Environment

    How Regions are Supporting Recycling in an Increasingly Challenging Market

    As the cost of recycling is escalating for many local governments, regional councils are working toward solutions. Regional Councils and Metropolitan Planning Agencies (MPOs) are looking at solutions that reduce waste, improve recycling efficiency, and/or educate public and private entities on better recycling practices. Some of these programs, like the Upper Arkansas Recycling Program, highlight the cost savings that collaboration provides. Others, like the Iowa Waste Exchange offer a service that connects businesses with would-be discarded materials. Recycling pledges are...

    Water Has No Bounds: Regional Councils Take the Lead on Flood Planning

    According to the National Resources Defense Council, flooding throughout the country will continue to be intensified by sea level rise and extreme weather. In fact, the nation’s floodplains are expected to grow an average of 45% by the year 2100. 500-year and 100-year floods are now occurring more often than expected, leaving communities everywhere at risk for major economic and public safety concerns. As local officials grapple with these new trends, many are looking regionally to tackle this widespread problem. Whether flooding takes place on the gulf coast,...

    The Ongoing Debate Over Disaster Relief and Climate Change Collide

    After more than a year of negotiations, the Senate appears to have moved closer to an agreement on disaster funding for Puerto Rico, Florida, and California.  According to Politico, Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, respectively, and the President are near an agreement that will provide $17 billion in assistance to communities recently impacted by disasters, though the amount going directly to Puerto Rico remains under discussion.   Sadly, it is likely that the debate around...

    Earth Day 2019: Regional Councils are Gearing Up for Bike to Work Events

    Happy Earth Day! Regional councils across the country are celebrating today by spreading information on environmental issues and earth-friendly activities. One of the activities that councils are promoting today is bicycle commuting. National Bike to Work Day will be held May 17th, and many councils have biking events planned either on the 17th or another date in May and June. As both transportation and environmental planners can tell you, transportation leaves a significant environmental footprint. According to the...

    The Clean Water State Revolving Fund: An Update

    On March 6th, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio introduced the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2019 (H.R. 1497), which would reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program. The following day, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Water Subcommittee discussed CWSRF reauthorization in a hearing titled “The Clean Water State Revolving Fund: How Federal Infrastructure Investment Can Help Communities Modernize Water Infrastructure and Address Affordability Challenges.” Recent actions and statements by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle indicate an interest...

    Local Governments Lead the Way on Electric Vehicle Adoption

    Electric vehicle sales (EVs) continue to grow in the U.S. market, with total units sold surpassing 1 million in October 2018. EVs offer an economically viable -- and in many cases superior -- alternative to conventional vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs). In the long run, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are cheaper to own and operate because they deliver price stability, reduce fuel costs, and require less maintenance and service than ICEs. In 2018, automakers...

    Official Waters of the United States Proposal Released, Comment Period Open

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers have officially released a revised definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) which determines the scope of federal regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The comment period for the revision will be open until April 15, 2019. The revised definition and comment submission information can be accessed here.  What would the redefinition do? The redefinition would create six categories of regulated waters and eleven categories of exempted waters. The six categories that would be regulated: Traditional navigable waters,...

    2018 End of Year Summary

    In 2018, NARC advocated on your behalf on Capitol Hill and with the Administration, fostered innovative partnerships between members and with national organizations, and highlighted your daily successes. With active support from members like you, NARC has fostered better connections between members, increased our programming, and expanded our scope throughout the country. The political landscape is more divided than ever, but NARC will continue to bridge divides with a regional perspective in 2019. The coming year will be another important...

    MWCOG Celebrates 10 Years of Climate Action

    On November 14th, NARC staff attended Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ (MWCOG) most recent Climate, Energy, and Environment Policy Committee meeting at MWCOG offices. The Committee met to celebrate ten years of climate action since MWCOG adopted their regional program on climate change in 2008. Additionally, Dr. James Kinter, Director of the Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere at George Mason University, gave a presentation on climate change and risks posed to the Metropolitan Washington region. Lastly, the Committee spent time discussing the...

    2018 NARC Achievement Awards Winners

    At every Annual Conference and Exhibition, NARC celebrates membership achievements of regional excellence and cooperation across the nation. This year’s winners exemplify many qualities that a 21st-century regional council needs to be successful, including innovation, adaptability, collaboration, and hard work. Read more about our 2018 NARC Major Metro, Medium Metro, and Rural Achievement Awards Winners below: Major Metro Winner: Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) Headquarters: Detroit, Michigan Project: Water Resources Plan The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) won the 2018 Major Metro...

