Policy Update Jun 16, 2020

Position on H.R. 2, INVEST in America Act

NPCA submitted the following positions to members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure ahead of a markup scheduled for June 16, 2020.

NPCA urges members of the committee to support the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act (INVEST in America Act).

For more than a century, our national parks have remained America’s favorite places, important pieces of our natural and cultural heritage set aside for future generations to explore and enjoy. We fully support the INVEST in America Act provisions to reduce harmful air pollution and make our nation’s infrastructure stronger and more resilient to climate change for the benefit of our nation and our national parks. In addition, we support the critical funding to repair national park roads, bridges and park transit systems to ensure millions of visitors can continue to experience and enjoy our national parks. We also support the bill’s efforts to provide access to funding to deploy common-sense solutions to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and protect motorists and the wildlife that live in and around national parks.

The National Park System is second only to the Department of Defense in the amount of federal infrastructure it manages, including 10,000 miles of publicly accessible roads and 1,440 bridges. But as visitors enjoy our parks, they find the roads and bridges in the parks have become worn and inadequate to meet the demand. Largely due to inadequate funding, the National Park Service is currently suffering from a $11.9 billion backlog in overdue repairs, more than half of which is needed for roads and bridges.

We support funding increases in the INVEST in America Act to the Park Service through the Federal Lands Transportation Program and Federal Lands and Tribal Major Projects Program. This additional funding will help the National Park Service repair and maintain transportation assets throughout the country such as Sunrise Road in Olympic National Park or Brandywine Falls Road and bridge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, both currently needing repair. The Federal Lands and Tribal Major Projects Program helps address exceptionally large repair projects in our parks, such as the reconstruction of the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone. The dedicated funding provides the agencies the ability to plan projects years in advance.

In addition, wildlife-vehicle collisions constitute a major threat to wildlife, human safety and habitat connectivity between national parks and adjacent lands. Across the U.S., wildlife-vehicle collisions result in a significant number of human injuries and fatalities, costing Americans more than $8 billion annually. In western states alone, it is estimated that on average, over 170,000 collisions with wildlife occur yearly.

We support the provisions in the INVEST in America Act to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by expanding eligibility of existing programs to fund wildlife-vehicle collisions and providing NPS, tribes, partner federal agencies, and states the flexibility to invest in common-sense solutions that work to protect motorists and wildlife. Building on this, NPCA strongly encourages the committee to support the addition of the Sec. 1125, Wildlife Crossing Safety from S. 2302, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act, which includes a competitive grant pilot program to incentivize agencies to implement wildlife-vehicle collision reduction projects.

Overall, the INVEST in America Act charts a strong path forward for surface transportation in our nation’s parks and well beyond. NPCA is proud to provide our endorsement of this bill and looks forward to its expansion and growth as we navigate next steps.

Select Positions on Offered Amendments (as of June 17 at 9:00am):

NPCA supports the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to the INVEST in America Act.

DeFazio Manager’s Amendment: NPCA supports the inclusion of Sec. 1620 Wildlife Crossings, which will help address the threat of wildlife-vehicle collisions on roads across the country, while ensuring safer travel for motorists and wildlife. This addresses the same need as the above referenced wildlife crossing safety language from S. 2302. We look forward to working with the committees to develop the best program to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Brownley 072: NPCA supports this amendment requiring a National Academies of Science study detailing actions needed to consider current and future climate conditions when investing in and upgrading any federally funded transportation infrastructure projects. Our nation’s transportation facilities, including our national park facilities, should be built to withstand a changing climate.

Crawford MN 019; Crawford MN 028; Crawford MN 033; Davis 104; Gibbs MN 22; Gibbs MN 26; Spano 033; Pence 039; Stauber 031; and Westerman MN 030: NPCA opposes these amendments that critically undermine the National Environmental Policy Act’s ability to ensure that federal projects do not unnecessarily harm the environment, public health or project-adjacent communities. These amendments, among other things, discount cumulative impacts, cut at the heart of public engagement, perpetuate misconceptions about NEPA review processes, impair critical injunctive relief and eliminate judicial review.

