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NEPA Process

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Integrating NEPA, Permitting Reviews Highlighted by FHWA

The integration of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and permitting processes is the Federal Highway Administration’s Every Day Counts (EDC) innovation of the month for August. EDC is the agency’s initiative aimed at shortening project delivery and speeding the deployment of underutilized technologies. Under round four of EDC, the FHWA is supporting 14 state departments of the transportation and the Federal Lands Highway as they demonstrate and assess tools for integrating NEPA and permitting. This synchronization of environmental and permitting reviews significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of project delivery. The FHWA promotes EDC technologies through technical assistance and targeted training, including webinars, case studies, regional peer exchanges, and coordination. For more information, link to EDC-4: Integrating NEPA and Permitting and the Aug. 3 EDC Newsletter. (8-3-17)

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FHWA Issues Clarifying Guidance on Fiscal Constraint

The Federal Highway Administration has issued clarifying guidance for states and metropolitan planning organizations that encourages the use of fiscal constraint flexibilities. The guidance addresses examples of reasonably available funding assumptions, the relationship between the National Environmental Policy Act and fiscal constraint, and implications for nonattainment and maintenance areas. For more information, link to the guidance. (5-15-17)

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U.S. DOT Updates Q and A Guidance on NEPA Reviews

Federal highway, transit and rail agencies have provided new joint guidance on the implementation and applicability of transportation legislation related to the environmental review process and analysis of impacts to historic properties. The question-and-answer style guidance provides further detail regarding the streamlining of transportation project delivery, including revisions to the review process under the National Environmental Policy Act. Building on general guidance issued a year ago, the guidance addresses changes to project definitions, programmatic reviews, lead agency and participating agency roles and responsibilities, the project initiation process, alternatives analysis, coordination plans, issue resolution, and project/process transparency. For more information, view the NEPA guidance. (6-16-17)

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FHWA Newsletter Addresses NEPA Assignment Program

The importance of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) assignment program is highlighted in the June issue of Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The newsletter addresses how to apply for and maintain NEPA assignment, which allows states to have complete responsibility over environmental reviews and NEPA decisions on federally funded highway projects. The newsletter focuses on the collaboration process between the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and FHWA to transition NEPA responsibilities to FDOT and completion of the first annual audit for the Ohio DOT to assess compliance and performance. The newsletter also includes recommendations for audit preparation and addresses the significance of collaboration between states and FHWA to improve audit outcomes. For more information, link to the newsletter. (June 2017)

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FHWA Describes Need for Quality of Environmental Documentation

The quality of environmental documentation is addressed in the Federal Highway Administration’s April issue of Successes in Stewardship newsletter. Environmental documents are used to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act to evaluate impacts of agency decisions. This issue includes best practices for creating high quality documentation to reduce time during project review processes. The newsletter addresses the EDC-2 and EDC-3 products under the Every Day Counts initiative, which support quality documentation by improving collaborative processes and providing tools to appropriately document environmental impacts. Resources concerning trainings, workshops and technical assistance are also provided. For more information, link to the newsletter. (April 2017)

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President Issues Executive Order on High Priority Infrastructure Projects

The President has issued Executive Order 13766 to expedite environmental reviews and approvals for high priority infrastructure projects. The order identifies as high priority projects those intended to improve the electric grid and telecommunication systems and those that repair and upgrade critical port facilities, airports, pipelines, bridges and highways. The order allows governors and any executive department or agency to request high priority status and requires the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to decide whether an infrastructure project qualifies as a high priority within 30 days of such requests. The order also allows the CEQ to make determinations on its own initiative, and the council must coordinate with the heads of the relevant agencies to establish expedited procedures and deadlines. For more information link to the executive order. (1-30-17)

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USDOT Issues Draft of Revised NEPA Implementing Procedures

The U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Secretary, is requesting comments on a proposed update to the department’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing procedures. Last updated in 1985, the revised order, Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts (DOT Order 5610.1D), is intended to be the overarching procedures for the U.S. DOT and its modal administrations, while recognizing that some administrations have unique NEPA responsibilities and processes. The order addresses the relevant project delivery provisions of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act and updates references to the Council on Environmental Quality regulations. The order also significantly revises provisions regarding planning and coordination, expands discussion of the various classes of environmental action, and will replace Attachment 2 with a Desk Reference providing more specific guidance. In addition, the order updates terminology and substantially renumbers the sections. Comments are due Jan. 10, 2017. For more information, view the Federal Register notice and the proposed Order 5610.1D. (12-20-16)

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FDOT Receives National Environmental Policy Act Responsibilities

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has announced a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Highway Administration to allow the state to assume responsibilities for environmental review of infrastructure projects. The assignment of responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act is expected to save an estimated 25 percent of the processing time and $22 million per year. Florida joins California, Ohio and Texas in assuming NEPA authority. For more information, link to the press release. (12-14-16)

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Caltrans Requests Renewed Participation in NEPA Assignment Program

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the receipt of a renewal package from the California Department of Transportation requesting renewed participation in the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program and an associated proposed memorandum of understanding for assignment of National Environmental Policy Act review authority. The FHWA has determined that the renewal package is complete and has developed a draft renewal memorandum of understanding with Caltrans outlining how the state will implement the program with FHWA oversight. For more information, link to the Federal Register notice. (11-16-16)

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Utah DOT Seeks to Assume FHWA NEPA Review Authority

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the receipt of an application from the Utah Department of Transportation requesting participation in the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program and an associated proposed memorandum of understanding that outlines how the state will implement the program with oversight from the FHWA. The FHWA specifies that if approved, the state will assume environmental review responsibilities, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, for federally funded highway projects in the state. For more information, link to the Federal Register notice. (11-16-16)

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AASHTO’s Updated Handbook Series Provides Environmental Compliance Advice

Practical advice on environmental compliance for transportation projects is provided in recently updated Practitioner’s Handbooks published by the Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO. The series includes 15 handbooks, each of which includes key issues to consider; a background briefing; practical tips for achieving compliance; and a list of reference materials. Recently updated handbooks include: Maintaining a Project File and Preparing an Administrative Record for a NEPA Study (Handbook 1); Responding to Comments on an Environmental Impact Statement (Handbook 02); Managing the NEPA Process for Toll Lanes and Toll Roads (Handbook 3); Consulting Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (Handbook 6); Defining the Purpose and Need and Determining the Range of Alternatives for Transportation Projects (Handbook 7); Assessing Indirect Effects and Cumulative Impacts Under NEPA (Handbook 12); and Applying the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines in Transportation Project Decision-Making (Handbook 14). For more information, link to the Practitioner’s Handbooks web page. (9-23-16)

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Featured Case Study

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    Ohio DOT's expanded online environmental documentation system offers cost and time savings.

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