Join The
Get The

Infrastructure in the News 11.3.16



Washington Post: The government failed U.S. workers on global trade. It must do better on technology.

Global trade and investment have been great engines of progress for much of the world.  Over the past two decades, poorer countries reduced the gap between themselves and their richer counterparts for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, in no small part because of the opportunities opened by global trade. Technology has the same transformative potential in industries as varied as energy, health care, transportation and education. New inventions that are imminent or already here could transform the lives of billions of people for the better.


The Guardian: America’s road trip: will the US ever kick the car habit?

A battered Dodge Challenger roars past as I head out on the nine-lane highway, riding past shuttered shops and decaying restaurants and row upon row of vacant, overgrown housing lots. “The Jetsons” comes to life: Transportation secretary sees autonomous cars in America’s future

In an interview on Tuesday with The Verge, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx discussed an ambitious vision for America’s future. His dream is one in which Americans drive autonomous cars and support infrastructure repairs that are long overdue.


American City & County: Don’t waste this opportunity: you can make transportation inclusive

The roads we drive on today aren’t all that different from the roads our parents drove on a generation ago.


Financial Times: Infrastructure investing and the peril of discounted cash flow

There is renewed interest in infrastructure investing. They are an attractive substitute to the low-yielding bonds that have left many pension funds struggling, and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are now talking about the need to invest in infrastructure.


The Washington Post: Trump says he can fix Flint’s pipes for free. Here’s who would really be paying.

Donald Trump has a plan to rebuild America's infrastructure, for what he promises is no cost to the taxpayer. If true, it would be a heck of a deal. Not just new roads and bridges, but, as Trump's advisers promise, new pipes to deliver clean water to the residents of cities such as Flint, Mich.


Union of Concerned Scientists: Meeting the Transportation Demands of the Future: It’s All About Options

Like most teenagers growing up in suburban Chicago, I couldn’t wait to turn 16 and finally get my driver’s license. The ability to go wherever I wanted, the freedom of not having to ask my parents for a ride, and just the thrill itself of driving were all things I looked forward to.



Des Moines Register: Clinton’s infrastructure plan is a game-changer for Iowa workers

The presidential campaign is drawing to a close. The signs and television ads will soon be gone — but the choice that Americans make will last for years to come.


Associated Press: The Latest: SEPTA Calls on Union to Engage in Negotiations

Philadelphia's transit agency is calling on the union representing about 4,700 workers to engage in good-faith negotiations to bring an end to the strike.


Associated Press: Commuters brace for 3rd day of Philadelphia transit strike

Commuters braced for a third day of traffic gridlock in and around Philadelphia as the city’s transit agency urged the union representing about 4,700 striking workers to engage in good-faith negotiations to bring an end to the walkout.


Billy Penn: SEPTA Strike Day Two: Regional Rail is less late and Uber rides are spiking

SEPTA’s transit strike entered its second day Wednesday with traffic woes continuing into the city, and ride-sharing service Uber touting a huge increase since the labor action started at midnight Monday.


Washington Post: A gondola connecting D.C. and Virginia? It’s feasible and legal, study finds.

If the District and Arlington were to decide to build a gondola to connect Georgetown to Rosslyn, it would be both a feasible and legal endeavor, according to a study released Thursday.


Washington Post: Federal takeover of Metro? Board chairman’s proposal triggers debate but has some support

Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans urged a federal takeover of the transit system Wednesday, instantly triggering a regionwide debate over what would be a drastic step to solve the agency’s financial and management problems.



Ridesharing and local public transit measures can go hand-in-hand, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said, underscoring the popularity of public transit and traffic ballot proposals.


ABC7 Denver: Transportation budget cuts could lead to project delays, longer waits in traffic

With state revenue growing more slowly than anticipated, Governor John Hickenlooper’s proposed 2017 budget includes several major cuts.


KRON 4: In-depth: Transportation experts say job growth linked to more Bay Area traffic

Stuck in traffic and going nowhere fast? It is a familiar refrain for many Bay Area commuters who say it feels like the situation is getting worse. Well, they’re right. And transportation experts say you can blame it on jobs.