DeSaulnier 083 and 085: Nearly every national park is affected by air pollution and climate change in adverse ways. Air pollution makes it harder to breathe and impairs visibility, choking off incredible views in our national parks. In fact, up to 77 million Park visitor-days since 1990 have occurred on days when ozone concentrations exceeded the standard that the National Park Service, based on EPA’s analysis, classifies as “significant concern.” As a result, efforts to reduce emissions, as those proposed by these amendments, have NPCA’s full support, including the movement of goods, as in amendment 083. Further, we recognize amendment 085 in its entirety is beyond NPCA’s scope and expertise, we do want to note our support for increased transportation efficiencies that contribute to climate mitigation and improved public health, as noted in Sec. 5602 (d) (3) (J), (K), and (L) of the amendment, as facilitated by the SMART grant program, as defined in Sec. 5601 (7).

Finkenauer 078: NPCA supports this amendment which would add additional years and funding to improve transportation infrastructure in rural communities, which may include many near national parks. Eligible projects include important efforts to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, improve habitat connectivity and improve safety for motorists.

Gibbs 030: NPCA opposes this amendment that would eliminate the opportunity to establish stronger performance measures for the Federal highway-aid program regarding greenhouse gas emissions and transportation system access. Climate change is disproportionately impacting our national parks, putting park visitors and resources at risk. It is critical we retain components of H.R. 2 that help our parks and communities mitigate climate impacts from greenhouse gas emissions.

Huffman 100: NPCA supports this amendment, which would help improve the safety of motorists and wildlife by reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions. The workforce development and training program would increase the skillset of transportation professionals to address these issues. Including wildlife habitat connectivity in the National Bridge and Tunnel Inventory and Inspection standards will help ensure that wildlife crossings and wildlife-vehicle collisions are considered in future bridge and tunnel repairs or replacements. This provision has also been included in the DeFazio manager’s amendment.

Maloney 086: NPCA supports this amendment that provides funds to support the National Scenic Byway Program to protect and promote America’s most scenic roadways in America, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway. This program helps local communities balance economic development as well as resource conservation.

Mitchell 054: NPCA opposes this amendment to strike the Community Transportation Investment Grant Program that supports communities’ efforts to improve safety, accessibility, and environmental quality through infrastructure investments. Gateway communities around our national parks benefit from this program.

Mitchell 056: NPCA opposes this amendment that would eliminate the opportunity for communities to be financially supported as they take an active role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is disproportionately impacting our national parks, putting park visitors and resources at risk. It is critical we retain components of H.R. 2 that help our parks and communities mitigate climate impacts from greenhouse gas emissions.

Mitchell 058: NPCA opposes this amendment which would remove a one-year grant program to improve transportation infrastructure in rural communities, which may include many near national parks. Eligible projects include important efforts to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, improve habitat connectivity and improve safety for motorists.

Mitchell 060: NPCA opposes this amendment that strikes the Active Transportation Connectivity Grant Program that would provide funding to support safe and connected active transportation facilities, like trails and bike paths to our national parks.

Mitchell 063: NPCA opposes this amendment that would eliminate the opportunity for non-profit institutions for higher education to compete for grants for research and development of materials that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions during highway construction. As noted, climate change is disproportionately impacting our national parks, putting park visitors and resources at risk. It is critical we retain components of H.R. 2 that help our parks and communities mitigate climate impacts from greenhouse gas emissions.

Perry 113: NPCA opposes this amendment to strike provisions supporting electric vehicle infrastructure. Zero-emission transportation is as a vital component to addressing the global climate crisis that threatens both communities and ecosystems, including in our national parks.

Spano 034: The purpose of this amendment is unclear, recognizing that critical habitat, which is critical to the conservation of endangered species, excludes developed areas such as airports. However, NPCA opposes this amendment based on the implications it presents to undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA). New airport construction or related development should be consistent with federal laws, including the ESA.

Stauber 45: NPCA opposes exempting projects from needing a Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 permit even if would-be permittees have supposedly equivalent state dredge/fill permits. State permits don’t trigger important Endangered Species Act consultations with other agencies or evaluations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which protects ecosystems and allows communities to have a say in protecting their air and water. It also prevents EPA from exercising important oversight authority through section 404©. Additionally, the Clean Water Act already allows States to assume responsibility for issuing 404 dredge or fill permits if state programs meet certain requirements. If states want that responsibility, a process already exists without Congress taking action now.