National Environmental Policy Act

  • Is Streamlining the National Environmental Policy Act Possible?

    “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex…It takes a touch of genius–and a lot of courage–to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein

    Project proponents often express frustration at the resources, cost, and time required to complete the National Environmental Policy Act. The problem is that their NEPA projects tend to be over budget, beyond the project schedule, and require more resources than originally allocated. The resulting delays and increased costs are lengthening the time to get products to market.

    NEPA documents, especially environmental impact statements (EISs), have recently become more complex, complicated, and substantially lengthier. NEPA regulations (40 CFR Section 1502.7) direct that “the text of final environmental impact statements—shall normally be less than 150 pages and for proposals of unusual scope or complexity shall normally be less than 300 pages.” However, a random sample of 10 recent EIS documents from the EPA EIS Database averaged 660 pages.

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  • Public Involvement for the National Environmental Policy Act

    Here at Logan Simpson Design, we understand that some planners and National Environmental Policy Act practitioners view public involvement as an obstacle to progress. These planners might find themselves asking, since we already know the best outcome, why are we prompting the public to be involved? Why would they be interested?

     And if we’ve already considered a wide range of alternatives, why open up the potential for more?

     However, meaningful opportunities for public outreach can improve the results of public involvement and National Environmental Policy Act processes. Increased public involvement can translate into designing opportunities that maximize interactions with the lead agency, stakeholders, project proponents and the public. There is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach or format. Therefore, do not be constrained to traditional approaches when designing public outreach.

    Pay attention to local culture and customs as they can easily influence both the format and the type of public involvement. For example, during a project in rural Utah, the public meeting center was a facility at the local fairgrounds, which meant we had to modify the format of the meeting to properly accommodate the available space. When we held the same meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, we had to consider a central location that allowed for a variety of transportation methods including public transit, walking, and personal vehicles. On yet another project in the southeastern United States, we were told to avoid scheduling public meetings on Wednesday evenings because local officials told us that they were typically reserved for religious studies. By paying special attention to local culture and customs, you’ll be able to circumvent any initial public involvement issues that may arise.

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  • Making it Through the Maze of Federal Regulations: 8 Tips to Avoid Stalling Your Federal-Aid Highway Funded Project

    Wayne Colebank, RLAIncreasingly, local public agencies (LPAs) are relying on federal dollars to help build Federal-Aid Highway Program transportation projects. Logan Simpson Design’s environmental consultants can help you understand the requirements of these projects and can help ensure your project gets built as planned:

    1. (S)TIP it in. To be eligible for federal funding, your project must be on the state transportation improvement plan (STIP). Typically, Federal-Aid Highway Program projects must first be listed in the local council of governments (COG) or metropolitan planning agency (MPO) transportation improvement plan (TIP) before they are added to the STIP. In some cases, a project may go directly onto the STIP, where your local COG or MPO can guide you through the process.

    2. Scope it out. Federal funds are authorized based on the scope of the project activities. Authorization is the federal government’s approval of the project. A thoroughly scoped project will uncover issues that may not be immediately apparent and allow you to derive a solid cost estimate that can be used to seek federal authorization. Once funds have been authorized, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the transportation entity that is administering the project will enter into a project agreement with the LPA to specify how the project will be designed, constructed, and maintained in accordance with federal requirements. FHWA will obligate funds — in other words, make a formal promise to pay — based on this project agreement.

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