By Brianna Gurciullo and Lauren Gardner | 11/03/2016 05:40 AM EDT

GRAVES CASTS DOUBT ON ATC OVERHAUL: Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said this week that he doubts a plan to separate air traffic control from the FAA will be successful, putting him at odds with the House Transportation chairman he hopes to succeed. "ATC privatization didn't happen in this Congress, and I don't see it coming up in the next FAA reauthorization," Graves said at a National Business Aviation Association convention in Orlando, according to the group's summary of speeches by lawmakers.

'Nothing is ever dead': Chairman Bill Shuster has failed to win enough support for his proposal to put ATC under the control of a nonprofit corporation, with opposition from both parties in both chambers — though he seems ready to try again next year. "The rallying cries of general aviation have strengthened opposition in the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, the Appropriations Committee and the Way and Means Committee," Graves said this week. Although he added that "nothing is ever dead in Washington, D.C., so we have to stay vigilant."

Graves vs. Denham: Even though Shuster won't hit his chairmanship term limit until 2019, both Graves and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) have already started laying the groundwork for campaigns, as our Lauren Gardner reported last month. While Graves is more senior and chairs the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, his position on an ATC overhaul may not help his bid. But Denham is locked in a tight re-election fight, so nothing is assured. Stay tuned.

GO CUBS: Good morning and thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Please send tips, feedback and, of course, song lyrics to or @brigurciullo.

"Packed inside a train. It's too crowded to complain. On the subway. Subway!"

Want to keep up with all of MT's song picks? Follow our Spotify playlist.

As a Pro, you have access to Pro's transition-focused newsletter: Transition 2017. This new offering covers the who, what, when and why of the presidential transition, providing the insight you need to navigate the changing landscape in Washington. The first edition lands in your inbox Nov. 9 — and then every afternoon through early Spring. Sign up today.

A NEW WORLD ORDER FOR METRO? Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans endorsed a federal takeover of Metro on Wednesday, hours after The Washington Post's editorial board advocated for a federal control board — akin to those formed to pull D.C. and Puerto Rico back from financial ruin — to clean house at the transit system. But in his support for the move, the outspoken Evans raised questions about its viability, noting that Metro's own head lawyer doesn't think it could occur under the compact governing the agency's structure, as Lauren reports for Pros.

Skepticism abounds: Former government officials familiar with Metro's inner workings have their doubts as well. "It could not happen. There is currently no legal provisions — statutory, regulatory, anything else — that would allow the federal government, at least from the DOT perspective ... to assume operation and control of Metro," said Katie Thomson, who was Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx's special adviser on Metro before heading to law firm Morrison & Foerster in September.

Unintended consequences: Even if a federal acquisition were feasible, Thomson said, it would "set a bad precedent" for states that may eventually find themselves in Metro's situation. "I don't see how federal governance, even if it were to exist, would be the panacea, the cure-all, for this," she said.

Whither Congress? It seems highly unlikely that lawmakers would sanction a federal coup of Metro that would go well beyond the temporary safety oversight that FTA currently has. (Foxx has already indicated little patience for permanent oversight, and a DOT spokesman Wednesday declined to comment on the control board idea.) The Post editorial posits that a federal control board would come with federal dollars — at a price, of course, meaning major structural changes to Metro's governance — but lawmakers can't even agree to kick in for the system's operating costs. Congress currently sends $150 million a year to Metro for capital improvements like new rail cars, but that money expires in fiscal year 2018.

Worth a discussion: Mort Downey, a former Democratic DOT official and Evans' predecessor, said the control board concept should be "explored" given Metro's dire state. But, he asks: "How can the federal government appoint a control board over an agency that belongs to three other people?"

SULFUR EMISSIONS CAP POSES CHALLENGE TO SHIPPING INDUSTRY: Facing a new cap on how much sulfur can be in fuel, the shipping industry is worried about the cost as it's "already hammered by a drop in global demand and an oversupply of capacity," POLITICO Europe's Joshua Posaner reports . The cap, an International Maritime Organization decision, will go into effect by 2020. "Shippers will have to look at ways to source new fuel — most likely a cleaner type of distilled fuel oil," Josh reports. "That means refineries will have to be configured to strip out excess sulfur. It won't be a huge problem in developed countries. ... But it may be more of an issue for poorer countries with fewer refineries and less money to invest in refitting them."

