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Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans; North Carolina: Mecklenburg-Union Transportation Conformity Interagency Memorandum of Agreement

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

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AGENCY:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION:

Direct final rule.

SUMMARY:

EPA is approving a revision to the North Carolina State Implementation Plan (SIP) that contains the transportation conformity memorandum of agreement with the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization and others. The memorandum of agreement establishes procedures for consultation as part of the transportation conformity provisions. This EPA approval action allows direct consultation among agencies at the local level. This final approval action is limited to Transportation Conformity.

DATES:

This direct final rule is effective on November 14, 2003, without further notice, unless EPA receives adverse comment by October 15, 2003. If adverse comment is received, EPA will publish a timely withdrawal of the direct final rule in the Federal Register informing the public that this rule will not take effect.

ADDRESSES:

All comments should be addressed to Kelly Sheckler at the Air Planning Branch, EPA, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street, SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. Comments may also be submitted electronically, or through hand delivery/courier. Please follow the detailed instructions described in sections I.B.1.i. through iii. of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Kelly Sheckler, Air Quality Modeling and Transportation Section, Air Planning Branch, Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street, SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. The telephone number is (404) 562-9042. Ms. Sheckler can also be reached via electronic mail at sheckler.kelly@epa.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Outlined below are the contents of this document:

I. General Information

II. Background

A. What is a SIP?

B. What is the Federal Approval Process for a SIP?

C. What is Transportation Conformity?

D. Why Must the State Submit a Transportation Conformity SIP?

E. How Does Transportation Conformity Work?

III. Approval of the State Transportation Conformity Rule

A. What Did the State Submit?

B. What is EPA Approving Today and Why?

C. How Did the State Satisfy the Interagency Consultation Process (40 CFR 93.105)?

IV. Final Action

V. Statutory and Executive Order Reviews

I. General Information

A. How Can I Get Copies of This Document and Other Related Information?

1. The Regional Office has established an official public rulemaking file available for inspection at the Regional Office. EPA has established an official public rulemaking file for this action under NC 107. The official public file consists of the documents specifically referenced in this action, any public comments received, and other information related to this action. Although a part of the official docket, the public rulemaking file does not include Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. The official public rulemaking file is the collection of materials that is available for public viewing at the Regulatory Development Section, Air Planning Branch, Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street, SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. EPA requests that if at all possible, you contact the contact listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section to schedule your inspection. The Regional Office's official hours of business are Monday through Friday, 9 to 3:30, excluding federal holidays.

2. Copies of the State submittal and EPA's technical support document are also available for public inspection during normal business hours, by appointment at the State Air Agency. North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, 2728 Capital Boulevard, Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.

3. Electronic Access. You may access this Federal Register document electronically through the Regulation.gov Web site located at http://www.regulations.gov where you can find, review, and submit comments on Federal rules that have been published in the Federal Register, the Government's legal newspaper, and are open for comment.

For public commentors, it is important to note that EPA's policy is that public comments, whether submitted electronically or in paper, will be made available for public viewing at the EPA Regional Office, as EPA receives them and without change, unless the comment contains copyrighted material, CBI, or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. When EPA identifies a comment containing Start Printed Page 53884copyrighted material, EPA will provide a reference to that material in the version of the comment that is placed in the official public rulemaking file. The entire printed comment, including the copyrighted material, will be available at the Regional Office for public inspection.

B. How and to Whom Do I Submit Comments?

You may submit comments electronically, by mail, or through hand delivery/courier. To ensure proper receipt by EPA, identify the appropriate rulemaking identification number by including the text “Public comment on proposed rulemaking NC 107” in the subject line on the first page of your comment. Please ensure that your comments are submitted within the specified comment period. Comments received after the close of the comment period will be marked “late.” EPA is not required to consider these late comments.

