On Friday July 20, the Transportation Conformity Stakeholders workgroup met for the second time at the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). MACo Associate Director Les Knapp attended the meeting.
The workgroup is charged with reviewing proposed regulations that would require certain metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to submit progress reports to MDE on whether the MPO is meeting voluntary greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets for carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide that are established in the regulation.
The reports must be 5-10 pages long at a minimum and must be submitted whenever a conformity analysis is required by federal law. Additionally, an MPO may also prepare an optional “What will it take analysis” to explain how the MPO could meet the GHG targets. MDE has revised the regulations since the initial version was proposed based on feedback from the first Stakeholder meeting.
Currently, the regulations would only apply to two MPOs: (1) the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board, which includes Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, and Howard counties and the cities of Baltimore and Annapolis; and (2) the National Capital Transportation Planning Board, which includes Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Northern Virginia.
At the Stakeholders meeting, MDE argued that the proposed regulations are about transparency and open reporting. However, representatives from both MPOs, the Maryland Department of Transportation, and county transportation planning officials expressed concern. Virginia has also asserted that MDE lacks the authority to unilaterally impose mandates on an MPO that includes multiple states as members.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, the State is proposing a broad range of actions related to climate change. While MACo is not inherently opposed to a simple reporting requirement, MACo is concerned that the voluntary GHG targets could become mandatory in the future and be expanded statewide. There is a push by some stakeholder groups to adopt California legislation that would establish local GHG emission targets and require new development and transportation projects that do not meet specified Smart Growth requirements to offset all GHG emissions that would be generated by the project.
The revised draft MPO regulations will be reviewed by the Air Quality Advisory Council on September 10 and public comments will be allowed at that time. The Council will not likely make a formal recommendation until November or December. The next Stakeholder meeting will be on September 28.