DEMOCRATS WRITE TO FOXX ABOUT COLONIAL PIPELINE: Top Democrats on the House Transportation and Energy and Commerce committees want DOT to investigate Colonial Pipeline Co. after a line operated by the company exploded earlier this week in Alabama, leaving a contractor dead. As Pro Energy's Elana Schor reports, the five Democrats said in a letter to Foxx on Wednesday that the Colonial system has had at least six other major accidents in under five years.

"This is an unacceptable situation, and we are concerned that the number, frequency, and severity of significant incidents on Colonial's system over the past five years could be symptomatic of severe underlying problems with the system and the company's management of that system," wrote Reps. Frank Pallone, Peter DeFazio, Bobby Rush, Mike Capuano and Diana DeGette.

AUTOMAKERS SURPASS EMISSIONS STANDARDS: Model year 2015 vehicles both outperformed emissions standards and reached their highest-ever fuel economy levels, according to two EPA reports released Wednesday. But, as Pro Energy's Alex Guillén reports , "Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, sees a cloud in EPA's silver lining. While they technically outperformed the emissions standards, automakers were supposed to increase fleet-wide economy by 1 mpg, not the 0.5 mpg reported, he said. And he argued that automakers are exploiting a credit system included in the standards to claim 'phantom mileage gains' via flex-fuel vehicles and other strategies."

NEW PEAK FOR GASOLINE USE: U.S. gasoline consumption rose to 9.7 million barrels a day in June, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That's a new one-month high, exceeding the last one established in July 2007, when consumption hit 9.6 million barrels a day. For all of summer 2016, consumption rose 1.8 percent compared to last summer. "The increase in gasoline consumption was slightly lower than the increase in driving, suggesting that fuel economy improvements slightly mitigated the increase," EIA said in a brief Wednesday. Vehicle miles traveled this past summer increased 3 percent from summer 2015.

SHIFTING GEARS: The General Aviation Manufacturers Association's board has elected a new chairman, Simon Caldecott, for next year. Caldecott is the president and CEO of Piper Aircraft. The board also elected Phil Straub, vice president and managing director of aviation at Garmin International, as vice chairman.


— "Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 likely in steep dive before crash." The Wall Street Journal.

— "Uber declutters its app, making it simpler and snappier." Bloomberg.

— NHTSA says car makers have "ultimate responsibility" for Takata airbag recalls. Reuters.

— "Planes, ships and coolants: The other big climate frontiers." POLITICO Europe.

— "Commuters move out on foot as SEPTA strike grinds on." The Philadelphia Inquirer.

— "Baltimore school bus driver had traffic violation history." The Associated Press.

— "Extra buses for weekend Metro riders shut out after midnight? They're not in the budget." WAMU 88.5.

POLITICO New Jersey's coverage of the Bridgegate trial:

— "Defense attorneys urge Bridgegate judge to reconsider jury instructions." Ryan Hutchins.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 36 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 330 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 5 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,430 days.


9 a.m. — NHTSA holds a meeting to "discuss older driver traffic safety program priorities and current research efforts." DOT, Media Center, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE.

12:30 p.m. — NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart delivers keynote remarks at the American Bar Association's program on aviation and space law. The Ritz-Carlton, 1150 22nd St. NW.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

To view online:

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Graves and Denham jockey for Shuster's job — two years early Back

By Lauren Gardner | 10/03/2016 04:16 PM EDT

Rep. Bill Shuster still has another two years on his tenure atop the House Transportation Committee — but at least two lawmakers on the committee are already eyeing his gavel, even though Shuster won't be term-limited until 2019.

Normally, it would be considered impolite at the very least to begin openly campaigning for someone's job when they still have lots of time left, but Shuster (R-Pa.) will be term-limited by his party's rules during the 116th Congress. And his exit is all but pre-ordained — it's possible for GOP chairmen to get a waiver, but those are rarely granted.

So it's perhaps no shock that over the summer, Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) began making their case to colleagues and K Street for why they should each get the gavel, according to sources tracking the burgeoning race.

Of course, it's not unusual for members to lay the groundwork for committee promotions well ahead of time. But the posturing is notable given Shuster's tight reelection contest next month; if he loses, it would accelerate the timeline for Denham and Graves to formally campaign for the chairmanship.

Both members told POLITICO they're interested in the job once it's available.

