Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund

16 Monte Cimas Avenue, Mill Valley CA 94941 415-380-8600

For Immediate Release: Contact: David Schonbrunn 415-977-5534 (today only)

Metropolitan Transportation Commission In Legal Trouble

Meeting Notification: 10 AM, Wednesday, July 24, 2002 101 Eighth St., Oakland

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will find itself tomorrow morning in the unprecedented position of not being able to carry out its function of approving transportation funding, as a result of the recent decisions of two federal courts. On Friday, Federal District Court Judge Thelton Henderson issued a final order that MTC needs to increase Bay Area public transit ridership by 15% over 1982 levels. (MTC must adopt a revised Regional Transportation Plan that specifies the projects that will accomplish these ridership increases.)

Meanwhile, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today issued a temporary stay of the effectiveness of the EPA action that had been essential in releasing MTC from its conformity lapse back in February. The lapse had prevented new transportation projects from going forward. The plaintiffs are Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, Communities for a Better Environment, and Our Children's Earth Foundation, some of the same environmental and community groups that had pressed the District Court case against MTC. They filed a challenge of EPA's determination that the region's motor vehicle emissions budget was adequate, and also sought a stay of the effectiveness of the budget.

The limits on the total amount of motor vehicle emissions, called the "Motor Vehicle Emissions Budgets" or MVEB, are established in the 2001 Ozone Attainment Plan, adopted by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in October 2001. That Plan acknowledged that the Bay Area has an excess of 26 tons of volatile organic compounds, emitted to the air per day. Unless these emissions are eliminated, the region cannot attain the air quality standard for ozone.

The Court's action will prevent MTC from making a required finding of conformity between transportation and air quality plans, thus preventing the planned adoption of the 2003 Transportation Improvement Plan, which would commit over $1.5 billion to highway projects. The Court requested additional information about the ways that air quality can be improved if funds are used for alternative transportation. A hearing has been tentatively scheduled for this Friday. Irregardless of the final resolution of the stay, the case is expected to take approximately 12 months before it is complete.