Republicans take aim at Biden regulation that critics say would restrict state infrastructure spending

Top Congressional Republicans want to overturn a Biden administration rule requiring states and metropolitan planning organizations to reduce transportation-related carbon emissions.

A Congressional Review Act joint resolution of disapproval that Republicans filed last week has the support in the Senate of 49 Republicans and Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, W. Va. A companion House version was introduced by Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., chair of the T&I’s subcommittee on highways and transit.

The resolution seeks to overturn the Federal Highway Administration’s December 2023 rule mandating that state transportation departments and MPOs set declining emissions targets, a regulation that opposing states have said would affect their infrastructure investment decisions.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced a Congressional Review Act Joint Resolution of Disapproval to overturn the Biden Administration’s rule that state and local transportation departments need to track and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Bloomberg News

“When we negotiated the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we specifically left out the authority FHWA is attempting to exercise with its greenhouse gas emissions performance measure requirement,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, who introduced the resolution along with Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. “FHWA’s final rule limits the flexibility of states to advance their own transportation investment priorities, jeopardizing critical investments, jobs, and economic growth across the country.”

The rule, which took effect in January, requires state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations to measure greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and implement targets to reduce the emissions. The DOT said the rule would help meet Biden’s national goal achieving a 50% GHG emission reduction by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. Transportation is the largest greenhouse gas contributor in the U.S., accounting for just under 30% of the country’s emissions in 2021,  according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

State DOTs and MPOs are required to gather emissions data from vehicles into a single standard, and establish carbon emission targets that will be reviewed every two years. The rule requires the targets to decline over time but leave it to states and MPOs to set the actual targets and strategies for meeting them and does not include any penalties. The first targets were due by Feb. 1, 2024, which critics said was too short a deadline.

State DOTs are split in their support or opposition of the rule, according to the American Association of Highway Transportation Officials, which submitted a  35-page comment  on the regulation last October.

In January, attorneys general from 21 states sued to block the rule, arguing the Biden administration lacks the authority to impose it. The complaint argues the rule would force states to “contort transportation investment decisions” to reduce emissions. Separately, Texas AG Ken Paxton on Dec. 22 sued the Department of Transportation.

Industry groups including the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the Association General Contractors of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also want the rule overturned, telling lawmakers in a Feb. 6 letter that it is “regulatory overreach” that “has the potential to limit improvements to our infrastructure.”

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