|I’m just a Bill on Capitol Hill…|
I just wanted to announce a new action page on our website that covers all of our current work on federal policy. It’s a great place to go to learn more about the legislation moving on the Hill right now — and what you can do about it. We’re currently engaged on three main fronts.
(1) Complete Streets. In case you haven’t heard one of the most popular buzzwords of the year, their website can sum it up for you: “The streets of our cities and towns ought to be for everyone. But too many of our streets are designed only for speeding cars, or worse, creeping traffic jams. They’re unsafe for people on foot or bike — and unpleasant for everybody. Now, in communities across the country, a movement is growing to complete the streets. States, cities and towns are asking their planners, engineers and designers to build road networks that welcome all citizens.”
More than 50 jurisdictions across the country have implemented “Complete Streets” policies to make sure that new and redesigned roads consider the needs of all users. Now Congress is about to follow their lead. Senators Tom Harkin (IA) and Tom Carper (DE) introduced a Complete Streets bill in the Senate, and a companion House bill is expected. Find out more about the bill from the National Complete Streets Coalition.
(2) Protecting EPA’s Smart Growth program. The EPA’s small Smart Growth program has helped countless communities strengthen their economies, protect their environment, and improve public health. In the last ten years, the Smart Growth office has directly assisted over 170 communities through grants, site visits, and technical assistance. Some of the landmark publications that might have introduced you to smart growth (Getting to Smart Growth, This is Smart Growth) were produced by EPA.
The budget for the program was slated for massive cuts last year, but strong involvement from some key leaders helped protect it. It may be a small program, but it is incredibly popular. More than 50 communities applied for their technical assistance program last year for only 6 available slots, due to budgetary limits.
That’s one reason why we’re encouraging leaders in Congress to boost its relatively small budget from around $3 million to $7 million. It’s an effective program, with tangible local benefits felt in communities across the country.
As Gov. Parris Glendening wrote on the Planetizen Interchange last year, “As we seek to create walkable places where we can meet our daily needs without excessive commutes in the car, meeting President Bush’s goals of reducing dependence on foreign oil and slashing greenhouse gases, the EPA is helping counties, towns and cities across the country work with their residents to create such places.”
(3) Climate change: A bill circulating in the Senate right now would limit greenhouse has emissions through a cap-and-trade program, helping us take a first strong national step towards mitigating the threat of climate change. America’s Climate Security Act, introduced by Senators Lieberman (CT) and Warner (VA), will generate a large amount of money through the sale of carbon emission permits, which will fund a variety of things, including transition assistance for companies affected by the hard cap, as well as research and development on new technology.
In addition to capping the total greenhouse gas emissions, the bill includes performance standards to ensure we meet our target. For the transportation sector, which represents a full third of our total emissions, that includes a standard for low carbon fuels. (New vehicle efficiency standards were passed in the recent energy bill.) But as Growing Cooler tells us, even if we adopt the proposed fuel standards, along with the new vehicle standards, the growing amount of driving we have to do because of our land use and transportation decisions will simply leave us worse off 20 years down the road than today.
We’ve already got some field-tested ways to cut down on those dangerous emissions: Build more places that allow us to drive less — by making walkable, compact neighborhoods with a mix of uses, giving us the option of shorter car trips, a bus or train trip, or a leisurely stroll down a sidewalk or bike path. (Learn the basics about climate and energy security here)
We’re encouraging the House and Senate, in their respective climate bills, to include funding and policies for communities to use smarter growth, transit, and purposeful planning to reduce our Vehicle Miles Traveled. (VMT)
Visit our action page to learn more about all of these issues, download talking points, fact sheets, and resources. They’ll equip you as you call, write, email, or set up meetings with your representatives.