1. Electronically. If you submit an electronic comment as prescribed below, EPA recommends that you include your name, mailing address, and an e-mail address or other contact information in the body of your comment. Also include this contact information on the outside of any disk or CD ROM you submit, and in any cover letter accompanying the disk or CD ROM. This ensures that you can be identified as the submitter of the comment and allows EPA to contact you in case EPA cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties or needs further information on the substance of your comment. EPA's policy is that EPA will not edit your comment, and any identifying or contact information provided in the body of a comment will be included as part of the comment that is placed in the official public docket. If EPA cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties and cannot contact you for clarification, EPA may not be able to consider your comment.

i. E-mail. Comments may be sent by electronic mail (e-mail) to sheckler.kelly@epa.gov, please include the text “Public comment on proposed rulemaking NC 107” in the subject line. EPA's e-mail system is not an “anonymous access” system. If you send an e-mail comment directly without going through Regulation.gov, EPA's e-mail system automatically captures your e-mail address. E-mail addresses that are automatically captured by EPA's e-mail system are included as part of the comment that is placed in the official public docket.

ii. Regulation.gov. Your use of Regulation.gov is an alternative method of submitting electronic comments to EPA. Go directly to Regulation.gov at http://www.regulations.gov, then select Environmental Protection Agency at the top of the page and use the go button. The list of current EPA actions available for comment will be listed. Please follow the online instructions for submitting comments. The system is an “anonymous access” system, which means EPA will not know your identity, e-mail address, or other contact information unless you provide it in the body of your comment.

iii. Disk or CD ROM. You may submit comments on a disk or CD ROM that you mail to the mailing address identified in Section 2, directly below. These electronic submissions will be accepted in WordPerfect, Word or ASCII file format. Avoid the use of special characters and any form of encryption.

2. By Mail. Send your comments to: Kelly Sheckler, Air Quality Modeling and Transportation, Air Planning Branch, Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street, SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. Please include the text “Public comment on proposed rulemaking NC 107” in the subject line on the first page of your comment.

3. By Hand Delivery or Courier. Deliver your comments to: Kelly Sheckler, Air Quality Modeling and Transportation Section, Air Planning Branch, Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division 12th floor, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street, SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. Such deliveries are only accepted during the Regional Office's normal hours of operation. The Regional Office's official hours of business are Monday through Friday, 9 to 3:30, excluding federal holidays.

C. How Should I Submit CBI to the Agency?

Do not submit information that you consider to be CBI electronically to EPA. You may claim information that you submit to EPA as CBI by marking any part or all of that information as CBI (if you submit CBI on disk or CD ROM, mark the outside of the disk or CD ROM as CBI and then identify electronically within the disk or CD ROM the specific information that is CBI). Information so marked will not be disclosed except in accordance with procedures set forth in 40 CFR part 2.

In addition to one complete version of the comment that includes any information claimed as CBI, a copy of the comment that does not contain the information claimed as CBI must be submitted for inclusion in the official public regional rulemaking file. If you submit the copy that does not contain CBI on disk or CD ROM, mark the outside of the disk or CD ROM clearly that it does not contain CBI. Information not marked as CBI will be included in the public file and available for public inspection without prior notice. If you have any questions about CBI or the procedures for claiming CBI, please consult the person identified in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section.

D. What Should I Consider as I Prepare My Comments for EPA?

You may find the following suggestions helpful for preparing your comments:

1. Explain your views as clearly as possible.

2. Describe any assumptions that you used.

3. Provide any technical information and/or data you used that support your views.

4. If you estimate potential burden or costs, explain how you arrived at your estimate.

5. Provide specific examples to illustrate your concerns.

6. Offer alternatives.

7. Make sure to submit your comments by the comment period deadline identified.

8. To ensure proper receipt by EPA, identify the appropriate regional file/rulemaking identification number in the subject line on the first page of your response. It would also be helpful if you provided the name, date, and Federal Register citation related to your comments.

II. Background

A. What Is a SIP?

The states, under section 110 of the Clean Air Act (herein referred to as the Act), must develop air pollution regulations and control strategies to ensure that state air quality meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) established by EPA. The Act, under section 109, established these NAAQS which currently address six criteria pollutants. These pollutants are: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, lead, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide.

Each state must send these regulations and control strategies to EPA for approval and incorporation into the Federally enforceable SIP, which protects air quality and contains emission control plans for NAAQS nonattainment areas. These SIPs can be extensive, containing state regulations Start Printed Page 53885or other enforceable documents and supporting information such as emission inventories, monitoring networks, and modeling demonstrations.