    State Perspectives on Regulating Background Ozone
    Ozone

    On June 21, the Environment Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on State Perspectives on Regulating Background Ozone. Among those called to testify was Diane Rath, executive director of the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) in San Antonio, Texas. She provided background on the great progress the San Antonio-New Braunfels Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has made over the years in reducing ozone, and explained some of the complicated factors used to calculate the...

    2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Bolsters Many State and Local Programs

    Following the release of the $1.3 trillion fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill on March 21, NARC staff has been combing through the 2,232 page document to learn how localities will be impacted by these federal program funding levels. Much of it is great news for regions! The bill proposes additional funding for so many of the priorities we have advocated for over the last year. Here are a few highlights: Transportation TIGER Grants: The TIGER program increased to $1.5 billion, tripling FY...

    Will Electric Vehicles Have Their Year in 2018?

    Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) became mainstays in the news in 2017, with several big stories focusing predominantly on electric vehicles (EVs). This, combined with several other factors, could mean a big year in 2018 for EVs and a real shift towards an electric, autonomous, and connected vehicle future. Electric Vehicle Tax Credit The electric vehicle tax credit ranges from $2,500 to $7,500 for new EVs purchased depending on the size of the vehicle. This tax credit is available until 200,000 qualified vehicles...

    To Sell or Not to Sell? Small Local Governments Look at Privatizing their Public Water Systems
    water

    According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, the United States needs over $600 billion for water infrastructure improvements over the next 20 years. The American Society of Civil Engineers has given the United States a “D” grade on their Drinking Water Infrastructure Report Card, citing the older age of many of the country’s pipelines, the large number of water main breaks, and the likelihood of contamination, especially in smaller water systems. On Monday The Washington Post highlighted that the idea of...

    The President’s Skinny Budget: What’s It All About?
    President

    The President Proposes On March 16, the president offered his “skinny budget.” Nicknamed “skinny” by the White House, the March 16 budget was released to offer an overview of the budget the president will finally submit to Congress in late April. Unfortunately, this budget does not present a very pretty picture. If adopted it would decimate many federal programs that are critical to the ongoing activities of most regional councils. It would also decimate many federal programs that are critical to the...

    The Trump Administration’s Budget Blueprint: The Regional Impact
    budget-blog

    Today President Trump unveiled his first federal budget blueprint, which calls upon Congress to make dramatic changes to the shape, if not the size, of the federal government. The plan calls for deep cuts at some departments and agencies while significantly increasing funding at others. At the core of the proposal is a $54 billion increase in defense spending, $2.6 billion for a border wall, and $1.4 billion for school choice provisions. These increases are fully offset by significant cuts to...

    A Budget Mess
    budget-blog

    To say that things are a mess on Capitol Hill around the budget and appropriations process may be an understatement. Here are six reasons for the mess: Earlier this year congressional leaders committed to completing the appropriations process for fiscal year 2017 by April 28th, the date on which the current continuing resolution (CR) expires. However, senators from both parties are now expressing concern that the appropriations process is so far behind schedule that they may need to adopt another...

    Budget and Appropriations: Where Do We Go From Here?
    budget

    As the Senate and House move to finalize fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding for the federal government, it is becoming increasingly clear that three obstacles – two pieces of legislation and an on-going congressional investigation – stand in the way of a rapid and conclusive FY2017 funding bill. The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on April 28, at which point a new CR or other funding bill must be passed to avoid a government shutdown. While April 28 may seem like...

    Climate Resilience and Planning Peer Exchange Report: ARC

    On October 4-5, 2016 the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) co-hosted a climate resilience and planning peer exchange with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Staff from several MPOs, state DOTs, and public and private organizations gathered together to share best practices for climate resilience. Staff also provided guidance to FHWA on what resources would be helpful in addressing climate risks to fulfill the FAST Act requirements for integrating resilience into the planning process. FHWA’s report on this peer exchange includes summaries...

    Fleets for the Future Website and Best Practices

    The Fleets for the Future (F4F) project, led by NARC and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program, has recently released four extensive best practices documents on alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) procurement. The guides, which are available on the new Fleets for the Future website, cover gaseous fuel and electric vehicle procurement, fleet transition planning for AFVs, and financing strategies for AFV procurement. F4F seeks to achieve nationwide economies of scale for AFVs through aggregated procurement initiatives. Following...