A programmatic agreement (PA) establishes a streamlined process for handling routine environmental requirements for commonly encountered project types. PAs usually set procedures for consultation, review, and compliance with one or more federal laws, but they can also address tribal, state, and local laws. PAs are part of a larger collection of programmatic approaches that include regional permits, programmatic consultations and other alternative arrangements with resource and regulatory agencies regarding environmental process reviews, data collection, and regulatory compliance. Efficiency is increased by considering repetitive actions at a program level rather than by individual projects, and appropriate consideration for the environment is maintained. PAs may be developed on a watershed, ecosystem, state, regional, or national scale.
FHWA has extensively promoted PAs through initiatives, such as EDC, and regular environmental program implementation. Programmatic approaches have been in transportation legislation including Section 1305 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and the Fixing America's Transportation Act (FAST Act) Section 1304(k), which promotes the implementation of programmatic approaches.
Through EDC-1, FHWA promoted the expanded use of PAs by identifying best practices and promoting the benefits of PAs and developing new PAs and/or improving existing PAs through agreed upon revisions, where there was interest by state and partner agencies. The first phase of EDC successfully developed scores of new agreements.
The objective of the EDC-2 PA initiative was to increase the awareness of the benefits and create additional PAs through expansion of existing agreements and the creation of new agreements. An important emphasis under EDC-2 was to focus on state and regional agreements, in particular with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE), the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).