U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary Downey Hails Agreement Among Federal Agencies To Streamline Environmental Review Process
Topics: Mortimer L. Downey
Federal Highway Administration
October 18, 1999
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 18, 1999
Contact: Jim Pinkelman
U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary Mortimer L. Downey today said a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and six other federal agencies will streamline the process by which highway and transit projects around the country are reviewed and approved.
"President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to protecting the environment while building and maintaining a strong and safe transportation system for the 21st century," Downey said. "This agreement will help eliminate duplication of effort and reduce delays in the review process without compromising environmental safeguards – that’s a common-sense approach that will benefit the millions of Americans who use our transportation systems every day."
Downey presided over a ceremony today highlighting the MOU and a draft action plan implementing the MOU. He was joined representatives of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and from the agencies that signed the agreement. They are the U.S. Departments of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Army (Corps of Engineers); the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
Those agencies and the DOT are responsible for reviewing environmental documents prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 for a construction or transit project or are required to issue a permit, license or opinion relating to the project.
"The MOU will result in better, earlier and more timely coordination among federal, state and local agencies on transportation projects while continuing to protect the environment," Federal Highway Administrator Kenneth R. Wykle said. "The agreement also continues our commitment to seek public input during the environmental review process."
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which President Clinton signed into law on June 9, 1998, requires the Secretary of Transportation to develop and implement a coordinated environmental review process for highway and transit projects.
The draft Environmental Streamlining Action Plan establishes a blueprint for action to implement the MOU. The department’s Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration already are taking several steps to improve environmental review processes, including recognizing and promoting successful efforts by state and local governments; encouraging field organizations to pursue partnering opportunities and programmatic agreements for site specific or project specific (pilot) efforts; developing national dispute resolution procedures; and identifying ways to develop performance measures and to benchmark techniques assessing the effectiveness of the project development processes and practices.
The department also plans later in 1999 to publish a Federal Register notice for proposed revisions to environmental impact regulations and related procedures for public comment.
The MOU and the draft Environmental Streamlining Action Plan will be on the department’s "streamlining" Internet web site at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/strmlng.htm.
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