On September 18, 2002, President Bush signed Executive Order 13274, titled Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Reviews. A portion of the executive order is reproduced below. Part 2(c) of the executive order calls for a list of priority transportation projects that should receive expedited review by federal resource agencies, such as the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Chittenden County Circumferential Highway was included in the initial priority list.
Environmental streamlining requires transportation and natural, cultural, and historic resource agencies to establish realistic timeframes for transportation and environmental resource agencies to develop and review projects, and then to work cooperatively to adhere to those timeframes.
Environmental reviews involve an interdisciplinary and interagency process. One federal agency, in this case FHWA, takes the lead role working cooperatively with other federal and state agencies during the entire transportation development process. This coordinated review process includes input from the public, as well as from other agencies, to guarantee that all environmental protections, as well as other issues, are addressed. A key element of Environmental Streamlining is communication with and the gathering of input from the public and stakeholders.
All of these streamlining provisions are being implemented in the Circ-Williston EIS. Cooperating agency agreements are being developed for all state and federal resource agencies. These agreements call for interagency meetings during each phase of the project and prior review of study documents as they are produced. An extensive public involvement plan has been developed which includes interviews with local officials and concerned organizations and individuals, a website with two-way communication, multiple forms of public information, and public forums in every phase of the project.
The result of these measures will be a much more complete and timely environmental process than in the traditional model of concentrating input and reviews after the publication of the Draft EIS.
Excerpt from Executive Order 13274
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.
For More Information about NEPA and FHWA Environmental Procedures
The FHWA has issued regulations to address their responsibilities under NEPA, entitled Environmental Impact and Related Procedures (23 CFR § 771). The complementary FHWA guidance manual is a Technical Advisory (T.6640.8a), Guidance for Preparing and Processing Environmental and Section 4(f) Documents. This guidance provides detailed information on the contents and processing of environmental documents. Additional information on the NEPA process and other environmental procedures are found in the FHWA’s Environmental Guidebook.
Information about these reference materials can be found at the FHWA website, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov. A direct link to information about FHWA’s environmental programs and policies is http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/. The Guidebook is referenced at http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/guidebook/gbvol1.htm. The T.6640.8a Guidance for preparing environmental impact statements is at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/legsregs/directives/techadvs/t664008a.htm. The CEQ also provides explanatory information about NEPA provisions and issues relevant to the NEPA process, at http://ceq.eh.doe.gov/nepa/nepanet.htm.