Back to the way things used to be

News NSSGA January 15, 2002
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Calling it "a refreshing change of direction," National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association President and CEO Joy Wilson praised t

Calling it "a refreshing change of direction," National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association President and CEO Joy Wilson praised the Federal Highway Adminstration's decision to issue new guidance to its field offices that will permit certain pre-approved highway construction activity to proceed, even if the locality in which the construction is taking place has gone out of compliance with federal air quality standards since the approvals were granted.


The guidance, issued jointly with the Federal Transit Administration, reinterprets earlier guidance that required all activity--except prior approved construction--to cease when a Clean Air Act conformity violation occurred in an area where a highway was being built. Planning, design and right-of-way work could not continue until the conformity issues had been settled.


"This is good news for taxpayers and those who fund highway construction through user fees in that, now, other essential activities of highway design and right-of-way acquisition can continue in the pipeline. And when the conformity issue is finally resolved, an otherwise approved project can move quickly to construction using aggregate products," Wilson noted.


The conformity guidance stems from a 1999 U.S. Court of Appeals decision in a suit involving U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations governing air quality. That decision prompted the Clinton administration to issue guidance halting all activity connected with a highway project when the locality fell into "nonconformity" with established federal air quality standards, even if all the activity had been judged previously to be in compliance with environmental laws and formally approved.


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