for reducing carbon emissions and flexibility in meeting renewable electricity requirements.

Click on "continue reading" for a complete Witness List with links to the witnesses written testimony and links to the video of the Hearing.Continue Reading Day Two of Waxman-Markey Hearings: EPA, Energy and Transportation All Show Up