President George W. Bush signed an executive order yesterday to streamline environmental review and development of transportation infrastructure projects.
The order establishes a Cabinet-level interagency task force called the Transportation Infrastructure Streamlining Task Force. The president appointed Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta to lead the task force, reporting to the president through the chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality. The goal is to ensure that environmentally sound projects are not held up unnecessarily by inefficient review procedures. The task force will work to streamline environmental reviews of specific, high-impact airport, highway, transit and intermodal construction projects.
"Too many transportation projects become mired for too long in the complex web of clearances required by federal and state law," Mineta wrote in letters to the governors, Congressional committee leaders and stakeholders. "This initiative is intended to make our transportation investments more efficient, helping to ease congestion and reduce pollution."
The U.S. DOT will develop a list of specific transportation projects that are good candidates for immediate environmental streamlining as part of implementing the executive order. In his letters, Mineta asked for nominations for projects to be streamlined.
All activities related to the executive order must still comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and all other environmental statutes.
Based on its experience in accelerating review of the initial list of high-priority projects, the DOT in the future will develop a series of best practices for streamlining the decision making process on all transportation infrastructure projects and for enhancing environmental stewardship.
The task force members in addition to Mineta include the secretaries of the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, the Interior and Defense, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.