Best Practices in Implementing Environmental Commitments throughout the Life of a Project
Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources
Research Idea Scope
Commitments resulting from the environmental clearance document are intended to avoid, minimize, or mitigate impacts to environmental resources. These commitments vary in scope and may be derived from federal environmental laws (NEPA, NHPA, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act), permit conditions, or other state-level laws and regulatory requirements. Federal agencies and state DOTs are responsible for ensuring these legally binding commitments are implemented throughout the life of a project and ultimately fulfilled. DOT size and NEPA assignment status can cause challenges to manage and implement these commitments. Common challenges that result in lost and unfulfilled commitments include inventory and access, inconsistencies in MOA/MOU language, successful communication with contractors, ensuring commitments are incorporated into the PS&E, change order tracking during construction, and permit expiration during the construction process. As a result, DOTs have started developing resources and practices to minimize these challenges and ensure quality control and proper implementation, but no nationwide synthesis exists. The objective of this study is a nationwide review of how state DOTs have constructed workable systems for tracking and implementing environmental commitments and a compilation of best practices.
Urgency and Payoff
Lost and unfulfilled commitments can lead to bad publicity, legal issues, violations and fines from regulatory agencies, and loss of funding. This issue affects all DOTs, regardless of NEPA assignment status. Environmental commitments impact project delivery through all phases, including planning, design/PS&E, construction, and post construction. Effective mechanisms for tracking and implementing environmental commitments can increase project delivery efficiency, stakeholder communication, and reduce legal and regulatory risk to the DOT. This is an immediate need that could help ensure commitments are tracked and completed.