Transportation agencies are working to meet the expectations of citizens, elected officials, regulators and other stakeholders for transportation projects and programs that meet mobility needs while preserving and enhancing the environment. To meet these expectations, transportation agencies are:
- Demonstrating environmental stewardship in all facets of their day-to-day and long-term activities,
- Improving environmental and business performance, and
- Taking actions to ensure consistent compliance.
As a result, transportation agencies are making environmental stewardship a part of their mission, including all facets of their operations – from planning through routine maintenance. Environmental stewardship entails making decisions and conducting operations in a manner to protect and improve the environment.
Environmental performance expectations include waste minimization, pollution prevention, reducing resource consumption, and minimizing the environmental “footprint” of transportation facilities and projects. In short, transportation agencies must spend less time and money while fulfilling all stakeholder environmental expectations.
Stewardship and performance begin with and are based upon actions to ensure that a transportation agency consistently complies with applicable environmental requirements. Inconsistent compliance, in fact, jeopardizes the respect and response that transportation agencies gain from other noteworthy environmental initiatives and efforts.
Successful fulfillment of these expectations requires a comprehensive, integrated, systematic approach that involves employees at all levels and across all functions in a transportation agency, from planning and design, through construction, operation, and maintenance. An environmental management system (EMS) offers an approach to reach these goals.
AASHTO has defined EMS as it applies to transportation programs as follows: An EMS is the organizational structure and associated responsibilities and processes, procedures, and tools for integrating environmental considerations and objectives into the ongoing management decision-making processes and operations of an organization.
This definition has been developed to provide flexibility for transportation agencies to implement EMSs that meet their specific needs and objectives. This definition incorporates key elements of and is consistent with definitions contained in EPA’s Compliance Focused Environmental Management System (CFEMS) guidance and the International Standards Organization (ISO) 14001 Environmental Management System (EMS) standard. Information on the ISO 14001 EMS Standard is available on the ISO website or EPA’s EMS website.
EMSs have provided demonstrated, measurable environmental as well as business performance improvements for numerous Federal, state, and local governments and private sector companies throughout the United States over the last decade or more. Recognizing these benefits, several transportation agencies have developed and implemented EMSs to achieve similar enhancements in various transportation activities and facilities.
Additional details on developing and implementing an EMS in a transportation agency are summarized in AASHTO’s EMS Practitioner’s Handbook, Developing and Implementing an Environmental Management System in a State DOT.