"I've met with — continue to meet with — members of the Steering Committee, as well as just working with my colleagues to show leadership in the committee," Denham said.

He later added through a spokeswoman that his "only focus is on supporting Chairman Shuster to enact long-term FAA reauthorization and working to conference WRDA with the Senate before the end of the year."

Graves said he'd "absolutely" like to move up the committee ladder, but didn't get into specifics.

On paper, neither candidate appears to have a clear edge.

Graves, who has served in Congress since 2001, is more senior than Denham, who was elected during the 2010 GOP wave. However, the House GOP does not base ascension on seniority alone.

Graves was chairman of the Small Business Committee before taking on the high-profile Highways and Transit Subcommittee chairmanship in 2015. That's a position widely seen as a stepping stone to the top post, and he's no doubt helped by having shepherded a long-term surface transportation into law last year.

Graves isn't a show horse, preferring to work behind the scenes on legislation. A pilot, Graves is also a respected voice on general aviation issues and currently co-chairs the congressional caucus dedicated to advocating for private flight interests.

"Obviously, we believe Sam's leadership and experience speak for itself," said Graves spokesman Wes Shaw. "He's worked behind the scenes to pass the first long-term highway bill in a decade, he's a leader on national river issues, and he successfully ran the Small Business Committee for six years. The record is there, and that can't be overlooked or understated."

Denham's resume is also competitive. As chairman of the panel focused on railroads, he spearheaded work on passenger rail legislation that ultimately was wrapped into the FAST Act, a title that contained sweeping changes to Amtrak's accounting structure and to loan programs for rail projects. And the law includes other Denham priorities, such as a pilot program to allow small dogs and cats on Amtrak trains and provisions to expedite the environmental review process for local transportation projects.

Denham is dynamic and has shown he's not afraid to pick partisan fights — chief among them an appropriations rider to prevent federal money from going to California high-speed rail. While the effect of the rider has been nonexistent — with the House under Republican control, there's never been any hope for the project to receive new money, restrictions aside — it has given him a platform from which to blast the program.

Denham also may have the advantage when it comes to personal relationships and fundraising prowess.

He's close to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a home-state colleague, and serves with him on the Republican Steering Committee — he and Graves must woo the influential group for votes when it comes time to decide the next committee leader. Shuster also sits on the panel, though sources say they believe he is staying neutral for now.

And Denham is adept at pulling in donations for his campaign and for his leadership PAC. Of the $361,341 he's raised so far in 2016 through his PAC, he's spread $148,441 around to more than 50 House Republicans and former GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Meanwhile, Graves has raised $72,000 this cycle and given $24,000 to 23 House Republicans and Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, according to CRP.

Graves has taken a quieter approach to laying the groundwork for a chairmanship bid, with his staff seeking advice off the Hill about policy issues he could take the lead on, according to one industry lobbyist who closely tracks the committee's work. While Graves is a known quantity on aviation issues, the lobbyist said, when he took the gavel of the highway subcommittee, he wasn't well-known by highway groups.

"He's not a glad-hander-type person," the lobbyist said.

It's also unclear what effect Graves' vote against Shuster's FAA bill, which contained a major overhaul to air traffic control, may have on his bid. His position reflected general aviation groups' leeriness toward the bill, but bucking the chairman on his top legislative priority may not help his cause.

It's difficult to handicap the race under Speaker Paul Ryan's leadership. But in the one contest he's had to weigh in on — the Ways and Means chairmanship — Ryan supported the more-senior Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) in an 11th-hour endorsement that won the Texan enough steering committee votes to win. He had faced early favorite Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), a prolific fundraiser known for his connections to K Street.

Ryan's office also told Brady's and Tiberi's staffs to cut any mentions of their fundraising abilities from their pitches for the job.

Some committee members are already signaling support for Denham.

One said he's worked closely with Denham on several issues and thinks he's "extremely easy to work with and very inclusive in his deliberative process."

"If it were to come down to the votes of members on the committee, I think he would find an overwhelming support there," he said.

Another GOP panel member also threw the edge to Denham, citing his "rather engaging style" of collaboration.

"I think he's well-respected within the committee, up and down the ranks," the lawmaker said. "Sam's a hard worker and knows his stuff — not quite as outgoing as Jeff, and if I was therefore lining up prospects at this point, I'd give a slight edge to Jeff."

