Oberstar to White House: On Emissions, Back Up Your Words With Action

Appearing this morning at the release of a new report on transportation’s role in fighting climate change, House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) challenged the Obama administration to back up their emissions rhetoric with action and pass his six-year, $450 billion infrastructure bill.

610x_1.jpgFTA’s Peter Rogoff (in hard hat) heard strong words from Rep. Oberstar today. (Photo: WP)

After U.S. DOT deputy secretary John Porcari and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff delivered laudatory remarks about the Moving Cooler report, a joint project of government agencies and environmental groups, Oberstar took the stage with pointed words for the two senior officials.

"They need to … catch up with the House" on transportation policy-making, Oberstar said of Porcari and Rogoff, who were sitting within spitting distance of the chairman.

"If you don’t pass our bill, you’re not going to get a head start on these strategies" for reducing the carbon footprint of the transportation sector, Oberstar told the White House aides.

He added: "The president gets it — the crowd around him doesn’t."

The White House continues to press for an 18-month postponement of the next long-term transportation bill, which Oberstar asserts could drag reform past the two-year mark and continue an inequitable system that favors new highway construction over transit. 

"When highway planners sit down to build a roadway," Oberstar said today, "they don’t go through the gymnastics of a cost-effectiveness index," as transit planners are currently required to do. "They sit down, get the money, and build a road."

Expanding transit, the House chairman concluded, is difficult "if you’ve got a millstone around your neck."

Yet the House bill has a millstone of its own obstructing movement: the lack of revenue to fund a doubling in new transit investment and other Oberstar priorities. As Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) acknowledged this morning, hiking the federal gas tax — which has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993 — will not be feasible until the recession dissipates.

"We are going to raise gas and diesel taxes sometime in the next decade," Blumenauer said, but "not while the economy is in freefall."

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

And the Streetsies Go To…

|
Happy 2011! May this year bring peace, harmony, and a six-year transportation reauthorization. The best part about 2011 is that it’s not 2010. Last year was a tough one at the federal level: constant extensions of both the transportation bill and the general budget, no progress on an adequate funding source for infrastructure investment, and […]

Voinovich Joins House Dems in Saying No to Transpo Funding Stopgap

|
Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) allied with House Democrats today. (Photo: UPI) The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will move tomorrow on a White House-backed extension of the four-year-old federal transportation law, but at least one of its members is already opposed. George Voinovich (R-OH) linked arms with House Democratic leaders on the transportation panel […]

Boxer Delays Senate Climate Bill Until September

|
This was supposed to be a big week for action on climate change in the Senate — but it’s ending with Republicans rubbing their hands in glee as the Environment and Public Works Committee delays its unveiling of legislation on carbon emissions. Senate environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (Photo: AP) As Reuters reports this […]

Oberstar Stays Optimistic About New Transport Bill in 2010

|
House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) today renewed his call for action on a new federal infrastructure bill before year’s end, using a hearing on the Obama administration’s stimulus law to urge passage of long-term legislation as well as a second round of short-term investment in roads, bridges, and rail. House transport committee chairman […]

White House Unveils Transit Safety Bill to Cautious Praise on the Hill

|
Lawmakers on the House transportation committee today greeted details of the Obama administration’s transit safety plan with approval, but some sounded skeptical notes about the costs of state compliance with new federal rules even as transit agencies cope with billions of dollars in maintenance and repair backlogs. Washington D.C.’s transit safety oversight agency has less […]