Environment

A voluntary program that helps Michigan farmers ensure that they are complying with environmental regulations and implementing soil- and water-conservation measures has become one of the state’s newest laws.

The fairness of charging motorists a mileage fee to help pay for road repairs… The state of the nation’s bridges… The economic impact of the transportation construction industry… How to win public support for road pricing... The keys to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from freight transportation... All are the subjects of recent reports and studies. Here’s a roundup of those reports, along with an update on public-private partnerships.

CSG this week issues a new brief in our Capitol Research series entitled “Transit-Oriented Development.” Using the possibility of development around future high-speed rail stations as a jumping off point, it examines the policy options available to states to try to shape how that development occurs. While high-speed rail has suffered a number of political setbacks in recent months, it remains on track in some parts of the country. But regardless of whether high-speed rail is coming to your state any time soon, there is a great deal of useful information in the brief about the role states can play in shaping the kinds of communities Americans say they want and that best serve our citizens, the environment and the economy. I encourage you to read the brief, which examines the benefits of transit-oriented development, the role of state governments in encouraging it, and the experiences of California and many other states in adopting related policies. If the brief piques your interest, there is an abundance of other worthwhile reading I can point you toward as well.

A plan to ship radioactive waste through the Great Lakes has received a flurry of criticism over the past year, but in February, it secured the approval of a key federal regulatory commission in Canada.

This Act requires the state department of community, trade, and economic development to implement a strategic plan to enhance energy efficiency in and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from homes, buildings, districts, and neighborhoods. It directs the department and the state building code council to convene a work group to develop the plan. The Act requires the state energy code be designed to accelerate construction of energy efficient homes and buildings which help achieve a broad goal of building zero fossil-fuel greenhouse gas emission homes and buildings by the year 2031.

This Act establishes a credit against the state income tax for people or companies that donate the right to withdraw water from streams to the state water conservation board for the purpose of reducing the amount of water that is withdrawn from the streams. The Act specifies that the state water conservation board will approve the credits by issuing certificates to water rights owners who permanently transfer water rights to the water conservation board.

According to The Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference staff, this Act generally creates an "Efficiency Trust" to develop funding sources to pay to weatherize all residential buildings and half of commercial buildings in the state by 2030, which is in line with the state‘s greenhouse-gas reduction goals.

The SSL Committee published a draft of Wyoming Chapter 30 of 2008 about Carbon Sequestration in the 2010 SSL Volume. This draft Act expands upon the Wyoming legislation by including eminent domain provisions about construction and operation of such a facility, including installation of pipelines to transport carbon dioxide. This Act also addresses long term liability by transferring ownership of such facilities to the state 10 years (or other time period adopted by rule) after a facility closes. Finally, the Act establishes a Carbon Dioxide Geologic Storage Trust Fund, funded by fees and penalties, to provide for long-term operation and maintenance of facilities.

I’ve written a fair amount over the last year or so about the intersection of transportation and the environment in public policy, about Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth, about Climate Change and Transportation and about Green Transportation. Several new reports on related issues have come across my desk in recent weeks. Here’s a rundown.

 

States face a variety of challenges in the energy and environment arena in 2011, many of them long-standing issues that are now reaching a critical stage where action is needed to prevent worsening impacts. Many, however, also present an opportunity for states to stimulate job creation and create clean energy. Since many of the issues interlink, action taken in one area will often affect the others. Legislators will be looking at the electric transmission system, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, energy affordability and stimulating the new energy economy.

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