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Climate Change

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

8:53 AM PDT on July 28, 2009

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."

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