B. What Is the Federal Approval Process for a SIP?

The states must formally adopt the regulations and control strategies consistent with state and Federal laws for incorporating the state regulations into the Federally enforceable SIP. This process generally includes a public notice, public comment period, public hearing, and a formal adoption by a state-authorized rulemaking body.

Once a state rule, regulation, or control strategy is adopted, the state will send these provisions to EPA for inclusion in the Federally enforceable SIP. EPA must then determine the appropriate Federal action, provide public notice, and request additional public comment on the action. The possible Federal actions include: Approval, disapproval, conditional approval and limited approval/disapproval. If adverse comments are received, EPA must consider and address the comments before taking final action. EPA incorporates state regulations and supporting information (sent under section 110 of the Act) into the Federally approved SIP through the approval action. EPA maintains records of all such SIP actions in the CFR at Title 40, part 52, entitled “Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans.” The EPA does not reproduce the text of the Federally approved state regulations in the CFR. They are “incorporated by reference,” which means that the specific state regulation is cited in the CFR and is considered a part of the CFR the same as if the text were fully printed in the CFR.

C. What Is Transportation Conformity?

Conformity first appeared as a requirement in the Act's 1977 amendments (Public Law 95-95). Although the Act did not define conformity, it stated that no Federal department could engage in, support in any way or provide financial assistance for, license or permit, or approve any activity which did not conform to a SIP which has been approved or promulgated. The 1990 Amendments to the Act expanded the scope and content of the conformity concept by defining conformity to a SIP. Section 176(c) of the Act defines conformity as conformity to the SIP's purpose of eliminating or reducing the severity and number of violations of the NAAQS and achieving expeditious attainment of such standards. Also, the Act states that no Federal activity will: (1) Cause or contribute to any new violation of any standard in any area, (2) increase the frequency or severity of any existing violation of any standard in any area, or (3) delay timely attainment of any standard or any required interim emission reductions or other milestones in any area. The requirements of section 176(c) of the Clean Air Act apply to all departments, agencies and instrumentalities of the Federal government. Transportation conformity refers only to the conformity of transportation plans, programs and projects that are funded or approved under title 23 U.S.C. of the Federal Transit Ac (49 U.S.C. chapter 53).

D. Why Must the State Submit a Transportation Conformity SIP?

A transportation conformity SIP is a plan which contains criteria and procedures for the Department of Transportation (DOT), Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), and other state or local agencies to assess the conformity of transportation plans, programs and projects to ensure that they do not cause or contribute to new violations of a NAAQS in the area substantially affected by the project, increase the frequency or severity of existing violations of a standard in such area or delay timely attainment. 40 CFR 51.390, subpart T requires states to submit a SIP that establishes criteria for conformity to EPA. 40 CFR part 93, subpart A, provides the criteria the SIP must meet to satisfy 40 CFR 51.390. EPA was required to issue criteria and procedures for determining conformity of transportation plans, programs, and projects to a SIP by section 176(c) of the Act. The Act also required the procedure to include a requirement that each state submit a revision to its SIP including conformity criteria and procedures.

EPA published the first transportation conformity rule in the November 24, 1993, Federal Register (FR), and it was codified at 40 CFR part 51, subpart T and 40 CFR part 93, subpart A. EPA required the states to adopt and submit a transportation conformity SIP revision to the appropriate EPA Regional Office. EPA revised the transportation conformity rule on August 7, 1995 (60 FR 40098), November 14, 1995 (60 FR 57179), and August 15, 1997 (62 FR 43780), and codified the revisions under 40 CFR part 51, subpart T and 40 CFR part 93, subpart A—Conformity to State or Federal Implementation Plans of Transportation Plans, Programs, and Projects Developed, Funded or Approved Under Title 23 U.S.C. of the Federal Transit Laws (62 FR 43780). EPA's action of August 15, 1997, required the states to change their rules and submit a SIP revision to EPA by August 15, 1998. States may choose to develop in place of regulations, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) which establishes the roles and procedures for transportation conformity. The MOA includes the detailed consultation procedures developed for that particular area. The MOA's are enforceable through the signature of all the transportation and air quality agencies, including the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

