It's embarrassing that the SKATS (Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study) body, which focuses on transportation planning in our area, has some global warming deniers on it who are mightily resisting connecting a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions with how people should get around via vehicles, mass transit, bicycles, and whatever.
Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS) is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Salem-Keizer area. A MPO is a federally mandated body for any urban area over 50,000 in population. The SKATS MPO is directed by a Policy Committee composed of elected representatives from the cities of Keizer, Salem and Turner, Marion and Polk Counties, the Salem Area Mass Transit District, the Salem-Keizer School District and a manager from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Region 2 office. MWVCOG staff provide the day-to-day staff work for SKATS.
The Salem Breakfast on Bikes blogger has been following the saga of how, following a City of Salem strategic planning initiative calling for greenhouse gases to be studied, and, I assume, reduced, Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano has been the SKATS ringleader in denying science, common sense, and the will of the public to deal with global warming.
Today the blogger wrote, "Hazy Skies and Unsettled Weather at the MPO: Intransigence on Goal 7."
The Directors of three State agencies, DEQ, DLCD, and Energy recently sent to ODOT's board, the OTC, a letter on greenhouse gases and transportation.
"According to the Oregon Global Warming Commission’s 2017 Biennial Report to the Legislature, Oregon will not meet the Legislature’s 2020 target for greenhouse gas emissions reduction (ten percent below 1990 levels). We also are not on track for the Legislature’s 2035 and 2050 goals. With greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector increasing (rather than decreasing), and with transportation responsible for 39 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, it’s clear we need renewed focus on reducing emissions in this sector."
At last month's meeting of our Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Policy Committee endured a different smoke-blowing from members who insisted that "SKATS' focus is transportation not the environment" - notwithstanding clear Legislative direction to reduce emissions in the transportation sector.
...The result seemed to be a weasely version of Goal 7 that makes no specific reference to greenhouse gas emissions, and merely adds an "explanatory statement" that project evaluation "may include" things like greenhouse gas emissions. As a goal, it's all very optional, hardly a goal at all - a fig leaf.
What seems to be going on here is that the MPO/SKATS has some sort of weird commitment to consensus among its members, even though the representative of the City of Salem obviously speaks for hugely more people, than, say, the representative of the City of Turner.
Thus rather than basing transportation planning goals on settled science -- global warming is happening, humans are responsible for it via greenhouse gas emissions, and something needs to be done about it -- SKATS appears to want a dumbing down of a environmental impact goal such that the language is so meaningless, even a global warming denier like Commissioner Sam Brentano will be comfortable with it.
Hopefully this won't happen.
Unfortunately, I believe the City of Salem representative is Jim Lewis, one of the three remaining conservatives on the nine-member Salem City Council.
Lewis doesn't have strong environmental credentials, to put it mildly, so he is unlikely to be a strong advocate for an explicit SKATS commitment to making reduction of greenhouse gas emissions part of the local transportation planning process.
Salem's Mayor, Chuck Bennett, and the City Manager, Steve Powers, need to make it crystal clear to Jim Lewis and the rest of the SKATS/MPO members that it is totally unacceptable to water down a goal calling for greenhouse gas emissions to be part of transportation planning policies in this area.
Consensus, or unanimity, is great when this makes sense. However, combatting global warming is too damn serious to allow a few science-deniers to have a veto power over the wording of a SKATS/MPO environmental goal.