But some members are sure to support Graves given his seniority and years of experience. One Transportation subcommittee chairman — California Republican Duncan Hunter — already has signaled his backing for the Missouri Republican despite his friendship with Denham, and believes both would make good panel leaders, according to Hunter's chief of staff Joe Kasper.

In the end, both candidates will need to articulate a vision to their colleagues for the Transportation Committee's future as policymakers continue to grapple with how to sustainably pay for infrastructure projects.

"Just because you want to hold the gavel is not a good reason, or shouldn't be a good enough reason, for you to get the gavel," said Stephen Martinko, a former T&I staffer now at K&L Gates. "What would you do once you have it? What's your plan?"


Report: Metro board chair supports federal takeover Back

By Lauren Gardner | 11/02/2016 03:17 PM EDT

The chairman of Metrorail's board endorsed a federal takeover of the troubled transit system today in an interview with The Washington Post.

Jack Evans recommended a federal control board akin to one formed in the 1990s to rectify Washington, D.C.'s financial crisis, but noted that Metro's chief lawyer doubts that would be permissible under the compact outlining the system's structure.

The newspaper's editorial board advocated for a similar course of action Tuesday night.

To effectuate such a thing may require congressional action, which would by no means be a slam dunk, considering the tight budget environment and the politics surrounding what would amount to a bailout.

The Federal Transit Administration assumed temporary safety oversight of Metro in October 2015.

Secretary Anthony Foxx has made it clear he doesn't want Metro safety to be a permanent fixture in DOT's portfolio, and has warned the governments of D.C., Maryland and Virginia that federal transit funding could be withheld from them if they fail to establish a functioning state safety oversight agency for the system by early February 2017.

But acting FTA chief Carolyn Flowers promised last week that the agency would continue to guide WMATA until the jurisdictions stand up a competent oversight body.

Foxx told reporters earlier this year that he's had "evolving thoughts" on how Metro should be structured and any federal role in that, but declined to get into more details.


Foxx chides local governments on WMATA safety lag Back

By Lauren Gardner and Heather Caygle | 02/02/2016 05:50 PM EDT

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wants the D.C., Maryland and Virginia governments to know his department does not plan to make safety oversight of WMATA's Metrorail system a permanent part of its portfolio.

The jurisdictions reportedly don't expect to establish a new state safety oversight body to manage WMATA's safety functions until 2017 at the earliest. States will have a few years to set up those agencies if necessary once FTA issues a final rule, expected in the coming weeks, on the process. But federal regulators are also eager to make WMATA self-sufficient on safety issues as soon as possible.

"I think that is a horrible mistake on their part because our oversight of WMATA is not meant to be a permanent occupation," Foxx told reporters today. "It is meant to be a limited mission, and I will use every tool at my disposal to ensure they know that they've got less time than they seem to believe they have to get this done."

FTA has a full plate as it is, Foxx said, and "babysitting the safety oversight of WMATA is not one of our most prized things to be doing." He added that he's concerned that WMATA has focused too much on balancing a service expansion with the system's myriad safety needs.

"I'm interested in a very clear focus, laser-like, on safety," Foxx said.

Foxx said he expects to know by the end of Feburary how he will move forward with DOT's new power to appoint members to Metro's board of directors.


House Democrats urge 'full and thorough' DOT probe of Colonial Pipeline Back

By Elana Schor | 11/02/2016 11:01 AM EDT

Five senior House Democrats today urged Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to "immediately undertake a full and thorough investigation" of Colonial Pipeline Co., operator of the pipeline that exploded in Alabama killing a contractor during repairs on Monday.

The five Democrats, all top members on the Energy and Commerce and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees, told Foxx that the fatality marks at least the seventh incident along Colonial's system in less than five years.

"This is an unacceptable situation, and we are concerned that the number, frequency, and severity of significant incidents on Colonial's system over the past five years could be symptomatic of severe underlying problems with the system and the company's management of that system," wrote Reps. Frank Pallone, Peter Defazio, Bobby Rush, Michael Capuano and Diana DeGette.

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokeswoman Allie Aguilera noted that the agency had issued a corrective order to Colonial following a Sept. 9 rupture in Alabama with steps the company would need to take before a restart plan could be approved.