E. How Does Transportation Conformity Work?

The Federal or state transportation conformity rule applies to all NAAQS nonattainment and maintenance areas in the state. The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the State Department of Transportation (DOT) (in absence of a MPO), and U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) make conformity determinations. These agencies make conformity determinations on programs and plans such as transportation improvement programs (TIP), transportation plans, and projects. The MPOs calculate the projected emissions that will result from implementation of the transportation plans and programs and compare those calculated emissions to the motor vehicle emissions budget established in the SIP. The calculated emissions must be equal to or smaller than the Federally approved motor vehicle emissions ceiling in order for USDOT to make a positive conformity determination with respect to the SIP.

III. Approval of the State Transportation Conformity Rule

A. What Did the State Submit?

The State of North Carolina chose to address the transportation conformity SIP requirement through the statewide rules for all portions of the conformity rule with the exception of 93.105, which was done through the development of individual nonattainment/maintenance area MOAs. EPA approved the North Carolina transportation conformity rules on December 27, 2002 (67 FR 78983). In addition, the MOA's establishing consultation procedures for six areas was approved in the December 27, 2002, rulemaking that approved the state rules for transportation conformity. The Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) Area was not submitted for approval with the other MOA's. On August 1, 2003, the Start Printed Page 53886Director of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) submitted the MUMPO nonattainment/maintenance area consultation interagency MOA, to EPA as a revision to the SIP.

B. What Is EPA Approving Today and Why?

EPA is approving the MUMPO interagency consultation MOA submitted to the EPA Region office on August 1, 2003 by the Director of the North Carolina DENR. EPA has evaluated this SIP revision and has determined that the State has met the requirements of Federal transportation conformity rule as described in 40 CFR part 51, subpart T and 40 CFR part 93, subpart A. The North Carolina DENR has satisfied the public participation and comprehensive interagency consultation requirement during development and adoption of the MOA at the local level. Therefore, EPA is approving the MOA as a revision to the North Carolina SIP.

C. How Did the State Satisfy the Interagency Consultation Process (40 CFR 93.105)?

EPA's rule requires the states to develop their own processes and procedures for interagency consultation among the Federal, state, and local agencies and resolution of conflicts meeting the criteria in 40 CFR 93.105. The SIP revision must include processes and procedures to be followed by the MPO, state DOT, and USDOT in consulting with the state and local air quality agencies and EPA before making conformity determinations. The transportation conformity SIP revision must also include processes and procedures for the state and local air quality agencies and EPA to coordinate the development of applicable SIPs with MPOs, state DOTs, and USDOT.

The State of North Carolina developed the MUMPO interagency consultation MOA based on the elements contained in 40 CFR 93.105. As a first step, the State worked with the existing transportation planning organization's interagency committee that included representatives from the State and local air quality agencies, State Department of Transportation, MUMPO, Federal Highway Administration-North Carolina, Federal Transit Administration, Transit Authority and EPA. The interagency committee met regularly and drafted the consultation rules considering elements in 40 CFR 93.105 and 23 CFR part 450, and integrated the local procedures and processes into the consultation MOA. The consultation process developed in this MOA is unique to the Mecklenburg-Union Area. The MOA is enforceable against the parties by their signed consent in the MOA. EPA has determined that the State adequately included all elements of 40 CFR 93.105 and that the MOA meets the EPA SIP requirements.

IV. Final Action

EPA is approving the aforementioned changes to the SIP. The EPA is publishing this rule without prior proposal because the Agency views this as a noncontroversial submittal and anticipates no adverse comments. However, in the proposed rules section of this Federal Register publication, EPA is publishing a separate document that will serve as the proposal to approve the SIP revision should adverse comments be filed. This rule will be effective November 14, 2003 without further notice unless the Agency receives adverse comments by October 15, 2003.

