The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently published the information it will require of five states selected to pilot a provision of SAFETEA-LU that would allow states to assume authority for environmental reviews of highway projects.
The states of Alaska, California, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas were designated by Congress to conduct the environmental streamlining pilot project. Ultimately, their status with regard to the pilot program covering National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) oversight may also affect their oversight of several other environment-related laws including the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Act, federal historic preservation laws and a set of environment-related executive orders.
FHWA’s proposed rule, published on April 5, speaks to Section 6005 within SAFETEA-LU that would let the U.S. Secretary of Transportation delegate now-solely-federal responsibilities for NEPA oversight to states that had demonstrated the ability to take on that mantle. According to the rulemaking notice, the five states must demonstrate their ability as part of the process of submitting applications to participate in the pilot program.
It is understood that once a state’s application is received and approved, a memorandum of understanding or other pact would be entered into by the affected state and FHWA. If any of the five states do not follow through with the application, other states may become eligible for the pilot program in their place.
Comments on the proposed rule are due by June 5, and further information is available from Ruth Rentch at FHWA’s Office of Project Development and Environmental Review at 202/366-2034 or from Michael Harkins in FHWA’s Office of Chief Counsel at 202/366-4928.