A Toll Division Operational Review by the Washington State Department of Transportation released recently raises the idea of a state-regulated but privately funded and managed public utility that in theory could replace WSDOT so road projects can be financed more easily through means including bond sales not subject to legislatively-imposed limits on state government. Yet the notion is clearly less about action soon on any sort of deep structural change. It seems more intended to subtly prod a legislature slow to address systemic barriers to the current and quite arguably failing per-gallon gas-tax-based transportation funding model.
Collaboration in Civic Spheres
Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category
by Matt Rosenberg November 17th, 2013
For its Environmental Impact Statement on proposed all-lanes electronic tolling of part of I-90, Washington should consider not just a single alternative but a package of them carefully picked from the current menu which includes a regional vehicle mileage tax (VMT), more transit funding, and widening I-90; as well as a broader regional tolling plan, heavier tolling on 520 than now, and a state gas tax hike. So says the Environmental Review Manager of the U.S. EPA’s Seattle-based Region 10 office in a recent letter to the state. Meanwhile, the City of Mercer Island, at the center of growing opposition to I-90 tolls, is voicing support for a gas tax hike alternative favored by the State Senate Majority, while also signaling openness to a compromise involving HOT lanes, or partial tolling on the highway, free to multi-occupant vehicles and available to solo drivers for a toll. Like the EPA, the city is accenting the need to consider several alternatives implemented together.
by Matt Rosenberg July 30th, 2013
Fueled by growth in emerging economies led by China and India, global energy usage between 2010 and 2040 will jump 56 percent while carbon dioxide emissions from energy use will rise 46 percent, according to the “reference case” 2013 International Energy Outlook released in full today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Fossil fuels will continue to 2040 to provide almost four-fifths of global energy used, according to the outlook.
by Matt Rosenberg July 25th, 2013
A Washington state appeals court in a ruling this week affirmed a King County judge’s 2011 dismissal of a suit by prominent environmental groups against the Puget Sound Regional Council transportation planning organization asserting it failed under state law to require adequate greenhouse gas reduction measures in its “Transportation 2040″ plan approved in May, 2010. The plan – covered here shortly after its release by our Public Data Ferret accountability reporting project and then in a Ferret KOMO-AM 1000 radio segment – said to address a more-than-one-third hike in population and a 51 percent boost in regional jobs by 2040 – that $189 billion more would be needed to get Seattle-region roads and transit fairly close to right by then. That would include $64 billion in new monies not yet secured, about half in taxes and fees, and half tolls.
Forty-two percent of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 came from transportation versus 26 percent nationally, according to the state’s inventory published last December. “T2040″ prescribed regional electronic tolling with higher charges at peak hours, and proposed some improvements to transit , biking and pedestrian infrastructure. It’s just a wish list from an advisory body with little real decision-making power but some important local and regional elected officials on its board. Political considerations still being calculated by state legislators are central. But tectonic shifts are underway in regional transportation policy, which may in the long run boost the green priorities sought by plaintiffs in the again-failed legal action.
by Matt Rosenberg July 11th, 2013
The King County Solid Waste Division is moving forward with plans to evaluate three potential sites for a new facility to replace the aging Algona Transfer Station. Residents of south King County Thursday night can learn more at a public meeting 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Auburn Senior Activity Center, where SWD officials will explain site selection criteria, and take comments and questions. A dark-horse candidate site previously rejected is now the county’s preferred choice, on West Valley Highway S. in Auburn. It has led to formation of resident group called “No North Auburn Dump.” Members are strenuously opposed and have taken to the Internet with a blog and Facebook page. They say another current alternative for which the county has already bought land in Algona next to the current site, is much more suitable.
by James Rogers June 18th, 2013
Tourism has a more pronounced effect on the world than the average tourist realizes. Whether they travel by air, sea or land, the long-distance tourist needs to appreciate the effects on the broader environment, the climate, and their own region and home. It’s more socially responsible, economically beneficial and ultimately more satisfying to travel closer to home, in one’s own region, than to distant lands. These were the key messages from Steve Hollenhorst, dean of Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment, in a lecture earlier this month at WWU’s Biology Building titled, “The Trouble with Tourism: Rethinking Travel in the Age of Climate Change.” His talk was the final of the Huxley College speaker series.
by Matt Rosenberg June 17th, 2013
Federal data for 2012 show Washingtonians can feel confident crowing about how cool and moist is their climate, even if some other parts of the country experienced record or very high heat and record or very low rainfall. 2012 temperatures and precipitation are depicted in a series of maps from the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration covering the country, regions, states and climate sub-divisions within states. The tool allows views of data back to 2002.
by Matt Rosenberg May 14th, 2013
A new report from the U.S. Department of Energy shows Washington state has continued through 2010 to remain near the top among all 50 states in fueling its economy with minimal consumption of carbon dioxide emissions. According to the report from the department’s Energy Information Administration, Washington in 2010 ranked sixth lowest nationally for the tenth year in a row in metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions per million dollars of gross domestic product (GDP). The only states ranking lower in 2010 in proportion of energy-related carbon dioxide emitted to fuel their economies were, in order, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, and Oregon.
The report emphasizes that what is being measured is based on where the energy is used, not where it is produced. But in the states whose economies are most tied to carbon emissions in the report, a lot of the consumption of that greenhouse gas actually occurs in order to produce fossil fuels.
The states using the most energy-related carbon dioxide per million dollars GDP were Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, West Virginia and Louisiana. The report notes, “All these are fossil-energy-producing states. The activity of producing energy is itself energy intensive.”
Another important metric in the report is per-capita, or per person, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions per state. There, Washington ranked eighth lowest among all 50 states in 2010, and between sixth and tenth lowest straight through from 2000 to 2009.
Looking at the percentage decrease in per capita energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from 2000 through 2010, only nine states outpaced Washington, which decreased by nearly one-fifth, in percentage terms.
The EIA also analyzed each state for 2010 energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by major sector of usage. In Washington, the commercial sector was responsible for 3.8 percent, electric power production for 13.1 percent of the usage, the residential sector for 5.1 percent, industrial 12.0 and transportation a relatively whopping 42.1 percent.