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E-M:/ STPP News Release on transportation projects and environmental protection

Sept. 20, 2002

TO: Enviro-Mich
FROM: Kelly Thayer, MLUI

STPP News Release on transportation projects and environmental protection

Hello Folks:

Below is a message from the Surface Transportation Policy Project regarding transportation projects and environmental protection. Presently, Congress and the Bush Administration are engaged in the reauthorization of TEA-21, the primary federal transportation policy and funding law. The new law will run from 2004-2009 and distribute about $250 billion. It contents will go a long way toward shaping how our communities grow - sprawling with more highways or conveniently filling in with more options for transit, bicycling, and walking - and how clean our air will be throughout the decade.

Importantly, STPP cites its new study showing that the lengthy planning process for proposed new highways is due primarily to funding constraints and a lack of local support, and not due to crucial environmental review.


1100 17th St, NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20036

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2002                                                                   

For more information contact:

James Corless, STPP, cell (415) 290-5457 
David Burwell, STPP, (202) 466-2636                                                                        
Kevin McCarty, STPP, (202) 466-2636


 ** STPP analysis shows most transportation project delays caused by lack of funding and absence of local support **

President Bush signed an Executive Order on Thursday September 19, 2002, that promises to more closely examine the environmental review process for major transportation projects while preserving the nation's core environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Executive Order (full text below) creates a new "Transportation Infrastructure Streamlining Task Force" to more closely coordinate federal reviews on projects while at the same time stressing the importance of improved environmental "stewardship" at all levels of government.

"We're heartened that this Executive Order promotes stewardship over weakening existing environmental laws and protections," said David Burwell, President of the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP).  "Better stewardship means crafting transportation solutions that actually improve environmental quality while better serving community needs - we hope the task force will be sincere in this approach and don't start down the slippery slope of weakening NEPA and the nation's other key environmental laws and safeguards.  We look forward to making sure the task force indeed follows the call for stewardship that is so strongly emphasized within the Executive Order as they begin their work."

The federal government's own numbers show environmental laws and regulations are actually not the major reason for delay of significant transportation projects. A new analysis released today by STPP (available at www.transact.org) shows that the top three causes of transportation project delays are: (1) lack of funding; (2) low priority for projects by government agencies; and (3) lack of public approval or local consensus on projects.

"The President has spoken. This Executive Order finally allows us to get on with the business of TEA-21 renewal - allowing the new task force to address the issue of project delivery and streamlining rather than have it continue to serve as a distraction in Congress and muddy the waters of the TEA-21 debate," explained STPP's Burwell.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on Thursday, September 19th, to discuss in more detail the need for better agency coordination and environmental stewardship. Congress will be debating this issue and many others when it takes up the renewal of the nation's transportation law - TEA-21 - when it reconvenes in early 2003. More information on the renewal of the law is available at www.tea3.org <http://www.tea3.org>.


STPP is a national not for profit coalition of more than 800 organizations working to ensure that transportation policy and investments strengthen the economy, promote social equity, and make communities more livable.



Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                                  
September 18, 2002


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     By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to enhance environmental stewardship and streamline the environmental review and development of transportation infrastructure projects, it is hereby ordered as follows:

     Section 1.  Policy.  The development and implementation of transportation infrastructure projects in an efficient and environmentally sound  manner is essential to the well-being of the American people and a strong  American economy.  Executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall take appropriate actions, to the extent consistent with applicable law and available resources, to promote environmental stewardship in the Nation's transportation  system and expedite environmental reviews of high-priority transportation infrastructure projects.

     Sec. 2.  Actions.  (a)  For transportation infrastructure  projects, agencies shall, in support of the Department of Transportation,  formulate and implement administrative, policy, and procedural mechanisms that enable  each agency required by law to conduct environmental reviews (reviews) with respect to such projects to ensure completion of such reviews in a timely and environmentally responsible manner.

     (b)  In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 1 of this  order, the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with agencies as  appropriate, shall advance environmental stewardship through cooperative actions with  project sponsors to promote protection and enhancement of the natural and human environment in the planning, development, operation, and maintenance of transportation facilities and services.

     (c)  The Secretary of Transportation shall designate for the  purposes of this order a list of high-priority transportation infrastructure  projects that should receive expedited agency reviews and shall amend such list from  time to time as the Secretary deems appropriate.  For projects on the  Secretary's list, agencies shall to the maximum extent practicable expedite their reviews  for relevant permits or other approvals, and take related actions as  necessary, consistent with available resources and applicable laws, including  those relating to safety, public health, and environmental protection.

     Sec. 3.  Interagency Task Force.  (a) Establishment.  There is established, within the Department of Transportation for administrative purposes,  the interagency "Transportation Infrastructure Streamlining Task Force"  (Task Force) to:  (i) monitor and assist agencies in their efforts to expedite a  review of transportation infrastructure projects and issue permits or similar  actions, as necessary; (ii) review projects, at least quarterly, on the list of priority projects pursuant  to section 2(c) of this order; and (iii) identify and promote policies  that can effectively streamline the process required to provide approvals for transportation infrastructure  projects, in compliance with applicable law, while maintaining safety, public  health, and environmental protection.

     (b)  Membership and Operation.  The Task Force shall promote interagency cooperation and the establishment of appropriate mechanisms to  coordinate Federal, State, tribal, and local agency consultation, review,  approval, and permitting of transportation infrastructure projects.  The Task Force shall consist exclusively of the following officers of the United States:   the Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of  Transportation (who shall chair the Task Force), Secretary of the Interior, Secretary  of Defense, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.  A member of the Task Force may designate, to  perform the Task Force functions of the member, any person who is part of the  member's department, agency, or office and who is either an officer of the  United States appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate or  a member of the Senior Executive Service.  The Task Force shall report to the President through the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.

     Sec. 4.  Report.  At least once each year, the Task Force shall  submit to the President a report that:  (a)  Describes the results of the  coordinated and expedited reviews on a project-by-project basis, and identifies those procedures and actions that proved to be most useful and appropriate in  coordinating and expediting the review of the projects.

     (b)  Identifies substantive and procedural requirements of  Federal, State, tribal, and local laws, regulations, and Executive Orders that are inconsistent with, duplicative of, or are structured so as to restrict their  efficient implementation with other applicable requirements.

     (c)  Makes recommendations regarding those additional actions that could be taken to:  (i) address the coordination and expediting of reviews of transportation infrastructure projects by simplifying and harmonizing applicable substantive and procedural requirements; and (ii) elevate and resolve controversies among Federal, State, tribal, and local agencies related  to the review or impacts of transportation infrastructure projects in a timely manner.

     (d)  Provides any other recommendations that would, in the  judgment of the Task Force, advance the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

     Sec. 5.  Preservation of Authority.  Nothing in this order shall  be construed to impair or otherwise affect the functions of the Director  of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budget, administrative, and legislative proposals.

     Sec. 6.  Judicial Review.  This order is intended only to improve  the internal management of the Federal Government and is not intended to,  and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural,  enforceable at law or equity by a party against the United States, its departments,  agencies, instrumentalities or entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.

                              GEORGE W. BUSH

September 18, 2002.

Mr. Kelly Thayer
Transportation Project Manager
Michigan Land Use Institute

205 South Benzie Boulevard
P.O. Box 500
Beulah, MI 49617

Ph: 231-882-4723
Fax: 231-882-7350
E-mail: kelly@mlui.org
Internet: http://www.mlui.org/