What's New Last updated 6/10/15
- Final "Waters of the United States" released by EPA and USACE - On May 27th the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released their final rule defining "waters of the United States," which describes waters protected by Clean Water Act (CWA) programs. The final rule clarifies protection under the CWA for streams and wetlands. The long anticipated rule has been in development for several years and has been revised based on extensive interagency and public comments. EPA released a prepublication of the final rule on their website, available at: http://www2.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule/prepublication-version-final-rule
- Range-wide Programmatic Informal Consultation for Indiana Bat and Northern Long-eared Bat - On April 20, 2015, FHWA and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) received concurrence from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on a range-wide programmatic informal consultation for the Indiana bat and Northern Long-eared Bat (NLEB). The informal programmatic covers 38 States and the District of Columbia and encompasses parts or all of USFWS Regions 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. The final Biological Assessment and related documentation are available on the USFWS Region 3 Indiana bat webpage at http://www.fws.gov/Midwest/Endangered/section7/fhwa/index.html. To assist in the implementation of this informal consultation, FHWA/USFWS have jointly developed a User’s Guide to assist transportation agencies and USFWS field offices.
- Notice of Availability of Revised Guidance - On March 13, 2015, a Notice of Availability of Revised Guidance on the revised Section 139 Environmental Review Process was released in the Federal Register. This document provides guidance on environmental review process requirements and best management practices for transportation projects funded or approved by the FHWA, FTA, or both agencies. The revisions to the joint guidance reflect the FHWA and FTA’s proposed implementation of the MAP-21 changes within their statutory environmental review process requirements, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other Federal laws. The FHWA and FTA have requested public comments on the proposed guidance. The comment period ends on May 12, 2015.
- Guidance – Consideration of Climate Change in NEPA – Updated draft guidance outlining how agencies should consider
the impact of federal projects on climate change during reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was released by the White House Council
on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Under the draft, CEQ states that climate change impacts with less than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent
annually don’t warrant evaluation unless the analysis is easily accomplished. The guidance also directs federal agencies to focus on climate-resilient
alternatives when evaluating projects. This draft updates similar draft CEQ guidance issued in 2010. The draft guidance can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/nepa_revised_draft_ghg_guidance.pdf.
- Guidance – Programmatic NEPA Reviews – Final guidance has been issued on programmatic reviews under the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The guidance is designed to help agency decisionmakers and
the public understand the environmental impacts from proposed large-scope federal actions as well as facilitate agency compliance with NEPA by clarifying
the different planning scenarios under which an agency may prepare a programmatic review. This guidance builds on guidance issued in 1981 that explained
the use of tiering and its place in the NEPA process. The final guidance can be found here:
- FHWA Previews Upcoming Visual Impact Assessment Guidelines – A preview of updated guidelines to help transportation
agencies consider visual impacts of highway projects is provided in the December issue of the Federal Highway Administration’s Successes in Streamlining
newsletter. FHWA said the revised document "helps to incorporate aesthetics into planning processes, providing decision makers with the information
they need to mitigate adverse impacts effectively while implementing concepts to enhance a community's existing visual quality." The guidelines contain
new information on engaging the public, offering flexibility, and incorporating advancements in the science of the perception of visual quality. The article
can be found here: http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/strmlng/newsletters/dec14nl.asp.
- Texas DOT Assumes Federal NEPA Review Authority from FHWA – The Texas Department of Transportation has become
the second state in the nation to assume federal environmental review authority from the Federal Highway Administration under the Surface Transportation
Project Delivery Program created under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). FHWA granted authority to the state under a memorandum
of understanding signed December 16, 2014. The MOU spells out how the state will carry out its reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act. The
link to the final MOU can be found here: http://environment.transportation.org/pdf/proj_delivery_stream/txdot_nepa_mou.pdf.
- White House Releases Federal Water Investment Guidelines - The Obama Administration has released the final Principles,
Requirements and Guidelines (PR&G) for federal investments in water resources, marking the first update to these guidelines in more than thirty years.
The PR&G consist of Principles and Requirements, which lay out broad principles to guide water investments, and Interagency Guidelines, which provide
direction to agencies on implementing the Principles and Requirements. The PR&G guides federal agencies to support water infrastructure projects with
the greatest economic and community benefits. More information can be found in the press release here:
- Section 1307 – Liaison Process and Priorities Q&A posted on the MAP-21 Website - The intent of the new
Q&A is to provide guidance on how to implement the provisions of Section 1307 regarding existing and new agreements for a liaison-funded position
and how to address projects and priorities in the MOU. The new Q&A can be seen on the MAP-21 website here:
- GROW AMERICA Act Surface Transportation Reauthorization Proposal Released - On April 29th, US Transportation Secretary
Anthony Foxx unveiled the GROW AMERICA Act, a long-term transportation bill that will be sent to Congress for consideration. The GROW AMERICA Act reflects
President Obama’s vision for a four-year surface transportation reauthorization bill that would create millions of jobs and lay the foundation for long-term
competitiveness, rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges while providing much-needed certainty for local and state governments and addressing the country’s
future needs. This DOT fact sheet provides a broad overview
of how the bill addresses the country’s critical transportation needs.
- Joint Waters of the U.S. Proposed Rule Released - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers (USACE) jointly released a proposed rule on Waters of the U.S. This rule will apply to all of the Clean Water Act programs. An EPA
press release from March 25, 2014 explains the
proposed rule, which clarifies protection for streams and wetlands. The proposed rule will benefit business by increasing efficiency in determining
coverage of the Clean Water Act.
- Guidance – NEPA Financial Penalty Provisions in MAP-21 - Guidance on financial penalty provisions contained in
MAP-21 has been released in the Federal Register. The provisions require Federal agencies of jurisdiction (Reviewing Agencies) to render a decision on
a permit, license, or other approval related to a transportation project within 180 days from later of: (a) the date of a Record of Decision or Finding
or No Significant Impacts or (b) the date on which an application for a permit, license, or approval for the project is complete. If the Reviewing Agency
does not render a decision by the 180-day deadline, it is subject to a rescission of funds until a decision is rendered. This guidance provides a framework
for FHWA/FTA to make "no-fault" certifications and serves to help inform agency-specific implementation by the Reviewing Agencies. The guidance
is now available on the FHWA MAP-21 website at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/qandas/qasect1306.cfm
- Two New Categorical Exclusions Streamline NEPA Compliance - MAP-21 required that the Federal Highway Administration
and Federal Transit administration to amend their joint procedures to streamline compliance with the National Environmental Polocy Act (NEPA) by designating
two types of actions as categorical exclusions (CEs): (1) Any project (as defined in 23 U.S.C. 101(a)) within an existing operational right-of-way; and
(2) any project that receives limited Federal funding. On January 13, 2014, FHWA and FTA completed a rulemaking process by publishing in the
Federal Register a joint final rule that created two new CEs for the agencies. The rule took effect on February 12, 2014.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Updated List of Contacts - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has updated its list of transportation contacts
in its Region and Field offices. View the list here, and also in the CoP Resource
- Example NEPA/404 Merger Agreements Posted - Two sample NEPA/404 merger agreements from Colorado and North Carolina
have been posted to the Resource Library. In addition, the Maryland State Highway Administration’s process for streamlined environmental and regulatory
reviews is also posted to the Resource Library.
For more information, please contact Deirdre Remley (Deirdre.Remley@dot.gov, 202-366-0524).