The Trump administration’s January 9 proposals to modernize the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) will both reduce delays to key transportation improvement projects and maintain environmental safeguards, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).
“It can take up to seven years to complete the environmental review process for a new federal-aid project. That’s too long,” ARTBA President Dave Bauer said. “The Trump administration’s commonsense reforms will help speed up the delivery of U.S. transportation infrastructure projects. Streamlining the NEPA process is essential to assuring that the government is making every transportation dollar go as far as possible while preserving a commitment to our environment.”
Bauer was among a select group of business leaders present last week at the White House as President Trump made the announcement.
NEPA was last updated more than 30 years ago. The statute is an essential tool for protecting the environment, but its outdated review procedures have delayed - sometimes for years - desperately needed transportation improvement projects while offering no tangible environmental benefits. The changes to NEPA will result in a swifter review process without impacting existing environmental standards. Transportation projects also still must meet a myriad of additional requirements to comply with the federal Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and other laws.
In previous regulatory comments and in legislative testimony, ARTBA noted that NEPA plays “a vital role in protecting the public interest in the transportation project review and approval process. It provides a sense of predictability and ensures a balance between meeting our nation’s transportation needs and protecting vital natural resources. These goals, however, do not have to be in conflict, the association says. The most successful transportation streamlining provisions have been process oriented and have essentially found a path for regulatory requirements to be fulfilled in a smarter and more efficient manner.”
ARTBA said it will submit extensive comments in support of the Trump administration’s NEPA proposal as part of the public review process.
Bauer noted, however, that the full effects of the Trump environmental reform proposal won’t be felt until Congress addresses the other most pressing transportation policy issues: a permanent revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund and passage of a new highway and transit investment bill.
“The best next step is for Congress to approve a robust, multi-year transportation infrastructure investment bill that Republicans, Democrats and the president have been calling for since the 2016 elections," he urged.