"PHMSA is investigating the October 31 incident and the cause of the September 9 failure, including any factors that may have contributed to the severity of both incidents, and the operator's adherence to federal pipeline safety standards," Aguilera said, noting that agency investigators are on-site in Alabama.


EPA reports say automakers hit emissions targets for 2015 vehicles, mpg rises Back

By Alex Guillén | 11/02/2016 01:25 PM EDT

Two EPA reports released today conclude that model year 2015 vehicles hit their highest fuel economy levels ever and outperformed greenhouse gas emission standards.

A manufacturers' performance report found automakers surpassed the 2015 standards by an average of 7 grams of carbon dioxide per mile (equivalent to about 0.9 miles per gallon), on top of a fleet-wide drop of 13 g-CO2/m required under the standard.

And EPA's 2016 trends report found that 2015 cars boosted fuel economy 0.5 mpg to a record 24.8 mpg.

However, Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, sees a cloud in EPA's silver lining. While they technically outperformed the emissions standards, automakers were supposed to increase fleet-wide economy by 1 mpg, not the 0.5 mpg reported, he said. And he argued that automakers are exploiting a credit system included in the standards to claim "phantom mileage gains" via flex-fuel vehicles and other strategies.

The reports continue to use the previous certified emissions and fuel economy data provided for the diesel vehicles caught up in the Volkswagen cheating scandal, and will update the reports after new emissions data for the past seven years can be determined.

Recent data indicate that emissions from the transportation sector, which also includes heavy-duty trucks and airplanes, have surpassed the electric power sector's.

A draft EPA report released this summer concluded that unexpectedly high sales of larger vehicles means the U.S. won't reach the ultimate 54.5 miles per gallon figure originally projected under the 2012 vehicles rules.


Planes, ships and coolants: The other big climate frontiers Back

By Joshua Posaner and Sara Stefanini | 11/02/2016 09:58 AM EDT

New landmark deals aimed at cutting emissions from airplanes, ships and coolants intend to get three of the biggest polluting sectors on track to help tackle global warming — slowly.

The sectors weren't covered by the Paris climate deal reached last year, but shipping and aviation are responsible for 8 percent of the world's carbon emissions and, left unchecked, could almost triple by 2050. Meanwhile hydrofluorcarbons, greenhouse gases emitted from coolants like refrigerators and air conditioners, are roughly 3,000 times more potent than CO2.

The U.N.'s 191-member aviation agency and 170-member maritime organization both declared in October the need to start cleaning up the two transport sectors — albeit very gradually. The 197 members of a treaty on protecting the ozone layer agreed in the same month to start phasing out HFCs, which could shave 0.5 degrees Celsius off the global warming trajectory, according to green groups.

All three side agreements to the COP system came after years of tense negotiations and last-minute resistance, especially from big emerging economies that worry limiting their emissions will hamstring industrial growth.

"There is a new dynamism on the policy side," Hoesung Lee, chair of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is made up of thousands of scientists, told POLITICO. "We cannot complain any longer that policymakers are not listening to the voice of science, they are taking action."

The results of the three side agreements matter ahead of November's COP22 international climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco, because they could help the world meet the Paris agreement's lofty goals.

That deal aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and eventually 1.5 degrees. It doesn't impose emissions reduction targets on any country, but it does require all 197 parties to submit their own plans for tackling climate change and periodically reassess and ramp up their efforts.

The two transport sector agreements, brokered at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and a committee meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), don't go quite so far as to reduce CO2 emissions — to the disappointment of many climate advocates.

At the ICAO meeting, 66 countries volunteered to start offsetting their emissions from 2021 for international flights, to keep them from growing. The rules then become mandatory for all countries, except the smallest and least developed, in 2027.

It's hardly revolutionary in its ambition, but it took compromise to keep countries such as Russia, China and India from watering down the mandatory 2027 start date.

European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc, who led the bloc's delegation at ICAO, said it would be "dreaming" to aim for a more ambitious deal to completely decarbonize aviation. "Right now, we don't have a resolution for that."

Big aviation countries like Russia and India have so far refused to volunteer starting in 2021. Moscow was especially worried about its aging fleet of airplanes and the scale of the offsets needed to keep emissions capped, Bulc said.

