Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have published a final rule revising some of their Environmental review and Related Procedures. This final rule makes revisions to the joint FTA and FHWA regulations that implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The revisions are aimed at streamlining the FTA environmental process for transit projects, in response to the Presidential Memorandum “Speeding Infrastructure Development through More Efficient and Effective Permitting and Environmental Review.” The revisions also respond to Executive Order 13563’s directive to periodically review existing regulations to determine if they can be made more effective and/or less burdensome. The final rule is effective on February 7, 2013
The new categorical exclusions (CEs) established by this rule, which affect actions by FTA and FTA grant applicants, are intended to improve the efficiency of the environmental review process by making available the least intensive form of review for those actions that typically do not have the potential for significant environmental effects, and, therefore, do not merit additional analysis and documentation associated with an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement.
FTA and FHWA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on March 15, 2012. In the NPRM, FTA proposed: (1) The creation of ten new categorical exclusions (CEs) to be located in a newly proposed section of the regulation at 23 CFR 771.118; (2) the expansion of public involvement methods to include electronic means; (3) the addition of language on early scoping into the regulations; (4) a modification to the list of project types that normally result in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS); and (5) the inclusion of an FTA review role in contracting for Environmental Assessment (EA) and EIS projects. The comment period closed on May 14, 2012.
Of the five major changes FTA and the FHWA included in the March 2012 NPRM, four are being carried forward in this final rule: (1) The creation of ten new CEs to be located in a newly proposed section of the regulation at 23 CFR 771.118; (2) the expansion of public involvement methods to include electronic means; (3) the addition of language on early scoping into the regulations; and (4) a modification to the list of project types that normally result in the preparation of an EIS. FTA intends that the preamble language contained in this final rule be used as guidance when applying the changes made by this final rule.