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NEPA Process

Recent Developments

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

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