However, Bulc pointed out that the ICAO deal, unlike the Paris agreement, does have "mandatory obligations in it."

Countries that did opt-in for aviation made it clear that decision would not automatically extend to their stance on shipping emissions, according to Julie Girling, a British Conservative MEP who attended the ICAO assembly that came just weeks before the IMO meeting.

Instead of agreeing to cap or reduce shipping emissions, the IMO members agreed to require big ships to start collecting data on their CO2 and kicked the bigger decisions about emulating the aviation industry's carbon offset system to 2018 at the earliest.

The job now is to work on ratcheting up ambition, Bulc said. For shipping, that will be the next time the organization's Marine Environment Protection Committee meets, in the spring of 2017. For aviation, it might not happen until the mid-2020s, when countries are required to take a first look at their progress on limiting emissions.

The most ambitious of the three agreements was the one reached in the Rwandan capital of Kigali in October for hydrofluorocarbons.

The coolant was brought in during the 1990s to replace another compound, chlorofluorocarbons, which contributed to putting a hole in the ozone layer.

The Kigali agreement requires rich countries to reduce their HFC use by at least 10 percent by 2019 compared to 2011-2013 levels, and by 85 percent by 2036. Developing countries will get a few more years, but all will have to start phasing out HFCs from 2028 — a year after nearly all countries have to just cap, rather than cut, their aviation emissions at their 2020 levels.

This first appeared on POLITICO.EU on Nov. 2, 2016.


Defense attorneys urge Bridgegate judge to reconsider jury instructions Back

By Ryan Hutchins | 11/02/2016 01:22 PM EDT

NEWARK — Defense attorneys in the George Washington Bridge lane closure case were working behind the scenes on Wednesday to convince the judge to reconsider instructions she gave jurors a day earlier, arguing that she was essentially directing a verdict of guilty.

The lawyers said in a motion filed this morning that one of Judge Susan Wigenton's instructions could lead jurors to convict the two defendants — Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni — of conspiring to close the lanes to the world's busiest bridge, even if they never intended to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.

Prosecutors argued throughout the six-week trial that the two former allies of Gov. Chris Christie had executed the brazen scheme solely for that that purpose, seeking revenge against the Democratic mayor after he refused to endorse the Republican governor's 2013 re-election bid. The lane closures caused days of gridlock in the Bergen County town.

Wigenton decided last week to remove from her jury instructions almost any mention of that motivation, siding with prosecutors who had argued "the object of the conspiracy" was not relevant to the charges of conspiring to misuse the property of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge.

The jurors, who began their deliberations on Monday afternoon, sent a note to the judge on Tuesday asking for clarity on that point.

"Can you be guilty of conspiracy without the act being intentionally punitive toward Mayor Sokolich," the jurors asked.

Wigenton, over fierce objections from the defense attorneys, wrote back: "Yes," directing them to refer to the original instructions for additional guidance.

In his filing on Wednesday, submitted on behalf of both defendants, Kelly attorney Michael Critchley said the instruction could leave jurors with the impression they can convict the defendants of conspiracy even if the lane closures were done for a legitimate purpose, like a traffic study, as Baroni and Kelly both claimed in their testimony.

"While it is true that motive is not an essential element of every conspiracy, it is an essential element when the grand jury charges a defendant with conspiring to do so, and in fact, doing something he is authorized to do, but doing it for an improper purpose," Critchley wrote.

He said Wigenton should either have said "no," told the jurors to refer to the instructions she already issued or said the lanes would need to have been closed "in some other illegal manner" to warrant a guilty verdict on the conspiracy charge.

"This is not a murder or kidnapping case, in which it matters not why the defendant committed the crime provided it is proven he did so," Critchley wrote. "Rather, it is a misapplication case, in which to prove the crime required the Government to prove the improper purpose of punishment. It was an error to instruct the jury otherwise and the court should correct that error now."

The jurors left the U.S. District Court building in Newark around 2 p.m. without any public discussion in the courtroom, where both sides of the high-profile case had been meeting sporadically all day. The jurors are set to return at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

It was not clear what legal issue was being addressed, with the typically talkative defense attorneys declining to elaborate on the meetings. They remained in the courthouse after the jurors left.