If the EPA receives such comments, then EPA will publish a document withdrawing the final rule and informing the public that the rule will not take effect. All public comments received will then be addressed in a subsequent final rule based on the proposed rule. The EPA will not institute a second comment period. Parties interested in commenting should do so at this time. If no such comments are received, the public is advised that this rule will be effective on November 14, 2003 and no further action will be taken on the proposed rule. Please note that if we receive adverse comment on an amendment, paragraph, or section of this rule and if that provision may be severed from the remainder of the rule, we may adopt as final those provisions of the rule that are not the subject of an adverse comment.

V. Statutory and Executive Order Reviews

Under Executive Order 12866 (58 FR 51735, October 4, 1993), this action is not a “significant regulatory action” and therefore is not subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget. For this reason, this action is also not subject to Executive Order 13211, “Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use” (66 FR 28355, May 22, 2001). This action merely approves state law as meeting Federal requirements and imposes no additional requirements beyond those imposed by state law. Accordingly, the Administrator certifies that this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). Because this rule approves pre-existing requirements under state law and does not impose any additional enforceable duty beyond that required by state law, it does not contain any unfunded mandate or significantly or uniquely affect small governments, as described in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 104-4).

This rule also does not have tribal implications because it will not have a substantial direct effect on one or more Indian tribes, on the relationship between the Federal Government and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian tribes, as specified by Executive Order 13175 (65 FR 67249, November 9, 2000). This action also does not have Federalism implications because it does not have substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship between the national government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government, as specified in Executive Order 13132 (64 FR 43255, August 10, 1999). This action merely approves a state rule implementing a Federal standard, and does not alter the relationship or the distribution of power and responsibilities established in the Clean Air Act. This rule also is not subject to Executive Order 13045 “Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks” (62 FR 19885, April 23, 1997), because it is not economically significant.

In reviewing SIP submissions, EPA's role is to approve state choices, provided that they meet the criteria of the Clean Air Act. In this context, in the absence of a prior existing requirement for the State to use voluntary consensus standards (VCS), EPA has no authority to disapprove a SIP submission for failure to use VCS. It would thus be inconsistent with applicable law for EPA, when it reviews a SIP submission, to use VCS in place of a SIP submission that otherwise satisfies the provisions of the Clean Air Act. Thus, the requirements of section 12(d) of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (15 U.S.C. 272 note) do not apply. This rule does not impose an information collection burden under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.).

The Congressional Review Act, 5 U.S.C. 801 et seq., as added by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, generally provides that before a rule may take effect, the Start Printed Page 53887agency promulgating the rule must submit a rule report, which includes a copy of the rule, to each House of the Congress and to the Comptroller General of the United States. EPA will submit a report containing this rule and other required information to the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Comptroller General of the United States prior to publication of the rule in the Federal Register. A major rule cannot take effect until 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. This action is not a “major rule” as defined by 5 U.S.C. section 804(2).

Under section 307(b)(1) of the Clean Air Act, petitions for judicial review of this action must be filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the appropriate circuit by November 14, 2003. Filing a petition for reconsideration by the Administrator of this final rule does not affect the finality of this rule for the purposes of judicial review nor does it extend the time within which a petition for judicial review may be filed, and shall not postpone the effectiveness of such rule or action. This action may not be challenged later in proceedings to enforce its requirements. (See section 307(b)(2).)

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List of Subjects in 40 CFR Part 52

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Dated: August 28, 2003.

A. Stanley Meiburg,

Acting Regional Administrator, Region 4.

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Part 52 of chapter I, title 40, Code of Federal Regulations, is amended as follows:

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PART 52—[AMENDED]

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1. The authority citation for part 52 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 42.U.S.C. 7401 et seq.

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Subpart II—North Carolina

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2. Section 52.1770(e) is amended by adding a new entry at the end of the table for “Mecklenburg-Union Interagency Transportation Conformity Memorandum of Agreement” to read as follows:

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Identification of plan.
* * * * *

(e) * * *

EPA Approved North Carolina Non-Regulatory Provisions

ProvisionState effective dateEPA approval dateFederal Register citation
*         *         *         *         *         *         *
Mecklenburg-Union Interagency Transportation Conformity Memorandum of Agreement08/07/0309/15/03[Insert FR page citation]
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[FR Doc. 03-23266 Filed 9-12-03; 8:45 am]

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